Thursday, April 28, 2011

Culinary Adventure: Cuba

In my first culinary- adventure post, I took a tiny peek into the Mexican culture by trying out and cooking a dish common in that land. Since the result of that gustatory experiment was more than just satisfying, I decided to seach another spanish speaking region and see if I could dig a bit deeper into its cuisine (which is in some way  influenced mine by the way). The mexican Quasadilla  was to my opinion quite easy to make.Since I have few days off this week, I decided to take on a more hmmm challenging task . This time, I am off to discover latin America through my tongue.

I found myself wandering in the land of sunshine and beautiful shores,rum and refreshing cocktails, cigars and coffee,  drums, music , sexy latin dances and the home of Fidel Castro ....yes peeps, I landed ( virtually of course)  in Cuba!

Que bola, asere?


Although, everything mentioned above are worth discussing, I would stick to my goal since this is a rather short trip.That is :to   stop by, look around ( thanks Google!) eat and savor something which is common in this country and go. Wow, if only life would be that easy! To be honest, I haven't tried any cuban foods before ( which makes it more exciting) so I can't say much about its cuisine in general. This is actually the first time that I tried, cooked and tasted Cuban Food.
The expereicment was fun but  although the result of the  hours and hours in the kitchen was devinely delicious, I must admit that, I did bite more than I could chew. The whole preparation was time consuming and very messy. Yes, It was a hand job and I  have to use my upper limbs ( all 6 of them) to make these yummy treats. So ladies and gentlemen, since I can't have some of those cubanese sunshine, bathe in its powdery shores and and learn salsa from a local then I might as well bring something from that land closer to me.And so  I made:

                                Papas Rellenas de Picadillo  
           ( Meat stuffed Potato croquettes)

I started off by making Picadillo. It is similar to Filipino's giniling recipe. First I browned ( 300 g) of grounded beef in a bit of oil. Then season it with salt and pepper.

In anothe pan, I made  Sofrito. Heres how to do it. Heat oil and suatee 1 small chopped onion until translucent. Add in 3 finely chopped garlic cloves and 2 medium sized  diced tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper,chopped.  Add in cooked ground meat.Stir in some oregano and 1 or two bay leaves.

Let the meat simmer for few minutes until bell pepper is tender. Add in 1 small can of diced tomatoes and season Picadillo with salt and pepper. Set aside and cool completely. 

I then prepared the mashed potato dumpling. I peeled about a kilo of it, boil it in salted water until fully cooked. Took about 30 minutes.

I needed some extra muscle so I asked FF to use our potato masher.  Here's how it was done. Sprinkle enough flour on a working surface. You could use a big mixing bowl but I prefer to knead things on a flat surface. I let the mashed potato cool off for a while (hot ingredients + hand = self inflicted pain ) . Then I season the potatoes with enough salt, white pepper and paprika powder. I then cracked three eggs into the potatoes.It will bind the mixture together.

Knead the whole mixture until mashed potatoes firm up. If its necessary, add in few more mashed potatoes or flour. You probably need the second pair of hand for that. Once the mashed potato is of right consistency, firm but not dry, still soft but not mushy, let it cool off complety. You could refrigerate it as this point.

Prepare three large bowl, fill the first one with flour, the next with 2 beaten eggs and the last with bread crumbs. With your (third) hand, use a spoon to scoop a handful of mashed potato. Flatten it at the palm of your hand . Make a dent at the center and  spoon in a tablespoon of Picadillo stuffing ( you probably need a fourth hand to do that). Enclose the filling by forming a ball, sealing it carefully ( adding a spoonful of mashed potato if necessary). Then dip the potato ball in flour, then carefully into the beaten eggs. Lastly roll it into the bowl of breadcrumbs.

Heat enough oil in the fryer . Deep fry the patato balls until golden brown. make sure to constantly turn it around since it tend to burn fast.

 Papas rellenas is a texural delight. There was a barely- there  hint of crusty exterior that gives way at the lightest of touch revealing a  tantalizing  layer with a smooth and velvety insides. The Picadillo was bursting with flavor and blends perfectly well with the mashed potato giving the whole dish a succession  of crunchy- gooey-savory sensation. Kanin at ulam in one!I could almost hear some cuban beat in every mouthful!  Muy delicioso!

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