Yuca con (not really) Chicharrón

If you want a recipe for authentic chicharrón, this is not the blog for you. I can’t be bothered to find the real cut of meat I would need so I just cut up pork chops in bite size pieces and fry them. Then I season them with Ingrid Hoffman’s Delicioso Adobo spice mixture, just because I like that spice on almost everything. (See? Not authentic at all.)

As for the yuca, I can give you a good recipe for that.

Yuca Frita

* 1 bag frozen yuca (so much easier than messing with fresh yuca)
* 1 teaspoon achiote molido (spice)
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 green onions chopped
* salt and paprika to taste
*oil for frying (I use Canola)

1. Place the yuca and all ingredients except salt, paprika and oil, in a large pot of water. (Water should cover the yuca.)

2. Bring water to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the yuca are tender enough to pierce with a fork. Remove from heat and drain water.

3. Cut any large pieces into thinner “steak french fry” sized pieces. Fry in oil, flipping once, until crisp on all sides. Remove to a plate. Season with salt and paprika. Serve with curtido and salsa.

Here is yuca con (fake) chicharrón on our dinner table. That is my husband’s impatient hand. (“Are you done taking photos yet? I’m hungry!”)

If you want to make Salvadoran curtido to go along with it, here’s my recipe for that, too.

Salvadoran Curtido

* 1/2 head of cabbage chopped fine
* 1/2 cup grated carrot
* 2 green onions, minced
* 1/2 onion sliced thin, (vidalia is best since yellow onions are a bit strong)
* 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
* Salt to taste
* Dried oregano to taste
* Red pepper flakes to taste (not authentic – we just like it spicy!)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and put the cabbage and carrot into the water. Let sit for 5 minutes and then drain. (A little water remaining is fine.) Add the other ingredients. Adjust apple cider vinegar to your tastes. If you find it too strong, add a little warm water. Best to let the flavors combine for a couple hours at room temperature, but can be served right away.

Curtido is most often eaten with yuca con chicharrón, and pupusas. Most people pour salsa over the curtido.

(My salsa recipe is HERE.)

Salvadoran Albóndigas

Salvadoran Albondigas (Meatballs)

This is my recipe for Salvadoran meatballs (“albóndigas”). I will also include my recipe for homemade salsa if you’re feeling especially ambitious. (It’s worth the little bit of extra effort!)

Sra. López’s Salvadoran Meatballs
(adapted from Doris Perez’s Salvadoran Meatball recipe)

Ingredients:

* 1 egg
* 1 pound lean ground beef
* ½ cup chopped fresh tomatoes
* ½ cup minced onion
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, (original recipe calls for mint but my husband didn’t like that.)
* 1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon (optional)
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* enough oil for frying, (I use Canola)

1. Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the beef in handfuls and then add the tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Blend well.
2. Form the mixture into balls or small patties. (Salvadorans make more of a small, fat patty shape.)
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the balls/patties approximately 5 minutes per side until nicely browned. Serve over white rice with salsa (recipe below). Serves 4.

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Sra. López’s Fresh Salsa

1 32 ounce can of whole tomatoes (use fresh roma tomatoes if you want)
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/2 an onion
1/4 of a medium green bell pepper
1 tablespoon raw, minced garlic
a few rings of pickled jalapeño (add more or less to taste)
salt to taste
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce (or “Salsa Perrins” as it’s called at our house.)

Combine in a blender. Serve immediately or put in a jar and keep refrigerated for a few days. Use in almost any recipe calling for salsa, or as a side with Latin American dishes.

Achiote

Okay, you all had so many questions about Achiote, so here we go.

A few choice facts from Wikipedia:

• Achiote is a shrub or small tree from the tropical region of the Americas. The name derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, achiotl.

• It is best known as the source of the natural pigment annatto, produced from the fruit. The plant bears pink flowers and bright red spiny fruits which contain red seeds. The fruits dry and harden to brown capsules.

• While it has a distinct flavor of its own, it can be used to color and flavor rice instead of the much more expensive saffron.

• The seeds are ground and used as a subtly flavored and colorful additive in Latin American, Jamaican and Filipino cuisine.

Here is what they look like in the package:

Achiote Molido/Annatto Powder (left) and Achiote Entero/Whole Annatto (right)

Every Latino market I’ve been to has these in the spice section. It might be a different brand name, but they’ll have it.

