Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Josefina cube potato fries: Papas Gallegas

Josefina was my step’s father’s mother. And she was from Galicia, Spain and made the most fantastic ever potato fries. She will occasionally cook me a full pot and it felt like heaven! I hope you enjoy them too.

Recipe of Galician potato fries (cubes):


• Large white, Russell or Red Potatoes (1-2 potatoes per person)

• Salt, pepper, garlic powder (or freshly mashed), paprika and olive oil

Wash potatoes very well and cut them in cubes of more or less the size of a dice. Do not peel the potatoes, the skin is the best part! (And the healthier part too). Put the cubes into a big bowl that has a lid. Put salt, pepper and a little paprika to taste on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with a trickle of olive oil and cover the bowl with its lid – make sure it is closed tightly. Take the bowl and shake it several times until all the potato cubes are covered with oil and species. (About 30 seconds for 6 potatoes)

Heat some olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a heavy pan with a lid; do not put too much oil only enough to cover the bottom. When the oil is hot, put enough potato cubes in the pan so all cubes are touching the bottom of the pan (single layer). Cover the pan and fry the cubes for a minute or so. Stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon and close the pan again. Repeat this until the cubes are golden on all sides. Remove the cubes with a slotted spoon to drain all excess oil. Put the cubes in a serving plate covered with a paper kitchen towel to absorb the excess fat. Cook the next pan of cubes adding more olive oil if necessary. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Venezuelan Style Pork Shoulder or "El Pernil": A Christmas Tradition

Ever since I remember we always enjoyed a good "Pernil"on our Christmas table. Although I really like it, I never tried to make it myself since I left Venezuela. My mom always takes care of that issue. But this year I decided to cook one! Of course I had to get the recipe from my mom.

I called my mom and learnt that she has been cooking Pernil for our family Christmas since 1962!!!! Wow!!

Here is the recipe as my mom gave it to me, note that she did not give me any measures - as a good Latina, she cooks “al ojo” or with a little bit of this and a pinch of that!  But do not worry I added the amounts of ingredients I used for this one.


  • Pork shoulder (boned)
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Garlic 
  • Chicken bouillon 
  • Olive Oil 
  • Brown Mustard 
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Leeks
  • White Wine
Put all the ingredients (except the pork of course) in a blender or food processor until you have a paste (here is the personal touch, as there are no measurements, taste as you go so the paste is not too salty or too bland). To give you an idea, this is how much of everything I used this time: 1 large onion (about the size of a softball), 3 medium bell peppers, half a head of garlic (I like garlic), a cup of wine, 6 chicken bouillon cubes, 4 tablespoons of mustard and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I did not put much salt as the bouillon is salty.

Rinse the pork and bathe with the paste on all sides, place in a covered container or plastic bag and refrigerate to marinate for 24 hours - You can marinate this up to a week before you cook it. Just place the pork in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator the day before you want to cook it.

Cook the pork on a roaster, put the pork on the grill and place any remaining marinade at the bottom of the roaster, add a little water and if you want potatoes, carrots and onions. A Puerto Rican friend told me to always put the skin or fatty part of the shoulder up. Cover the pork with aluminum foil to conserve the juices while cooking.

Calculate the cooking time at 15 to 20 minutes per pound of meat. Preheat the oven at 180 and cook the pork at this temperature for half of the cooking time. At half time, rotate your roaster and then turn the heat to 350 and cook for the rest of the time. After you raise the oven temperature, check your pork every 45 minutes or so. Checking involves the following:  remove the foil paper, baste the pork with its juices, check that the water on the tray has not evaporated, if so add more, put the foil back up again. Uncovered the pork for the last 25 minutes and check that it does not brown too much, if so, cover again.

Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the oven and let stand for 30 minutes before carving so that it retains is juices.

To make gravy, place the roster in the cooker ad pour a little water and white wine. Warm at low heat and with a wooden paddle loosen off all the bits of pork and vegetables that have adhered to the tray. Once it is all off, strain the liquid and put in a pan, taste and add salt and pepper to taste and thicken with a little cornstarch.

And that is it!!! The pork should be very tender and delicious - you can truly cut it with a fork!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No sugar apple pie: Really?

I wanted to do something with some extra apples I had at home, so apple pie came to mind. But I wanted also to do something healthy and apple pie did not fit that bill. So I experimented again to do it with no sugar. To  my surprise, it came out pretty nice. The only thing I would change for the next one is to spread the pie dough a little but thinner. So here is the recipe:

For the filling:
  • Green apples - I used granny smiths about 8 for this one
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground Ginger
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
Peel, core and cut the apples in  little half moons. Put the apples in a heavy pan with water enough water to reach half way but not cover them completely.

Add lemon juice and spices (Cinnamon, grated nutmeg and ginger) to taste, cover and cook at medium heat.
Cook for about 30 minutes and you will notice the apples will start to soften and change color to brown

Once you get to this point, you can mash the apples into a sauce (optional). You can leave them whole or you can mash to your preferred consistency. I like mine quite mashed.

You can then if you wish, can the sauce for future use - You can also use this sauce to top ice creams. I made enough here for my apple pie and to keep as an ice cream topping

Now you need to make the pie crust.


