Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Aporreado de Tasajo (Dry Salted Beef Stew)

Tasajo is dry salted beef, the beef is salted, dried, and preserved in a coating of beef fat or lard. Another one of those ancient foods that use to be consumed before refrigeration (just like Bacalao a.k.a. dry salted cod) although it is not well known in Spain. Seems to be more well known in the Caribbean and certain parts of South America. Tasajo use to be consumed by the slaves and peasants but became popular over time, now days it is not considered poor people food nor is it consumed often since it is expensive (it is hard to find in Southern California and the only place that I can find it here sells it at 10.99 a pound) It is seen as an occasional treat in my household.

However I must say Tasajo use to be made with horse meat or at least the Tasajo Cubans consumed back in the day, until it was banned in the U.S.A. by raging P.E.T.A. and others... I think the ban on horse meat is completely stupid... but that's just my opinion... (why would killing a cow, calf, or intelligent pig be any different than killing a horse for consumption?)

Last time I had real horse meat was probably when I was around 5 or 6 years old a Taiwanese friend brought back an assortment of dry horse meat jerky. Horse meat is earthy and has a natural sweetness. Also no matter how much it cooks it will retain it's red color... I do find it odd how the Tasajo sold here imported from Uruguay behaves the same even though labeled as beef (no matter how much you cook it it retains the red color, and is earthy with a natural sweetness) because of these characteristics and it's sweetness it is still popular in the "black market" in Florida where it can sometimes range from 7- 40 dollars a pound" if you know where to look you'll find it. This may seem a shock to some people, but horse meat is popular in many European countries (such as Germany, Belgium, Sweden and other parts, and can even be found as Sashimi in Japan since it is considered very clean and healthy and way less prone to disease than beef.)

HOWEVER before I begin I must warn you, Tasajo isn't for everyone I believe it's an aquiered taste, my mother dislikes it, so does my Travis, and my father isn't too fond of it. Only me and my grandmother love it. To us it has like I said an earthy, sweet taste, and salty addictiveness, the texture is soft but chewy? Hard to describe like a moist beef jerky? Although my mother say's it smells like dog food.. Travis agreed with her.... well if you ever wanna try something different give this a try :)

And so I leave you here with my favorite way to prepare Tasajo (their aren't many) I only know 3 ways, one the meat is shredded and stir fried in hot lard with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin until it is crispy and browned. The second is it is cut in steaks seasoned with lime, garlic, salt, and cumin then pounded and pan fried in lard or olive oil, onions are fried in the drippings then the steak is served with onions over it. Lastly and thirdly my favorite way is having it simmered in a savory cuban style tomato based sauce.

Ingredients for desalting tasajo:

-1 lbs. Tasajo
-water enough to cover tasajo 2-3 inches
-1 bay leaf

Ingredients for sauce:
-1/4- 1/2 cup lard or olive oil
-1 green bell pepper julienned
-2 onions julienned
-6 cloves garlic minced finely
-1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-2 cups tasajo boiling liquid (reserved from the desalting process)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-salt to taste (if necessary the tasajo and it's liquid is already pretty salty)

(1) Get tasajo, remove yellow coating of fat by scraping down with a spoon, throw away fat (I've been tempted to save it and use it to cook the tasajo but I thought lard or olive oil tastes better anyways).