Here is what they look like out of the package:

Achiote Entero (left), Achiote Molido (right)

The Achiote Molido (powder) you use just like any other spice – just sprinkle it in while cooking. The Achiote Entero is different. You have to extract the flavor/color from it first. There are different methods but I usually make Achiote Oil.

Simply put a few tablespoons of cooking oil in a small pot over medium heat. Mix in about a tablespoon of the Achiote Entero. Mix while it’s cooking and watch the color of the oil. You will see it turn sort of yellow-ish, then orange-ish, and when it starts to turn from orange to red, remove from heat! … Do not allow the Achiote to turn black (burn) – that means you cooked it too long. It only takes a minute or two to cook.

See the color? It's ready!

Once the oil has cooled, you can remove the Achiote by pouring the oil through a sieve into a jar, or by simply fishing them out with a spoon. You can use the oil right away or store it, (though I don’t know if this should be stored in the cabinet or refrigerator or for how long it will keep. I always use mine right away.)

Alright, chicas, I hope you appreciated this post. My Suegra watched me take photo after photo of Achiote. If she didn’t think I was a weird gringa before, she certainly does now.

Latina-ish Empanadas (Recipe)

I won’t claim this empanada recipe was passed down from my great-grandmother, (She was Russian and probably never even saw an empanada let alone made one.) I won’t claim these are authentically Salvadoran/Mexican/Argentinian or of any other national origin either. (I made this recipe up from looking over empanada recipes from all of Latin America, and picking and choosing what I like.)

Besides, even when I make “authentic” recipes, I am not that nationality, so doesn’t that automatically make it not authentic? (Makes you wonder about the kitchens of all those fancy French restaurants in New York. You do know it’s Mexicans and Salvadorans cooking your Bouillabaisse and Coq au Vin, right?)

Anyway, here is what I will claim. These empanadas are really good. So if you’re looking for authentic, look elsewhere, vato. But if you’re willing to trust a gabacha who doesn’t do too badly in the kitchen, I’m your girl and here’s your recipe.

Latina-ish Empanadas

First let me start by saying that empanadas are not an exact science. Feel free to substitute what you have on hand. You can fill them with almost anything.

The filling:

2 cups of cooked meat of your choice (I used leftover steak this time), diced in small pieces
3 small cooked potatoes, diced in small pieces
1 cup of cooked green beans, diced in small pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon achiote seed (annatto)
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (homemade or from a jar)
salt and pepper to taste

In a small pan over medium high, heat the oil and achiote seed. When the oil turns an orangish-red, remove from heat. (Don’t let the seeds turn black!) Let cool and remove achiote seed and discard. Return pan to stove. Place onion in the achiote oil over medium heat and cook until tender. In a large bowl mix the achiote oil and onion in with all remaining ingredients. This is your filling mixture. Set aside.

Note: For those not familiar with achiote seed (annatto) and achiote molido (annatto powder), it’s awesome. It not only adds vibrant color to the food, but it has a very unique subtle flavor as well. Look for it in your local Latino market in the spice section. If I post more recipes in the future, chances are my amigo achiote will be along for the ride. I use it in a lot of recipes these days.

The dough:

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon achiote molido (annatto powder)
1 cup butter, diced into pieces
cold water

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and achiote molido in a large bowl. Drop the diced butter pieces into the bowl all at once and work into the flour with your hands until combined to make a fine crumb texture. Mix water in, little by little until you can form a dough ball that is neither dry nor sticky.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out as if you’re making sugar cookies. The dough should not be thick, but be careful not to make it so thin that it tears easily. Using a drinking glass or cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough.

Now to put them together!

In each circle of dough, place a small spoonful of the mixture. Do not overfill them or the dough will tear and they won’t be pretty. Dip your finger in water and wet the edge of the dough circle before closing into a semi-circle. Use the tines of a fork around the edges to seal. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or mixture.

(Optional: Brush each empanada with egg yolk before placing in the oven.)

Put in the oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes until the dough is solid enough that it can be more easily handled. Now, you can continue cooking in the oven until you feel they’re ready but I prefer to brown them a bit in the frying pan with cooking oil over medium heat. Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes about 20 empanadas. (Serves about 4 people.)