Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Empanadas de Platano (Plantain Empanadas)

These are delicious it's mashed sweet plantain, stuffed with a milk custard, and deep-fried then rolled in sugar. These treats are popular in Salvadorian Cuisine, another variation is a version of it stuffed with a thick savory paste of re-fried black beans (which I've only had once)

Anyways so today my mom's friend "Gomez" (did I mention I love her well I said it now :) who is from El Salvador came over and taught us how to make these delicious treats. She told me that she likes her's best because she uses rice flour to make the custard as opposed to corn starch which is what many places that sell them too use because it's cheaper though I don't frown on it at all it's just a different style, she say's it makes it denser, and taste like a delicious rice pudding. Truth be told it does, the rice flour makes it rich, and it tastes like a creamy, thick, rich smooth rice pudding :)

By the way if your Cuban and haven't tried this you gotta try it, it has elements of SOME of the main stuff we love lol. fried sweet plantains, rolled in sugar, stuffed with a creamy custard that reminds us of a cross between arroz con leche (rice pudding) and "natilla" (spanish vanilla cinnamon pudding) and heck it's deep-fried what's better than that ay!

Ingredients for dough:
-3 lbs. ripe yellow plantain with black blotches
Ingredients for filling (this is called "Manjar" pronounced man-haar in Spanish)
-8 cups milk
-3 sticks of cinnamon
-1 fat pinch salt (optional)
-2 cups rice flour
-2 cups white sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Additional Ingredients:
-oil to deep-fry (I personally use canola oil to deep-fry it has a clean taste, high smoking point, and things don't seem to absorb it, however in Latin cooking like Mexico and Central America corn oil is very popular but I do not like it because it has a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, and leaves a heavy taste, oxidizes quicker too.)

Directions for dough:

(1) Wash plantains real well, remove ends and cut them into 3 sections. Place in a pot with enough water to barely cover and bring to a boil on high heat, then leave in medium heat until tender, they will be tender when they swell, and the peels crack open. Atleast 30 minutes you want them tender.
(2) Drain them well while hot, carefully remove the peels, while still hot mash to a paste with a potato masher like real well until you obtain a dough, it doesn't have to be a super smooth paste, just get rid of most lumps and mash well. You have to do it while hot to really make it mash up.
(3) Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
Directions for filling:
(1) Heat a large pot with milk, sugar and cinnamon stick. Allow to come to a bubble, then reduce heat to super low simmer 5-10 minutes to infuse with cinnamon. Do this uncovered.
(2) Put the rice flour in a large bowl and dilute/ whisk it with milk, to form a smooth loose paste with no lumps.
(3) Add the rice flour mixture pouring in a stream to the pot of milk, sugar, and cinnamon, and whisk it while you pour it in so it doesn't lump. Raise heat to medium high heat, whisk continuosly 5- 10 minutes until it thickens. Taste it and add more sugar if you would like to, and stir in vanilla.
(4) Turn off heat, and allow it to cool and come to room temperature, or cool in fridge.

Directions to make Empanadas:
(1) Have a large pan or several plates, ready and the surface rubbed with oil (because you will place the empanadas you make on these and don't want them to stick)

(2) Have another tiny bowl or whatever with oil to grease your hands so dough doesn't stick.

(3) Grab a ball of cooled plantain dough, flatten into a round flat not to thin disk,
spoon a tablespoon or teaspoonful of the filling (Manjar).
Close it my making all the ends meat,
like close it try to seal it,
if u don't have enough dough to close add a little patch to close it up. Roll gently into a round oval shape.
Place them on the oiled pans or plates.
Directions to finish off the dish:
(1) Heat a frying pan in my case i use a wok with generous amounts of oil (I'd say about 2 cups atleast) over medium high heat, when oil is hot slide the empanadas into the hot oil
and fry about 5-7 minutes on one side, and carefully flip them over (I use a spoon and fork you can use a ladel whatever, just be careful not to break them they are sensetive when hot) once you flip it fry another 5-7 minutes until browned.
(2) Drain on paper towels,
and while warm roll them in sugar.
(3) Allow to cool a bit and enjoy, you can eat them as snack, breakfast, dessert whatever you'd like :) If you have leftovers simply re-heat them.

This is the inside of it :)
(1) The filling called "Manjar" for these empanadas is actually a dessert on it's own, it's a type of milk custard, you can actually eat this on it's own in bowls dusted with cinnamon powder. They can also be cooled in individual serving paper cups dusted with cinnamon and enjoyed cold :)

(2) The portions can be adjusted, you want less dough use less plantains, you want more use more plantains, etc.

(3) It does take some skill to work with the dough of mashed plantains and everything but hopefully these pictures will be helpful and you can always see videos on youtube on how other people work the dough or techniques they may use. This is how I learned to make them :)

(4) Yeah I haven't bought a new camera so bare with me and if you don't want to then oh wellz toodles :-P ha ha <3 ya

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

I've been craving Vietnamese Curry since I haven't had it in several months maybe even a year I've lost track of time. However it is one of my favorite dishes in Vietnamese cuisine.