(2) Put the tasajo in a large pot, cover with cold water and let soak at least 12 hrs. (24 is better) change the water whenever you remember (maybe every 4-5 hrs.)
(3) The next day, drain the water, cut tasajo in 2 or 4 parts, cover the tasajo with about 3 inches of water, throw a bay leaf in there and boil a total of 2 hrs more or less until tender (tender enough to shred or to be pierced by a fork). RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID YOU WILL NEED IT TO MAKE SAUCE!
(4) When tender remove and shred by hand, discard fatty pieces. Set aside, if the tasajo seems to salty you may rinse it and drain.
(5) Now begin sauce. Heat a large shallow pan on medium high heat with lard or olive oil, when grease is hot add julienned onions and bell peppers sautee 5-7 minutes, add garlic sautee an additional 2-3 minutes, when fragrant add tomato sauce, dry white wine, cumin, stir and bring to bubble.
(6) Add shredded desalted tasajo, stir well, add the reserved liquid (about 1-2 cups depends how thick or thin you like your sauce), and cover to simmer 30 additional minutes. Turn off heat.
(7) Serve with whatever you'd like, either white rice, moros (rice steamed with black beans and its broth), or congri (rice steamed with red beans and it's broth) go really well with it along with either a simple salad (like Ensalada de Aguacate, Ensalada de Aji, or a simple tossed salad my friend Tita makes, "Tita's Salad", boiled root vegetables with mojo (yuca, malanga or name, calabaza or boniato), or fried root vegetables or other veggies (fried yuca, fried ripe plantains, tostones, boniato or sweet potato rounds, or even french fries still waiting to be posted haha)
(1) I juliened everything thickly to make the sauce the onions and bell peppers because I wanted the pieces like that, I didn't want them to disappear into the sauce. You can julien everything thinly if you wish. My grandmother likes to use less onion only 1 or 1/2 of one and 1 or 1/2 a green bell pepper that she prefers to have it minced, it is up to you and your personal preference.

(2) Here's another recipe for Tasajo from my friend IDania from El Aroma de IDania (mil gracias por el pimienton dulce y picante de la vera) which she learned from another wonderful Cuban cook Marilyn from her cooking blog "My Cuban Traumas"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Aporreado de Bacalao (Flaked Salted Cod Stew)

I will say just like I said in my old post for "Frituritas de Bacalao" (salted cod fritters) dry salted cod is called "Bacalao" by Cubans, Spaniards, and I assume Portuguese too. Bacalao has been around for probably ages (by that I mean ancient times like when Spain wasn't even Spain) and was popular because it can last a very long time and didn't need refrigeration or anything in the old days. It is still popular in Spain and Cubans also enjoy Bacalao.

Their are many ways to cook prepare it, (it is said I don't know by who but that there are 1,000 ways to cook Bacalao) the recipe I present today is "Aporreado de Bacalao" (Flaked Salted Cod Stew), flaked de-salted cod is simmered in a savory tomato based sauce formed with the salted cod stock, the bacalao and the sauce marry to create a unique flavor and the sliced boiled potatoes that accompany it are simmered in the salted cod stock to create a very delicious savory comforting stew.

Main Ingredient:
-1 lbs. bacalao/ dry salted cod (de-salted and flaked)

For the sauce Ingredients:
-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 onion finely minced
-1 green bell pepper finely minced (or red or 1/2 green 1/2 red)
-4 cloves garlic mashed to a paste (garlic press, mortar or super minced)
-8 oz/ 1 cup prepared tomato sauce
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-2 cups salted cod stock
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 teaspoon ground oregano

To finish the dish Ingredients:
-4 large potatoes (boiled in salted cod stock)
-finely minced parsley to garnish (we use cilantro though but traditionally parsley I guess)


(1) Get the dry salted cod, rinse well, place it in a pot or container with water enough to cover, soak at least 24 hours (it's okay if you soak a little longer don't be so precise or paranoid about time) changing water every 6-8 hours (just whenever you remember).
After 24 hours it looked like this:
(2) Afterward, put salted cod in pot with water and bring to a boil then let boil for 5 minutes, remove cod DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT THROW AWAY THE LIQUID YOU BOILED THE SALTED COD IN YOU WILL USE THIS STOCK TO BOIL THE POTATOES AND MAKE THE SAUCE FOR THE COD
Once cod is removed cool and remove any bones, and skin and flake the cod pieces into small pieces. Reserve.

