Monthly Archives: October 2014

Food truck Fridays!

It’s amazing the amount of food trucks, wagons, carts, and guaguitas there are in our fine town. It seems like everywhere look there’s a little food stand with 5-10 cars precariously parked on the side of the road with cars going 50+ mph or maneuvering a blind turn.
Some are a little suspect.
But from the wise words of travel food guru ( aka crazy fat man who will eat anything) Andrew Zimmern, ‘if there’s a long line then that’s where you want to eat.’ So we began searching out the places with long lines cars parked by them.
The first was Bluefin.

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This is a little covered wagon of a place that churns out half pound burgers cooked to order, taco Tuesdays of beef, chicken, and fish, and an exceptional tuna steak burger. All from a little shed-like kitchen. Amazingly! It took us a while to actually find the place (although if you ask my husband he’ll tell you he knew exactly where it was at). It’s no bigger than a booth at a carnival but the food they put out is exceptional.
It was a bit in the expensive side – almost $10 per item- but it really, really was worth it!

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This past Friday brought us to a Venezuelan ‘shack’ that offered arepas, which is a corn type of pancake that is used as a bun and the filling can be chicken, pork, seafood, etc.

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We decided to check it out because my father had fond memories if Venezuelan fare.

So ours was their best seller: a yummy concoction of chicken with avocado, mayo, and a special sauce. The corn cake was a little different from what I am used to but it really worked well – as in not too flavorful- to really let the chicken and the fresh avocado come through.

We were afraid it wasn’t going to be filling enough so we stopped at this little place that is precariously perched at a corner on the beach road to pick up a few empanadillas.

Well, the arepas were definitely enough but the empanadillas were just as yummy!

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It’s amazing what you can find when you just slow down, look around, and take in the world around you.

Looking forward to our next food truck Friday!

What had happened was…

So the roast- the utter baffling roast made by turning the oven OFF- was going according to plan.

That was until….our electricity went out. Well, actually, HALF of our electricity went out. Don’t ask. So in trying to scramble to get our fans to blow a little air and eventually deciding to fire up the generator, the roast spent a little extra time in the oven. A little too much extra time in the oven. Like an hour and a half extra time in the oven. Ugh.

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I think whatever chemical magical hocus pocus that happened in the 2.5 hrs was totally lost 4 hours later. Bummer.

But we still ate it. And it smelled amazing. And looked amazing wen I cut into it (albeit a bit chilled) but darn it- it was hard. And chewy. And not yummy as I thought it would be.

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Don’t get me wrong; it was flavorful. But I was looking forward to a nice, tender, juicy roast.

My husband sent me a link to marinate the meats in kiwi. Apparently the tenderness/how cattle is butchered in PR varies so you need a little extra something something to make things tender. I was hoping for the unconventional cooking method.

Needless to say, I’ll be having to try this again.

Oh Gonzalo and Eye of Round

We are under a tropical storm warning right now. Gonzalo, the tropical storm with potential to become a hurricane, is currently making his way toward our fair island. To look out the window right now you really couldn’t tell there’s a storm brewing a few hundred miles from us. Especially if you were to look in on my husband and lil one snoozing away on this Columbus Day holiday.

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The wind has definitely kicked up and they say by tomorrow we should be getting the rain. Hopefully it’ll keep heading northeastward and there won’t be too much damage or danger.

So what to cook to commemorate our first hurricane party experience? I’ve told you about my plight in trying to find roasts and other larger cuts of beef; yesterday I found lechon de machera. And yes, I did have to look it up. It’s an eye of round. Woohoo! While making a roast in 90 degree weather and 90% humidity may not be on the top of your list, it’s been forever some time since I cooked up a roast.

But eye of round?? I gotta admit this is not a cut I’m familiar with. So off to the internet I go and I keep coming across this cooking method that, frankly, just baffles the hell out of me. I’ve seen it multiple places and this is the one I’m using as a reference but I can’t be sure if this was the originator.

Basically you roast the piece of meat at a high high temp (500 degrees) for a designated amount based on the weight and then you TURN. OFF. THE. HEAT. and keep the roast in the oven for 2.5 hours. That’s right. No fire for 2.5 hours. And no peeking. Thank goodness for an oven window and light!

Apparently the residual heat is supposed to cook the crap out of this sucker. So the story goes.

I browned mine before sticking it in there. I figured the more cooking time the better, right? I also rolled mine in kosher salt (lots…this is a big piece of meat), black pepper, and rosemary. I so wish I had fresh but I have to settle for dried.

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So the roast is on the oven, roasting at a balmy 500 degrees for 25 minutes, while I make my kitchen a virtual inferno. Needless to say the rest of my family has retreated far far away from the kitchen during this initial process.

I’m still pretty apprehensive about this method but stay tuned tomorrow as I post the results. It’ll either be yummy roast for dinner… or scrambled eggs.

With a side of tropical storm Gonzalo!

Dinner will be ready in…WHAT??!!??

So last night, in the midst of making a spectacular grilled tuna steak with a lemon, wine, and caper sauce, our gas ran out (ok- so it was going to be spectacular in my mind, but that’s half the battle, right?). Our stove runs on gas and being that I’ve never cooked with gas I am not accustomed to checking it so it doesn’t run out.

Or at least checking it would be the ideal situation. Apparently there are no gauges on Puerto Rican gas tanks. And it’s weird having a gas tank. Just sayin.

So the gas folks are quite efficient. It’s the next day and we have fire a’blazin.

Dinner tonight: that spectacular tuna steak with the lemon, wine, and caper sauce.

Dinner last night was a fabulous sandwich from El Criollo. Yuuuuum.

