A Little About Me

New York, New York
As a newly married woman, it has become my mission in life to learn how to cook. Gone are the days of picking up sushi and ordering curries. In order to jump-start my education, I enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education's Fine Cooking I course where I learned the basics, from roasting to boiling to mousse-making (ok, maybe not that basic)! I've attempted to replicate some recipes - somewhat successfully- and create a few of my own. This blog is for friends and foodies and is intended to document my cooking adventures (and occasional fiascoes). Enjoy the pictures and bon appetite!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ropa Vieja, Thanks Ela!

After seeing a picture of the Ropa Vieja Ela Crespin, an old family friend from Puerto Rico, had posted on her Facebook page, it made me desperately crave the dish I had so loved growing up. Ropa Vieja, Spanish for "old clothes," is a popular dish in the Caribbean consisting of braised and shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base. I never in a million years thought I could make something so complicated, but luckily for me, Ela gave me a great recipe and some positive encouragement! It took three long hours, a lot of patience and a watchful eye, but I have to say the end result was pretty amazing!

Ingredients For braising beef:
  • 3 lbs flank steak
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 red onion, cut into strips
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups braising liquid
a 14- to 16-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 cup peas
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olive, halved

Start by adding all the braising ingredients into a kettle and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour and a half. Keep your eye on it to make sure the braising liquid doesn't boil down too much, since you'll need it later on! 

Remove from the heat and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

Remove the meat from the kettle and, using a fork, shred it. Having simmered for so long, the steak will be very tender and easy to shred!

Strain the braising liquid and ingredients through a colander, pushing on the vegetables to extract all the delicious liquids. Return the collected liquid to the kettle and boil until it has reduced to about 3 cups.
 Remove the liquid and set aside.

In the kettle, cook the green and red peppers and onions until softened. Add the shredded meat back into the pot followed by the braising liquid, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for twenty minutes. Lastly, stir in the peas, olives and, if needed, extra braising liquid and simmer for another five minutes.

Finally, the ropa vieja will be ready to devour! It can be served with some yellow saffron rice, or, something lighter like a nice chopped salad! This recipe makes about eight servings, so if you're going to be a smaller party (like we were, trying halving it all!). Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My First Bird!

I always watch cooking shows like the Barefoot Contessa and marvel at how Ina is able to make entire roasted chickens that look so delicious, effortlessly! I never in a million years thought I'd have the skills, or patience, to make a meal like that. Guess what. I was wrong! Recently, I decided to cook my first real Shabbat dinner... and what says "traditional Shabbat food" more than a golden roasted chicken? After a conversation with my butcher and the purchase of a four pound bird, I was ready to get cooking! Turns out it wasn't as difficult and even tastier than I had imagined!

4 lb chicken
1/2 bottle red cooking wine
3 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
bunch of thyme (or rosemary)
bunch of tarragon
6 garlic cloves
3 carrots, cut into chunks
1/2 white onion, cut into chunks
fingerling potatoes

Start by cutting the carrots, onions and potatoes into chunks and spreading them around a large baking dish. While you do this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chicken in the middle of the baking dish. Take the butter and rub it all over the chicken. Then take salt and pepper and sprinkle all over, to season. Stick 3/4 of the herbs inside the chicken cavity and place the remaining herbs on top. (This will give the chicken a lot of flavor!) Also pop a couple of the garlic cloves inside the cavity and place the rest among the vegetables. Lastly, pour half the bottle of red cooking wine in the pan and, though I didn't do this,add about a cup of chicken broth as well.

Lower the oven to 325 degrees and cook the chicken for about two hours (I was told about 1/2 hour cooking time per pound of chicken). I basted the chicken about every 30 minutes which means I took it out of the oven and with a spoon, collected the surrounding liquids and poured them over the chicken to retain its moisture. When the chicken looks golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it sit for ten minutes before digging in!