(3) In the boiling salted cod stock, add whole raw peeled potatoes and boil 25- 30 minutes, then remove, cut them into thick rounds and set aside.
(4) Of course while the potatoes are boiling and you are flaking the cod you can multi-task and make the sauce. Heat a large deep-pan over medium high heat, add olive oil, saute onions and bell peppers lowering the heat to medium until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and saute an additional maybe 3-4 minutes (don't burn the garlic) now add the tomato sauce,
stir well,
add the dry white wine, and salted cod stock. bring to a boil. Season with cumin and oregano incorporate well DO NOT SALT IT THE BACALAO IS SALTY.
(5) Now add the flaked bacalao stir gently,
lower heat to medium low arrange potatoes on top, making sure to spoon over some of the sauce for the potatoes, let simmer about 4-5 minutes on low.
Then dust with minced parsley.
(6) Enjoy with fluffy white rice (steamed with a little salt and a good heavy drizzle extra-virgin olive oil) if you wish a light salad is good with this I wanted some Avocado instead though which is perfectly fine :)

Please Note:
(1) Everyone desalts the cod differently. The technique I used was by Mary Urratia Randelman from the book "Memories of a Cuban Kitchen" I liked the results. Meaty but the salted cod ex paned and was still meaty and chewy but not to chewy and soft. You may use whatever method you like.

To desalt my Tata (grandmother) rinses and boils the cod and drains it all in the same day. No soaking just straight to boil, and drains and re-boils until it's been desalted enough. Her method is very salty and tough but I grew up eating it that way but wanted to try something different. (I used her method for the salted cod fritters see post)

Other people soak it for 2 days then boil, some for 3 days even up to a week then never boil.

(2) Potatoes are delicious but if one wishes you can make it without potatoes and serve it with some steamed Boniato (white fleshed sweet potato/ yam) very delicious the salty and sweet contrast.

(3) My Tata's version of Bacalao a la Vizcaina (salted cod basque-style) is almost identical to this recipe except she uses about 2 lbs of salted cod and cuts the cod into 2-3 inch squares and simmers those chunks in the sauce, that recipe I will share sometime in the future (but maybe I won't use my grandmothers or I'll combine her recipe with another I saw one that uses bittersweet smoked Spanish paprika and some that use dried nora peppers/ pimientos choriceros which a friend brought me from Spain on her break) expect a post for "Arroz Con Bacalao" (salted cod and yellow rice) in the very near future. I had two pounds of salted cod, used 1 lbs, for this recipe, will use 1/2 lbs. for some fritters, and the other 1/2 lbs. for the "Arroz Con Bacalao"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicharrones (Fried Pork Rinds)

Chicharrones are fried pork rinds. Which is like fried crispy pork fat and skin sometimes with some meat on it. Chicharrones are the product left from rendering lard, you literally render all the fat from the pork belly or rinds and then they fry to a golden crunchy crisp.

It's a great deal and not expensive at all it was only 49 cents a pound when we bought it, for 5 bucks we got 8 pounds of the pork belly, rendered it's fat and had enough Chicharrones for about 6 of us with leftovers, and in addition we get 1/2 a gallon of rendered delicious flavorful lard to cook with great deal in my opinion (yes yes I am frugal)

These fried pork meats are popular in many many cultures, Mexicans, Cubans, and I believe almost any culture that renders pork fat for cooking. I am labeling the recipe as Mexican however since my mother taught me how to make it, it was the first time she ever made it she told me she learned from watching neighbors make them when she lived in Mexico in these large copper wok like pots called "Caso's"


-8 lbs. Pork Belly (we by a cut in Spanish called "Lonja de Puerco" I don't know the English name I think it's pork belly, but with very little meat and mostly skin and fat)
-water (enough to barely cover pork belly)
-salt to taste