So what makes Vietnamese curry "Vietnamese" and different from other cultures curries? In my opinion and from observing several cooks Vietnamese curries it's that they use a type of curry powder known as "Madras Curry Powder" they use a good quality fish sauce in their curries, as well as lemongrass in combination with onion, garlic, and ginger. And bring it all together with a touch of either half and half cream or coconut milk or whole milk. (I'm assuming using half and half cream or whole milk as an alternative to coconut milk sometimes is a french influence)

I am not an expert in Vietnamese cooking or anything, but have been exposed to a lot of it. The recipe I present today is a combination of Travis's aunts recipe (whom is Vietnamese) she made one of the best curries I had ever tasted using bone-in turkey meat I asked her for the recipe and she would grind all the aromatics (garlic, ginger, onion) and combine it with other stuff and use that paste to marinade meat, etc. and would use milk instead of coconut milk. The other influence in this recipe is his grandfather a wonderful humble cook, although he never shared his recipe when I would eat his curry I noticed a sweeter note in his (thus I added more sugar because I liked the sweeter note in his) and also added turmeric powder (because I noticed his curry had a stronger yellow tinge than other's and would even leave a yellow golden tinge on the serving bowl which I assume is the addition of turmeric) and the other influence was my taste, I love the fragrance of coconut milk so I used that, and although Travis's aunt uses sweet potato, and his grandpa uses a large taro I used potato and carrot in my curry because it's what I had and I assume it's not sacrilegious because I've seen it in some restaurants and in his mother's curry (I think)

So here's my recipe for it, give it a try, it turned out delicious, and as good as my fond memories of those awesome curries :D


-3- 4 lbs. whole chicken
-2- 4 tablespoons fish sauce (see note at end of recipe for this)
-salt to taste
-2 tablespoons sugar
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-3 tablespoons Madras Curry Powder
-2 teaspoons turmeric powder (gives nice color and touch in my opinion)
-1 whole onion chopped
-2 inches, peeled finely chopped fresh ginger root
-1/2 head garlic, peeled and chopped
-2 stalks lemongrass (you have two options you can either tie them or cut them in 3 large sections and add em to the stew I chose to finely mince the lower stalks, peeled first layer and finely chopped)
-1-4 thai chilies or other smaller spicy pepper minced (optional only if you like heat)
-4 regular potatoes (peeled cut into chunks)
-4 medium carrots (peeled cut into chunks)
-1 can good quality coconut milk or coconut cream (such as Chao Kho, or Mae Ploy or the first press of coconut milk that you make yourself at home about 2-3 cups) OR 2-3 cups half and half or whole milk

Garnish: -You may garnish with fresh cilantro or scallions


(1) Clean chicken well, rinse well, several times, and then submerge in water with salt and vinegar or lime and rub well then rinse off twice (this is just how we clean it at home you don't have to but I recommend it) take to chopping board and cut into 2 inch pieces (yeah cut through bone too)
(2) Mix chicken well with fish sauce to taste, salt to taste (if needed), sugar, curry powder, and turmeric. Set aside wash hands.
(3) In food processor add chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and very very very finely minced lemon grass and process to a paste. Mix seasoned chicken with this paste, cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinade in refrigerator at least 2 hours (preferably over night)
(4) When ready to cook, heat a large pot over high heat, add oil, and quickly sear chicken all over (making sure to remove any excess marinade/ paste before throwing in hot oil) in batches if necessary when meat is browned all over remove and quickly add other batch of meat to brown (if you werent able to brown it all in one batch)

(5) Add more oil to pot and add the marinade paste leftover and cook scraping any brown bits (those lend flavor) until raw smell is gone/ fragrant. Toss chicken pack in,
add enough water to cover meat barely, bring to a boil, taste if it needs more salt, add salt to taste, remove any foam, and cover to simmer 25 minutes.

Taste again and add more sugar or curry powder to taste (I added 1 more tablespoon in addition to the three I used to marinade chicken) and 1 extra tablespoon of sugar.

(6) After 25 minutes add carrot and potatoes
and simmer an additional 15- 20 minutes until carrot and potatoes are tender. Stir in coconut milk or whole milk or half and half cream (your choice, I like coconut milk because it's more fragrant. My ex's grandfather likes half and half cream, and one of his aunts used cow's milk so it's preference and personal taste at this point) WHen it comes back to a boil, turn off heat.

(7) Enjoy in a shallow bowl with some good french bread :)

(1) Use a good quality fish sauce, like a Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce. not a Filipino kind (which is good for Filipino food but it has a very harsh sharp taste) good brand of Thai opr Veitnamese fish sauce tend to have more complex taste, and lend a seafood taste like closer to shrimp or crab tasting, you can think of it as liquid crab, shrimp, and fish bouillon but it's tasty when used in moderation in a dish.

(2) Again if you do not want to finely chop lemongrass or buy it finely chopped, you can tie it a certain way or cut it into sections and boil it in the curry together with everything, then remov
it or leave it.

You DO NOT have to use carrot and potatoes. Travis's grandpa uses a fragrant large taro root that comes vacuum packed and slightly freckled with purple, those taro roots are very fragrant and delicious. Another alternative is using a large orange fleshed sweet potato, which you cut into large chunks and sear in oil all over (not cooking it through) and adding it to stew to finish cooking. The searing is done to prevent it from falling apart or melting into stew, even if it's slightly. My favorite is using sweet potato but I only had potatoes and carrots on hand, I've seen versions at some potlucks using a combination of cassava, potato and large carrot which was interesting :)

(4) These curry recipes work well with goat, mutton, lamb, beef, and even rabbit any gamey meat lends itself well to this dish. Just adjust cooking times accordingly.

Lastly... I apologize for the terrible pictures (heck not really it's my blog :-P) but yeah the photos are kinda funky because my camera is so broken and busted (still I haven't bought a new one) so I can't even see what I'm taking a picture of I just have to guess and hope I got a snap-shot of what I'm suppose to (since the display screen is all cracked)