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Transitions

It’s amazing what your expectations may be of something and then when you actual experience it, it’s completely different. But that can be a good thing too: it’s nice to have expectations but I’m finding it more beneficial (and saner) to go into things with a more open mind.

Life on the island is interesting, to say the least. Things just move differently here, and I’m just not talking about the weather. For example, we inherited the previous owners ‘stray’ dog. There’s not a real ‘pound’ here so rather than adding to the stray dog problem we called city hall to have the dog removed. For $40. That we had to pay. This was over 3 weeks. The dog is still here. We’ve called multiple times and this dog guy has got to have the best job in the world because he checks in at 8 and no one knows where he is until 4 that day. One week he was sick. And the last two weeks his van has been in the shop. 2 weeks.

Internet. Don’t even get me started. I’m writing this on my iphone because we’ve lost our wifi. Again. Internet will be back soon. Albeit at on 2MB’s because of our remote location. Nice.

But we knew there would be challenges. And thankfully the great things of PR have definitely outweighed the bad.

Which brings me back to cooking. Isn’t that interesting that everything leads back to food? Or maybe that’s just me.

So food. I had these expectations of fresh fruit, produce, lovely meats, and an abundance of fresh herbs because c’mon! I live on an island where the weather is super duper ideal for growing things! Yea- I was wrong. But that’s ok– keeping an open mind and fishing out different grocery stores I’ve been able to find some really great deals and better looking produce. Plus- I’ve got my guy in the way to James’ work who still has the best looking tomatoes on the island.

So last week I was able to churn out Ellie Krieger’s stuffed peppers . Yum. And of course, it’s loaded with cheese. Being lactose intolerant whenever I do anything with cheese I go all out. If I gotta take pills I gotta make it worth it.

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We also received a huge avocado from our fabulous neighbor, Don Carlos. These things are bigger than my head and they taste so much different than the ones on the mainland. It still amazes me how fresh and amazing something tastes when it’s just picked from a tree, vine, or plant.

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This is definitely making me miss my garden I had in Dothan.

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Rounding out the weekend I made Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Ribs. These never disappoint.

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So even though things may not go as we had planned or our expectations fall short, in the brand scheme of things (like my sister Natalie said to me the other day) it’s probably not that big if deal. And in the end, there’s always a meal that can bring you comfort.

Another cook in the house

While I willingly and happily take on the full responsibility of cooking, it is always nice to have a break, other than eating out. So my father took over the reigns on Monday and made a soup inspired by the fresh coconut he got by the beach on Sunday.

This recipe was courtesy of my uncle Armando, who is currently residing in Ecuador, where my father is from. His wife, Martita, is a fabulous cook and knows all things Ecuadorian when it comes to cooking.

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So my went to work to make Sopa de pescado con coco with platanos verdes and yucca. The trick is making your own coconut water. So my dad dug into it, grated it, and then passed it through a sieve with some water and BAM– coconut water!

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I’m really not that daring when it comes to fish. Give me simple and not fishy and I’m a happy camper so I was a little leary– I’m sure it was going to be good, but perhaps just not so right for me.

WOW! i was pleasantly pleased! It was AMAZING! And so simple to make!

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Hump Day, Shades Day

“I melt with a mixture of relief to have escaped the clutches of that blackmailing coyote and anticipation of that long baguette. Maybe food porn isn’t such a bad thing after all.”

Do I have your attention now?

It’s Hump day/Food Porn50 Shades of Chicken” day. Tonight I am making the “Chicken Sub”. Seems innocuos enough, right? Well it is actually pretty straight forward: marinate chicken cutlets (I’m using butterflied chicken thighs), then make a modified caprese salad on a fabulous baguette (or pan de agua in our Puerto Rican case). But to read the description in not only the intro but also in the actual directions, you may in fact blush. For example: : When the chicken can no longer stand the antici[ation, heat the remaining 3 tbls. …” or “…marinate at room temperature…or even better, overnight until it begs of you.”. Yea– this is a cookbook.

And if you really think about – or at least this is how I think- cooking should be fun, adventurous, gasp- even arousing! Or at least that’s what I think about cooking. Ok– maybe not the arousing part but some Julia dishes were oh so good. I don’t know– it always baffled me hearing how people would say that cooking is “hard”, or “complicated” or that everything they tried tasted “awful”. I didn’t grow up with a savvy chef of a mom: eggs mixed with canned tuna fish was absolutely yummy when I was young (and even now) and Hamburger helper was a staple in our cupboard. But over the course of my formative years, I was lucky enough to work at the Ritz-Carlton and Old Warson Country Club, which exemplified top-notch cooking; and I got spoiled.

So I made food a priority. I Enjoy food. I RELISH food. I sometimes can’t wait to try out that new dish or head to a new restaurant to try out FOOD. For me, it’s relaxing. The repetitive cutting and chopping was comforting to me. I looked forward to dinner time so I could, without question, spend hours in the kitchen. To get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday? No. I just fell in love with cooking.

So trying to pick that back up here in Puerto Rico has been quite trying.Reading a recipe, making a list, and expecting to find said ingredients at the store is a given; stateside. Here on the island– you’re lucky to find half of your ingredients. I’m not complaining. I’m just not used to this shortcoming. But this is giving me all sorts of challenges to overcome. This is when cooking gets fun!

So tonight was a chicken sandwich. Yum. Tomorrow it’s a Giada pasta dish with some special puerto rican sausage. It’s all about adapting, right? UPDATE: will be doing Ellie Krieger’s…with a little modification.

Nothing will ever go as it is planned. I learned that the day we decided to move to PR; the day we took our lil 5 week old baby Gabriela on a 10 hour travel plan and moving into a new house. You gotta go with the flow. And in cooking and in life, I think things will turn out pretty good!

Here’s to a happy HUMP day!

The Life of Jan

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