(1) Clean pork belly into thick strips, then shave those thick strips just in case there is still hair on the skin... (I know sounds gross) now cut into large squares. Clean really well with water, my mom likes to clean them with lime and salt and water then rinse several times, you can just rinse if you wish.
(2) Put in a large wide copper pot Mexicans call this a Caso it's like a wok made of copper, we didn't have that so used a large NON-STICK wok. Put cut and cleaned pork bellies, cover with enough water to barely cover season liberally with slat (I put like 4 tsp.), and leave on high heat until it comes to a boil, let boil uncovered on medium high.
(3) Let boil uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours, the meat will start rendering it's fat, you need to carefully stir occasionally maybe every 30 minutes the first hour then every 15 once the water evaporates BE CAREFUL it will pop sometimes and throw bursts of hot boiling pork fat so it's dangerous, be careful, and don't over also. I stir from a distance firmly holding the woks handle. I still get a little splatter here and there but no bad burns.
(4) When the Chicharrones (pork rinds) are golden brown and crispy, turn off heat and take them out. They will have literally released about at least for me 1/2 a gallon of lard/ pork fat they will be deep-fried in their own fat.
(5) Set the Chicharrones aside and lightly salt them if necessary. You can enjoy them with any meal you wish as a meat dish, or a snack, we ate it at my house served over some boiled Yuca/ cassava root smothered in Mojo sauce (we call it Yuca Con Mojo), served with a mixed steamed yellow rice with corn (we call it Arroz Con Maiz), and some sauteed green beans (no recipe posted, but my mom stirfried green beans with finely chopped pork cracklings in the flavorful pork fat with onions and garlic seasoned with soy sauce and oyster sauce I know not very Cuban for this meal but damn delicious and went well with it). For dessert we had an Almond Flan and for beverage some chilled Hibiscus tea.
(6) Let the fat rendered from the chicharrones cool a bit, then you can strain it, and save it in containers so you can cook whatever you want with it. That's the main reason we make Chicharrones, to have some fresh rendered flavorful lard to use in certain dishes.

(1)Don't use a regular metal pot, the chicharrones will stick to the bottom and burn you'll end up with a mess.
(2) Don't cut them to small they will fall apart since they shrink about more than 1/2 their size.
(3)Don't stir so hard you break them.
(4)Be careful for splatters you may burn yourself it's risky I'm warning you but the rewards are great.
(5)Use something non-stick, or a large copper pan.
(6)You don't need measurements or exactly 8 lbs. just be sure whatever amount you have that it fits in a pot, cover with enough water to barely cover, and salt to taste.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Empanadillas al Horno (Oven Baked Empanadillas)

Before I start in Spain "Empanada" is usually a giant meat pie that is baked usually square shaped or round, "Empanadillas" are small meat pies baked or fried usually half-moon shape or round. In most Latin American countries Empanada is used to refer to what in Spain is considered "Empanadilla" or is used interchangeably.

Doughs also vary, some countries make a more pie crust like dough, some make a more pizza like dough, some use butter, some use lard, some shortening, some oil, others use water others use wine, some use a mixture of both, some milk, etc. varies tons as well as techniques.

I tried empanada doughs with lard, butter, combinations of lard and butter, all oil etc. The types of empanada doughs I use and am most fond of is the one that's more common in Spain and that is a oil based pastry, that is tender yet somewhat crisp and won't fall apart like a pie crust it isn't crumbly. I like the oil based pastry.

I've been working with various doughs for empanadillas over time to try to find one that I really really liked. I wanted a good dough for making small spanish meat pies in the oven (empanadillas) over time I experimented with various recipes, some had doughs to hard to work with, others hard as a rock when baked in the oven, to elastic, etc.

Today I found the perfect dough for me, easy to work with, flavorful, crisp yet tender pastry.

