Bites & Pieces: ¡Ceviche!

Raw fish is eaten round the world. Sushi and sashimi from Japan, crudo and carpaccio from Italy, and Gravlax from Scandanavia to name a few. Hawaii has contributed poke, a kind of tuna tartare. I was first introduced to it at the Yardhouse in San Diego. The best I’ve ever had was at the East Coast Grill and Raw Bar. A friend of the owner had caught a tuna off Cape Cod the day before and so they were featuring it that night. Then there are the raw oysters that I happily slurp at Clyde’s for happy hour. Anything from Prince Edward Island is worth a taste.

Latin America’s contribution to the world of raw fish is ceviche. I was introduced to ceviche during my first visit to Costa Rica. My then girlfriend had never had a serious boyfriend before, so much of her family was curious about the gringo coming down for her brother’s wedding. My Spanish was minimal back then and I remember being reduced to saying ¡me encanta Costa Rica! as folks chatted with me at the end of the reception. All in all, a good trip. We were married one year later to the day.

Ceviche is distinct from sashimi, carpaccio or tartare in that the fish or shellfish is “cooked” in lime juice. Citric acid alters the chemical and physical properties of the proteins in the fish. This process of denaturation turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat. One still needs to use high quality fish as the marinade is not the same as cooking. Then again, if I’m having a medium rare steak, it should be high quality meat.

For this post, my starter material is a book on ceviche from Guillermo Pernot. He had a great restaurant in Philadelphia (since closed) and is now with the group behind Cuba Libre. That’s a rum and coke with some lime juice.

Let’s start with basic ceviche. First, create the marinade. Half a cup of fresh lime juice, a quarter cup of orange juice, and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Fresh is key here, so juice them yourself. Next, cut up about a pound of fish into roughly quarter inch dice. Mahi mahi and red snapper are great choices. Tilapia is fine, if a bit bland. Let the fish marinate an hour or so and then add diced tomato, some minced onion or shallots, some minced cilanto, and some minced chiles (bell, jalapeño or Serrano peppers, depending upon your heat tolerance). If there’s something you think goes with this, enjoy! Serve with tortilla chips. Costa Ricans like to have a mix of ketchup and mayo on the side. I call it salsa tica and it’s good.

Shellfish is also good for making ceviche. If you’re worried about raw fish, parboil some prawns and cut them into small pieces. Shrimp cocktail from the South! Scallops make fantastic ceviche. Just toss whole bay scallops or sliced sea scallops into the marinade and let them sit for about 15 minutes.

Those are the basics. Now let’s get a bit fancy. I mentioned the Pernot book, which I should note is a gift of Natasha Bonilla, a family friend. The recipes are restaurant complicated, but I’ve tried a few at home and they rock. They’re also doable for the home cook. Here are a few of my favorites:

Hamachi Ceviche with Trio of Peppers Salad

This one looks great. There’s a fair amount of chopping involved, but it’s worth it. It’s terrific with an unoaked Chardonney. Heck, live a little and pick up a bottle of white Burgundy.

Citrus Dressing

½ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons oil, infused with garlic*

2 tablespoons annatto oil*

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until emulsified and set aside.

*I take whole cloves of garlic, mash them slightly with the edge of a knife, and put on the stove over low heat. Let it go for about 15 minutes and then strain. Annato seeds are used to color oil. Traditionally, it’s made the same way that I make the garlic oil. Put the seeds in oil and heat up until colored. For this recipe, I can simply do everything in one batch. You can also find annatto seed powder, which simplifies the whole process. If all this seems a bit too much bother, use a flavored oil or neutral salad oil.

Assembling the ceviche

¾ pound skinless hamachi, sliced thinly (yellow fin tuna)

1 large, evenly shaped red bell pepper

1 large, evenly shaped yellow bell pepper

1 large poblano chile

1 cup of arugula sprouts or thinly sliced arugula

½ red onion, sliced very thin and rinsed under cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the sliced fish with half the citrus dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Slice the top and bottom from the bell peppers. Cut open along one side and remove the seeds and the white membrane. [Pernot instructs one to remove the top layer of watery flesh from the inside as well, but I’d say that’s optional.] Slice each pepper into very thin strips—a mandoline is very helpful here. Do the same for the poblano chile.

