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picadillo y frijoles negros

picadillo y frijoles negros

After a month of travel, illness, and finally the marathon; I have time to blog/cook again. My first weekend since I got back and it is a miserable rainy Saturday. I slept in, did some laundry and then craved some comfort food. Since my pops is all the way back in Philly, I had to make his picadillo and black beans recipe for myself.

Picadillo and black beans are both made with sofrito as a starting point. Sofrito is diced onion, peppers and garlic sauteed for a long time until soft. It is a bit different than French cuisine, which starts with mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery). Either way, I still get to practice my knife skillz.

We were raised on food like this, but I have never had anything like picadillo in any restaurants or anywhere else. Here’s the recipe according to my pops:

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. oil.
When fragrant add,
1 cup finely chopped onion,
1 small to medium green pepper minced (same size as onion),
2 tbsp. minced garlic,
1 tsp. cumin,
1 tsp. oregano,
1/2 tsp. cinnamon,
cook low heat till onion is translucent.
Add 1 lb. ground beef (chuck 20% fat).
Raise to high heat. Keep breaking up lumps, chopping it and turning it until it is finely chopped
Cook thoroughly and drain off the fat.
Add 1/3 can tomato paste,
1 28 oz can plum tomato with juice,
½ cup seedless raisins,
½ cup Manzanilla olives roughly chopped,
salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer 20 minutes or until thickened.

Serve over white rice.

It has been a long week and a half since I got back from Cannes. I haven’t had the energy to take a single picture. Last Friday, I started working as a sous chef for the culinary classes at Sur La Table taught by Chef Martin Gilligan. I have to pause here and say that none of the views expressed by me or on this blog represent the views of Sur La Table. So, with that out of the way, man being a sous chef is hard. The first class I worked on was Recipe’s from LA’s Top Chefs. I was in charge of Govind Armstrong’s Truffled Gruyere Fondue. Fondue was definitely an easy start for me. The class was still hard work. It was a whirlwind of running around and doing dishes. When we paused to taste the dishes, the food was amazing. I can’t wait to try to makeBen Ford’s Crispy Flattened Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Corn and Black-Eyed Peas Succotash. I am not sure if I will make it, but Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino with Caramel Sauce and Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies is pretty darn delicious.

The next class I covered was a knife skills course. Knife skills? No problem, I got skillz. The thing with the class is that the chef teaches everyone knife skills while the sous chefs whip up dinner for all the students with the veggies that they have been cutting. I really enjoyed the pace of this class. We improvised and made a butternut squash soup, glazed carrots, potato gratin, penne with tomato relish and french fries with truffle oil. Everything turned out really well and I got to say to someone, “oh you want me to chiffonade that?”

It is funny the types of things that irritate you about someone after living with them for years. It is like the more you love them, the more irritating they become. No, I am not about to badmouth my ex. Actually, I was talking about myself. I think the two things that drove James nuts the most were 1) I love using as many bowls as possible when cooking and 2) I always forget to salt food. Now I know these are both pretty unforgivable things. I think that growing up watching cooking shows with my dad, I loved all the tiny bowls filled with perfectly chopped veggies. I just never really thought about who has to wash all those bowls. And salt, well sorry mom, but you weren’t the best at salting food yourself.

For those reasons, Egg 63 with Ratatouille and Salt Glazed Potatoes is the best recipe for me to make. I “learned” this recipe when I took a cooking class a few weeks ago with Marcel Vigneron at Sur La Table. The reasons are that first of all, all of the vegetables in the ratatouille are diced (knife skillz, ding) and then cooked individually before cooking them all together for an hour. That means they have to wait in individual bowls for their turn in the pan. And the potatoes are cooked using a method (I forget the name) where you boil them in very salty water (like sea water) until all of the water is boiled away, leaving you with delicious salt-glazed potatoes. I can’t forget the salt in that recipe because it is a main ingredient. Egg 63 is a soft boiled egg cooked at 63 degrees celsius, which is supposed to be the best temperature to cook all the different bits in the egg. Without an immersion circulator, I had to rely on the old fashioned method of a thermometer, a stove, and cold water to regulate the temperature.

ratatouilleThree grueling hours later I had really delicious ratatouille, eggs with overcooked yolks and really really salty potatoes (some salt water ratio was way off).

Here is the finished product. I “plated” with the egg, but then took it off because it was terrible. The saltiness of the potatoes was really nice in the ratatouille, but I definitely have to fix the salt to water ratio next time.

cooking eggsFor egg 63, I would need an immersion circulator or a sous vide machine to even bother trying again. Granted, this candy thermometer technique was a pretty half-assed attempt to begin with. On the plus side, cooking sous vide requires a vacuum-sealing system, which appeals to my faux obsessive compulsive tendencies and love of gadgets. I can’t wait to vacuum seal everything.

Regarding my inability to remember salt, I bought the teeniest Le Creuset pot that they make and filled it with kosher salt. I keep it next to the stove. I like that it makes me feel like a real chef to grab a pinch of salt and throw it in the pan. Plus it is so cute, how could I ever forget salt again?


i am supreme!

The most useful cooking class I have taken so far was the knife skills class I took at Brooklyn Kitchen back in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. I learned the proper way to hold a knife and how to cut vegetables like onions, tomatoes and peppers.  At the end of class, the teacher quickly showed us how to supreme a grapefruit. On Top Chef they always mention supremes, but I never had any idea what it meant. Chef Brendan McDermott said, once you eat grapefruit this way, you will never go back.

I was interested, but I haven’t eaten grapefruit since Friday night dinners at my Bobe’s house. At the beginning of every single shabbat meal, she served half a grapefruit with canned fruit salad in the center. (I am not sure I didn’t just make up that canned fruit salad bit, but the grapefruit part is true.) I guess she learned to love grapefruit from her 20-some years living in Cuba, but her Philadelphia grapefruit never really won me over. Now that I am in LA, I have started to pick up a grapefruit from the store about once a week, supreme it and eat it for a quick and delicious dessert. Chef Brendan was right!

You can learn how to supreme fruit lots of places on the interwebs. Like…

Once you master supremes, you can make a citrus salad with different grapefruit, oranges, and avocados over boston lettuce with a dressing made from shallots, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Thanks to my sister for the citrus salad idea. She is pretty much the source for all my recipes.