  • 1.25 cup of white flour
  • 1 stick of butter - straight from the fridge
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Sugar to sprinkle on top (only if you want to)
You will need a food processor for this (you can also do by hand with a pastry cutter but it will take you slightly longer). Put the flour, salt and the butter (cut in little pieces) in your food processor and pulse until it is all mixed up and forms little balls slightly smaller than marbles.

Take the dough out of the processor and put on a floured surface, collect all the pieces together  and knead it a couple of times and form a ball, flatten it, cover with cling film and put in your fridge for about an hour (you can actually roll the dough at this point but it will be more difficult and will stick more).

Once the dough has cooled enough, take it out and roll it with a pin to form a circle of 1/8 inch thick.  Take your pie pan and spray it with PAM baking (the best thing I have ever used to stop baked goods to stick - it already has flour on it). Roll the dough onto your rolling pin and unroll on top of the pie pan. From here you can do any design you like. I wanted to do a folded one with leaves. To do this cut your dough in a circle about 2 inches bigger than the pie. Put your filling in the middle, fold one little piece over the filling, turn the pan a little and grab another piece and fold over the first one, keep turning and folding until the whole pie is done. With the remainder dough, knead into a bowl and roll again about 1/5 inch think, with a leaf cookie cutter, cut as many leaves as you can. With the point of a knife make indentations in each leaf to resemble the veins. Start placing the leaves following a circular pattern one next to the other, starting on the outside of the pan. Put more inner layers of leaves until you reach the center. Roll a small ball of dough and put right in the middle. Brush a little water over the dough and sprinkle with a little sugar if desired.

Bake the pie at 350 for about 1.5 hours or until it browns

Details with leaves - center of pie

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Halloween Cookies

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lions and tigers and bears oh my!! Bear pinata the easy way

Making pinatas is easier than it seems - it just takes a little time. It all starts with the materials - I collect cereal boxes, toilet paper and kitchen rolls and egg cartons for my pinatas and crafts.

You need to flatten all cardboard boxes and cut them in strips of about 2 inches wide and as long as you can. make as many strips as you can so you have all you need before you start with the main structure.

You will also need a stapler, Elmer's or white glue, newspapers, crepe paper (folds are easier than streamers but are more difficult to find), flour (yes regular white cooking flour) and a lot of time!!!!

A lot of the pinatas start by making a structure.. To make the initial structure, you simply take the strips of paper and start stapling them together to the shape you like.  For this one we are making a ball or a circular structure. This will work for all types of animal faces and bodies.

For a circular structure you start by taking one strip to create a circle of the diameter of the round ball you want to make. Measure the strip and make 8 strips of the same length. Make circle with all of them. Place two circle inside each other at at 90 degrees angle and staple then together. take another circle and place it inside the other 2 vertically also at a 90 degree angle and staple together. Keep adding circles until all 8 circles are together. Here are some pictures to give you the idea of how to staple them together. Make sure you leave holes in between the strips, if you put the strips too close together it will be very difficult to break the pinata!

Once you have your basic structure, it is time to make the details, like a nose and the ears.  I placed  a few strips in the lower part of the ball to resemble a nose and 2 small strips twisted as semi circles for the ears.

Once your structure is finished you need to make the "walls" of your pinata. For that you need to make some papier mache. Take lots of newspapers and cut little strips from it of about 1 inch wide and again as long as you can. In a bucket or big bowl, mix water, some white flour and white glue (optional) until you have a runny white liquid,  not too thick not too watery. I do not have exact measures (unfortunately I do a lot of things as we say in my country "al ojo" or just by looking at it) - Start with a ratio of  1cup of flower to 2 cups of water and go from there, adding more water to thin if needed.

Once you have the paper mache ready, put some of the newspaper strips on it so they get wet. Pick up one strip at a time and start placing them on top of the structure, covering the holes and shaping the pinata.You need to cover the whole structure, particularly the bottom so it is strong enough to hold on to the candy and toys, but not too hard so you can break it.  Do half of the pinata, let it dry f0r a day or so and then do the other half.

Once the papier mache is completely dry (leave 2 or 3 days after last side to be sure), you can start putting the colored crepe paper. I bought the rolls of crepe paper in Party City. They sell this massive roles of streamer crepe paper, the one that is sort of wrinkled that you can stretch with your hands.

You need to take it out of the roll, and with a pair of scissors you will cut little lines on the sides about 2/3 through - this is a very time consuming activity. I will sit and do a whole roll at a time and roll it again as it will be easier to cover the pinata if it is rolled up.

Take the paper and with white glue, start sticking the rolls gluing only the top of the strip of paper that does not have the cuttings. Start at the bottom of where a color is supposed to end and work upwards. You will need to glue the next layer of paper slightly on top of the one before so it looks nice. See below:

Once you are done, add details like nose and eyes with colored paper and you will be done! for the eyes and nose, you can use colored paper or you can paint them on. I like to use paper and cut the shapes and then glue then on the pinata.

I cut a heart shape nose foe this one as it is meant to be a girl. You can use your imagination and put as many details as you would like.

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