Toss the peppers with the remaining citrus dressing. Lightly toss the fish, pepper mixture, arugula and red onion. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Arrange onto 6 chilled salad plates. [Oh, did I forget to mention that you were supposed to serve on chilled plates? Sorry about that.]

Bay Scallop Seviche with Blackened Tomatillo Truffle Sauce

This one will bring the house down. The ingredients are widely available and it is great for a crowd. Truffle oil is pricey, but a little goes a long ways. Trader Joe’s used to carry truffle oil, but no longer. I find it at World Market. Wine stores often carry some. For this dish, I think black truffle oil makes the most sense.

Let’s start with the plantain chips. You can buy them and they’re quite acceptable. Fresh is best, though. For this, you need green plantains. Cut off the ends, remove the skin and slice into planks. The best way I’ve found is to use a cheese slicer. It makes even plantain slices. Heat up a half inch or so of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or cast iron pan. Fry the slides and set them on paper towels to drain. Toss with a bit of salt.

Blackened Tomatillo Truffle Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed

½ pound ripe plum tomatoes

1 red onion, quartered and unpeeled

4 cachucha* chiles

1 jalapeño chile

1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves

3 tablespoons truffle oil

salt & pepper to taste

There are two ways to cook the tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and chiles. Pernot does it on the stove top. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over med high and add the tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and chiles. Cook, tossing frequently, until the skins are blackened. I like to toss them all with the olive oil and use our toaster oven. I preheat it to 350, put the veggies on a tray, and then move it to broil until the skins blacken (about 10 minutes).

Once cooked, put them in a food processor and cool to room temperature. Add the cilantro and pulse briefly until the vegetables are chopped but still chunky. You can also put everything through a meat grinder. Finally, add the remaining ingredients, taste to check seasoning, and refrigerate.

*I don’t know where to get these either. It’s a native Cuban pepper that looks like a habañero, but has much less heat. I’m fond of Serrano peppers, so I just use 4 of them and skip the jalapeño. If you prefer to keep heat levels down, just use jalapeños.

Bay Scallop Ceviche

1 cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup fresh orange juice

3 tablespoons finely diced red onion (or a lg. shallot)

1 tablespoon kosher (or sea) sallt

1 pound fresh bay scallops

Combine everything but the scallops in a nonreactive (stainless steel or enameled) bowl. Add the scallops and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerator for 24 hours.

Drain the marinade from the scallops and discard. Combine the scallops with most of the sauce and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. When ready to serve, drain the excess liquid and add the rest of the sauce. A great way to serve this is to put the ceviche onto spoons and top with some crumbled plantain chips. Serve accompanied with plantain chips.

Tuna Ceviche with Roasted Calabaza

This is a three level ceviche. The base is roasted calabaza, a squash. You can use butternut squash for this and do well. On top of the squash is a layer of tuna. You’ll want high quality stuff for this. When I can get bluefin tuna, this is what I make. Thie dish is topped with a peppercress salad (watercress works just fine).

OK. For the base. Have one pound of calabaza (or butternut squash), peeled and cut into half inch cubes. Seasons with salt and p\epper and toss with olive oil. Roast in an oven at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, shakng and tossing once or twice, until it’s browned and crusty on the outside. Remove from the oven, cover and chill.

Now the salad. Combine half a pound of peppercress (or watercress) leaves with a quarter cup each of lemon and lime juice, a tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil (you can find it at World Market), and some salt and pepper. I’d use a high quality nut oil as the first alternative and good EVOO as the second.

Last, the good stuff. Make an emulsion of a quarter cup each of olive oil, lemon juice, and lime juice, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seed oil (or nut oil or more olive oil,. Reserve a quarter cup of this. To the rest, add a pound of diced, sushi grade ahi tuna. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I go light on salt and a bit heavy on pepper. The recipe calls for a quarter cup of pepitas, which can be found in Latin American markets.

Let’s put it all together. It helps to have a ring mold to do this. Make a half inch thick base of roasted squash, Put on top of this another half inch of the marinated tuna. Top with the salald and a bit of reserved emulsion.

It’s a fantastic fall dish.

Bites and Pieces: Perfect Chicken

I’ve mostly been on the road this week. My sons finished kindergarten (yay!) on Wednesday, which happens to be the day that my wife was starting a week long job for the US Forest Service. I’m transferring to a new job in July, so a family break seemed warranted.

I found a surprise along the way. There’s a pretty decent Italian place in Lewisburg, WV, of all places (Giovanni’s). I ordered lasagna for Secondo, pasta with greens and sausage for Primo (he’s on a health kick), and a roasted veggie salad for myself. I figured I could hoover up what they left behind. Well, the salad was terrific. A good balance of veggies and the roasted squash really added heart. The pasta and greens didn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving. They used broccoli rabe for the greens and a mild sausage that balanced the dish. The pasta was penne and cooked al dente. The lasagna was simple–a couple layers of noodles with ricotta in the middle and marinara on top. I took a bite of it and got a surprise. The noodles were tender and the ricotta is as good as anything I picked up at the Italian Store in Arlington. Turns out they make everything in house. This is the kind of restaurant everyone wishes they had in their neighborhood. The total was $37, including two sodas.

But that’s not important right now. I’m writing about chicken. The day after I arrived at the lake, my brother made a beer can chicken. I’d never tried it before. It was quite good, but he misjudged the timing (we didn’t have a thermometer) and so the inner portions were undercooked. That’s the eternal problem with roasting a chicken. Undercooked meat or dried out breast meat (or in the worst of all cases, both). How to solve it?

One of my sons was wanting chicken and I know my parents enjoy it. So, what to do? On a whim, I decided to try a butterflied chicken. Cut out the backbone, flatten the thing, and roast it. As a bonus, you can use the wings and the back to make a nice mini batch of stock. I did a bit of hunting about and came upon Kenji Alt’s blog. He used to appear on America’s Test Kitchen. The method seemed straightforward and dispensed with turning the chicken. The ideal is 150 degrees for breast meat and 170 for dark meat. I was shocked when the meat thermometer registered the perfect temperature both times. And the chicken was perfect! 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Take a 3 1/2 – 4 lb. chicken. Brine it if you like (I do) and air dry. Cut out the backbone with some kitchen shears. Flatten the beastie. Spread a tablespoon of vegetable oil (sesame oil is tasty) over the top and season with salt and pepper. I shoved a couple tablespoons of butter between the skin of the breasts and the meat. It may be gilding the lily, but what the hey.

3. Slide up a half dozen small (1″) potatoes. Toss with oil and put in the bottom of a roasting pan. Put a flat rack on top and place the chicken on it. [Note: don’t use a V-rack for a butterflied bird. If you don’t have a flat rack, just put it right on the potatoes.]

4. Roast the bird for about 45 minutes, until the breast meat registers 150 degrees and the thigh registers 170 degrees. As I noted above, it worked perfectly for me.

5. Let the bird rest for 5 minutes and then enjoy!

 

BB

Bites & Pieces OR Do Alpha Males Eat Quiche?

I have a basic quiche recipe that can be adapted for all sorts of dietary restrictions and preferences.  I’m trying to gradually add a few pounds back on that I misplaced this year and I can make this once a week and add a few calories to my diet.  On the other hand, it can be made with lower fat/calorie ingredients and still be delicious.

Basic Ingredients:

3 whole eggs, you can substitute egg whites for part of them or all, two egg whites equals one whole egg

1 can evaporated milk, you can use low fat or non fat and honestly you won’t be able to tell the difference

2 1/2 TBS of flour

Salt, pepper and other spices depending on the rest of your ingredients.  I use thyme, parsley, basil and herbs de provence  pretty frequently, but please experiment.

Additional Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cheese, again low fat versions are fine and I frequently use a combination of mozzarella, parmesan and feta.  Of course you can use cheddar, swiss or really any kind of cheese.

5 to 6 diced green onions

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 to 2  cups of veggies.  I generally use a combination of broccoli/cauliflower or a variety of summer squash.  Experiment.

1 cup of  meat (cooked).  If you use meat, cut back on the veggies.  For a breakfast quiche the obvious meats are ham, bacon or sausage.  For dinner, chicken would probably work fine.

Directions:

Beat the eggs, milk, flour and spices until well blended.  Sir in the other ingredients, adding the cheeses last and pour into greased 9″X9″ baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 or until center is set.

By the way, my husband loves this recipe.

****************************************************************

And from okiegirl, who is still finding gorgeous asparagus at an even more gorgeous price, a couple of faves.

Asparagus with Curry Butter

Ingredients

2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely diced

1 bunch asparagus, (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Preparation

Combine butter, curry powder, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl.  Omit salt if your curry powder has salt in it already.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus and cook, stirring, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the curry butter into the asparagus; toss to coat.

Yummy with grilled salmon!

Spring Pizza

Ingredients

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste — this is a lot of garlic)

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound)

1/2 cup snipped fresh chives, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough

1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

Preparation

Position rack in lower third of oven, place a pizza stone or large pizza pan on the rack and preheat oven to 450°F for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in a small bowl; set aside. Trim asparagus spears to about 6 inches long; slice any thicker stalks in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 cup chives, salt and pepper.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 14-inch circle.  (I cheat and buy ready made pizza crust.)

Carefully remove the pizza stone or pan from the oven and set on a heatproof surface, such as your stovetop. Place the dough on the stone or pan and brush with the reserved garlic-oil mixture. Cover with a layer of tomato slices.  Arrange the asparagus in a circular pattern on the dough with the tips facing out (like spokes). Top with cheese and the remaining chives.

Carefully return the stone or pan to the oven and bake the pizza on the lower rack until crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

This makes a lovely spring supper, but also is a nice (if unusual) side dish.

Bites & Pieces (Appetizers)

We’re having a small party next Saturday and so I’ve been thinking about the menu and what kind of appetizers to serve.  I’ve asked a few family members for suggestions and all of them requested this one.  It’s not the healthiest dish on the planet but since it’s one of those things I only make on rare occasions it falls into the eat in “Moderation” category.  Below I’ll jot down another recipe for an eggplant dip that’s quite a bit more nutritious although Michi may have already given us a similar one.

When I was growing up the popular appetizer at cocktail parties was Rumaki (chicken liver, water chestnut, bacon) so I guess mine isn’t any worse than that.  My father was the Rumaki King and so my sister and I helped make and serve a lot of it…………………………….yuck.

Fried Artichoke Hearts (serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

1 can artichoke hearts, not the marinated variety, you can buy them whole or quartered.  Quartered are more work but go further with a crowd.

3/4 cup flour

salt and garlic powder added to flour (dash of salt, 1 tsp garlic powder)

2 eggs lightly beaten

3/4 to 1 cup panko bread crumbs

oil for frying

2 to 3 tablespoons butter

juice of 1/4 lemon

Parmesan, freshly grated or Kraft

Directions:

Drain artichoke hearts.  Measure the seasoned flour and bread crumbs into individual bowls and likewise the eggs.  First coat the hearts with flour, then dip into the eggs coating thoroughly and last, roll in bread crumbs.  I generally do three or four at a time and use a separate fork for each bowl to keep my fingers from building up with all the sticky ingredients.  Place in a single layer on a plate and cover.  Refrigerate for several hours as they are best fried when really cold.

I generally fry them in a hot pan with just a 1/4″ layer of oil on the bottom and flip them several times until they turn a golden brown, but you can deep fry them it you want.  Drain on paper towels for a few minutes and while they’re draining melt the butter and add lemon juice.  Place the hearts into a serving dish and drizzle with lemon butter and sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese………………Voila!!!!!

Eggplant Dip (Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

5 large eggplants

5 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 to 2 tablespoons tahini

5 green onions, chopped

salt and black pepper

Directions:

Heat the oven or grill to 400.  Roast whole eggplants on a baking sheet in the oven or directly on the grill for 40 to 50 minutes until soft and let cool.  Scoop out the insides of the eggplants and put them into a bowl, discard the peels.  Mash the eggplant and then let stand for about 30 minutes.  Discard any accumulated juices.

Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini and green onions to the eggplant and mix together.  Add salt and pepper.  Keep refrigerated until serving.  Serve with crackers, cut vegetable or bread cubes.

And lastly, this piece from the Nation might clarify a few things for the girls here, or at least the ones who used to be here.  I’m not trying to start another fight please, just thought the girls might find something useful from this perspective.

Bites & Pieces (Saturday Vegetarian Edition)

About 15 years ago I started trying to incorporate vegetarian meals into my week on a somewhat regular basis, partly for health reasons, partly for ecological reasons, and partly just to learn a new way to eat–when you’re a Midwestern farm girl any meal which isn’t built around a proteinaceous entree just isn’t a meal!  One of the best things I did at that time was to buy a cookbook titled “The Occasional Vegetarian” by Karen Lee (it has since gone out of print, but copies are still available); in this particular cookbook not only does she have great recipes, but she lays out entire menus so that those of us without a clue can figure out how to put together a balanced meal without meat.  Another thing that I like about this cookbook is that many of her recipes can be multi-purposed, in these instances, hors d’oeuvres turn into entrees a couple of days later.

So, for lms and her vegetarian dinner party I offer up these ideas from Karen Lee, with modifications by Michigoose:


Basic Toast Rounds

1 French baguette, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
  2. Brush the bread slices lightly with the oil and lay them on a cookie sheet; bake until light brown and crisp through, 20 – 30 minutes.

These can be used immediately or stored for up to about five days. . . although mine never last that long.


Chino Caponata

Chinese eggplant ratatouille with Italian overtones. . . use as an appetizer on the toast rounds, or make even more (double the recipe), save it for a couple of days for the flavors to meld, and use it to top pasta.  Yummy!

2 lb eggplant (2 or 3 medium eggplants)

1 cup tomato sauce

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar + 5 tablespoons dry sherry

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons Chinese hot chili oil

3 tablespoons peanut oil

2 cups chopped Spanish (or other mild) onion

4 tablespoons minced garlic

2 red bell peppers, roasted and chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 1/2 dried)

3 tablespoons small capers, drained

  1. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes, toss with some salt and place in a colander.  Set aside for an hour, then rinse and allow to drain for about 10 minutes.  Dry thoroughly between paper towels.
  2. Combine the tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sherry, and chili oil; set aside.
  3. Heat a wok or iron skillet over high heat until it is (literally) smoking hot.  Pour in some of the peanut oil and toss in some eggplant cubes (don’t over-crowd the pan).  Press down on the eggplant to aid in scorching, and cook, stirring and pressing down occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the eggplant is soft and well-charred.  Remove the eggplant from the pan and repeat until all of the eggplant is cooked.
  4. Add more oil to the pan and add the onion and fry, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown (about 2 minutes).  Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute more.  Add the eggplant back into the pan along with the tomato sauce mixture and stir until the sauce is absorbed, about 1 minute.  Add the pepper, oregano and capers and stir for a few seconds.  Season to taste, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Curried Roasted Garlic Spread

Not only is this spread fantastic on those toast rounds, but it can be used as a dip, or a great low-fat topping on potatoes.

1 head garlic

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1 tablespoon cumin powder (roasted, if possible)

1 tablespoon curry powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut through the garlic head near the top, drizzle the oil over the top, place the garlic in some aluminum foil, seal, and roast for 40 minutes.  Unwrap and let cool.
  3. Combine the sour cream, yogurt, cumin, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pinch the cloves out of the garlic head and mash them into the yogurt mixture.
  5. Let the spread sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can meld.

Pasta Caponata

What to do with that leftover Chino Caponata. . .

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup Chino Caponata

1 tablespoon mascarpone or heavy cream

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound short pasta (I like to use bowties for this)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet.  Add the garlic and saute until golden.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the Chino Caponata and bring to a simmer again.  Add the mascarpone or cream and stir.  Remove from the heat and toss with pasta.  Top with the cheese and serve immediately.

Happy weekend, all!

Hot Tamales

Hi all,
It is a tradition throughout Latin America to make tamales around Christmas. Make them, share them, compare them (yours are best, of course). Having married a Tica, we carry the tradition forwards. We use her Tia Lijia’s recipe with a few modifications.
A tamal is essentially a way to convert scraps into a meal. I want to call it a tamale too, but the singular is tamal and the plural is tamales (note, tamalays, not tamalis). We don’t have any truck with those Philistines in Mexico who use corn husks to wrap them. Costa Rican tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, which are great for steaming. The quality of the banana leaf is important. My beloved Keen does the selection and slicing of the leaves.
Here’s how you make Fallas-Baldi tamales. Take two prepared banana leaves and place them cross-wise. That’ll form a good seal for the steaming. Next, put on a generous dollop of masa. That’s the critical component and I’ll explain its preparation in a bit. Now, add the presents to your package. A couple pieces of chicken. A couple of olives. A few capers. Some sautéed, julienned carrots and bell pepper. Raisins are traditional, but we use dried, sweetened cranberries. Wrap up your tamal, put it against another one and tie up into a package. Your tamales will be steamed with others in batches. I think we make about 100 tamales each year, most of which are to be given away.
The masa is the crucial component. The first step is to make the broth. The standard approach is to boil chicken breasts in water then add spices (condimento—a Latino spice). One then removes the chicken breasts for later preparation. Spices are added to the broth and then masa harina (corn flour with lime, Maseca is a popular brand that we use). Mashed potatoes are the secret ingredient in the FB masa. It’s also important to add plenty of fat. We use Crisco, but I suspect that lard is traditional.
Here was my one and only innovation. It struck me that (a) the chicken would be over-cooked and (b) wouldn’t add enough flavor to the broth. I’m big into stock and poached chicken is lovely. It struck me that the basic method overcooked the chicken and didn’t add enough flavor to the broth. This is my one and only innovation (approved of by the tamal nazi).
I purchased 8 chickens at Costco this year. The thighs and legs were removed, skinned, and set aside for later use. The breasts were removed off the bone and set aside. The backs and wings were chopped into pieces, roasted, and used to make stock. It’s a standard stock, with the substitution for parsley with plenty of cilantro and culantro. The latter is a flat-leafed herb with a flavor similar to cilantro. Cilantro is actually called culantro in Costa Rica; culantro is called culantro coyote. It was considered something of a wild herb there and we can finally get it in the U.S. (exported from Costa Rica). We’re going to wind up with about 3 gallons of stock out of all of this.
OK. We just poached the chicken breasts in the stock. In the past, I’ve poached the chicken breasts in water and then added the bones, mirepoix, and herbs to make stock. I think I like this way better as the stock flavors the breasts and vice versa. The chicken is then cut into ~1/2 pieces. It’ll be sautéed in onions with condimento (spice blend) and achiote (which colors the chicken). The julienned bell peppers and carrots will be similarly sautéed.
For a vegetarian friend, I make a few tamales without chicken. She’s not bothered about broth, so I  like making a few tamales con camarones. One year, we made masa with a shrimp stock. Keen indulged me. We also have some pork loin in the freezer, so I’ve defrosted it and we’ll make a few pork tamales.
We’ll be busy tomorrow. Friends are coming over, drinks will be drunk and many tamales will be made.
¡Felix Navidad!

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