Ingredients for dough (this dough is only good for oven empanadillas fried it isn't the best- 12/ 9/ 09):

-1 cup oil (preferably olive oil or sunflower oil, but whatever you'd like)
-1 cup water
-1 teaspoonful salt
-3 teaspoons sweet smoked spanish paprika (not essential but makes a huge difference)
-all purpose flour as needed (I ended up using around 5 1/2 cups of flour about 700 grams more or less just depends on the constistency use your judgement)

Ingredients for Filling (anything you want here is links to some of the stuff I use as fillings):
-Fricasse de Pollo (leftover fricasse de pollo shredded up)
-Picadillo Salteado (minus the potatoes)
-Ropa Vieja
-Aporreado de Pollo (Stewed Shredded Chicken)
-Tuna Filling (sautee 1 onions, 4 garlic cloves, 1 bell pepper in olive oil, add 8 oz. tomato sauce, 4 drained cans of tuna, mix and flake into the sautee season with salt and 1 tsp. cumin add lots of mined parsley or cilantro towards end add olives and capers if desired as well as hard boiled egg chopped)

Directions for Making Dough:
(1) In a large pot mix oil, water, salt, and sweet smoked Spanish paprika. Bring to a simmer on medium high heat (don’t let it boil just barely a bubble when you see it barely bubble turn it off) on medium high heat stirring occasionally.)
(2)Remove from heat, and stir in flour until it get’s a dough consistency and starts forming a ball and kind of clumping up.
(3)Put it back on the stove on medium heat this time and stir quickly well to incorporate everything. And doesn’t stick to pot.
(4)Remove dough and need a bit, put it in a plastic bag sealed leave at room temp. for later use. If ready to use proceed. ( I still leave it in zip lock bag or wrapped in plastic and get dough as needed while I'm making empanadas so it doesn't dry out I forgot to take picture early on so I took picture later when only 3/4 of dough remained)
Directions for Making Empanadillas:
(1)On a wooden board, get a golf size ball of empanada dough, roll it out into a circle, thin but not to thin I used a cup to roll it out, since my boyfriend was making some and I let him use the rolling pin (use your own judgement on the thickness, not too thin or they will break)

(2) Add about a heaping tablespoon of filling towards the top of the circle.
(3) Fold over to the other side making half moon, press dough around it (don’t worry about excess dough just press) then to give it good shape, with a knife push excess dough towards the empanada making it thick and compact, use a fork to give it a nice shape.

(4) Repeat, when all are done, bake in oven at around 375- 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20- 30 minutes (until slightly browned or fully cooked the dough already has great color, but if you wish you can brush it with beaten egg)
they were actually orange even after baked but brightness of camera made them look yellow... (yes I know I am amateurish)
Please Note:
(1) I made 24 empanadas I saved 12 already assembled empanadillas (but not baked just assembled with filling and all) in the freezer, the 12 I froze I will fry them some other day that I don’t feel like cooking to much, I have no clue how this dough will be fried so I’ll update you guys, it’s good in the oven but might not be the same for frying so stay tuned 

UPDATE VERY VERY IMPORTANT (12/ 9/ 09) this empanada dough is only good for baked empanadas, I tried frying some and the texture is crumbly it doesn't bubble or puff. The best dough I've used so far for frying is one of Pilar Lechuza's recipes "Empanadillas Fritas" (small fried spanish meat pies):

(2) Also please excuse some of the odd shaped ones, this time I was good at making empanadas and my boyfriend flet like experimenting with the dough making different shapes, made some to thin, and some looked messy…

(3) You can infuse the dough with sofrito flavor and the fillings flavor, sautee the aromatics for the filling in about 1 1/2 cups oil, add the meat or seafood sautee, then drain the filling on a colander to get oil now the oil you retrieve is flavorful and the dough can have the flavor of the filling.

(4) I was thinking if I used Cuban fillings maybe substituting the sweet smoked spanish paprika for "Sazon Goya Culantro Con Achiote"

*This dough is a combination of Margarrete's recipe for Empanadilla dough (click on link below):

and a combination of Gertudis recipe which I saw in video format on youtube (a woman from Murcian region of Spain) link for video 1 and 2 see below:

ALSO here is one of my favorite fried ones I learned from Pilar Lechuza: