Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beef Empanada




Today I conducted a cooking class at home and our main menu was the Beef Empanada. The above photos were made by the students themselves. Our lessons were 1) How to Make Empanada Dough, 2) How to Make Beef Empanada Filling, and 3) How to cook Empanadas.

Chicken Barbecue

It's that that time of the year again, when we stay longer in our backyard enjoying the colorful flowers that are in bloom, the grass that are greener, and the herb garden that's producing more branches and leaves faster than we could consume them. It's summertime. It's my favorite time of the year, aside from the Christmas holidays.

There's no other way of enjoying your backyard than setting up the barbecue pit and start lighting the fire making those coals burn until they have calmed down. That's when I put my meat, either chicken, beef, seafood, or vegetables. This time I am barbecuing chicken marinated in vinegar, pounded garlic, and salt & pepper. When they are almost cooked, I brush them with barbecue sauce and turn the pieces to coat the other side. I do this twice and I cook them for about 3 more minutes. I let them rest for a while before serving.

Aside from the barbecue, I prepared salad made from iceberg lettuce (big chunks) and I quartered tomatoes which were still connected to the vine when I bought them at the store. I threw in slices of English cucumber, sprigs of cilantro, and made a dressing (chilled) out of Mirin sauce with almond oil, sugar, salt, and pepper. We also had corn in a cob, and grilled asparagus.

When I barbecue, I make sure I never leave the pit. I stand right beside it, turning each piece as often as necessary so as not to burn them. I don't like eating burned food. That's very unhealthy. My pit is a simple Weber grill without a thermometer. So, I just adjust the heat manually, adding or removing coals as needed.

My children set the table in the patio, where the old deck used to be. There's never a better time to enjoy your backyard with your family, good food, and good ambience.

Polenta with Stewed Chicken and Green Peas

Polenta is ground cornmeal which is boiled in water for a long time while stirring frequently to avoid clumps. Nowadays, quick-cooked Polenta is so popular and can be prepared for a few minutes in a microwave. Purists may claim that the slow-cooked Polenta is far superior in taste than the quick-cooked one. I am not a purist but I like to prepare my food without compromising the taste. Here's my recipe:

Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken legs, thighs, or breast (cut into bite-sized pieces) - sprinkle with salt and pepper
1 can marinara sauce
1 can sweet peas
1 big onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Polenta
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, for Polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano

Procedure:

Heat the olive oil in your saute pan on high and add the chicken. Braise until golden brown (about 10 to 15 minutes). Set aside. Brown garlic in pan on medium-high heat until just a little golden brown and add the onions. Cook until transparent. Add back the chicken, and marinara sauce. Mix well and cook for a few minutes. Add green peas, bay leaf, and sugar. Mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes on medium heat. Adjust the seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer on low for a few minutes. Set aside Meanwhile, boil 4 cups of water in a sauce pan. Add 1 teaspoon salt. When it boils, drop Polenta slowly and a little at a time while stirring continuously until all 1 cup is in the boiling water. Lower heat to simmer and stir for about 25 minutes or more until Polenta is cooked. Add butter and Parmegiano Reggiano and keep on stirring until cheese is melted and Polenta becomes thick like porridge. Scoop porridge on a plate and top with the chicken stew.  Garnish with the top of flat-leaf parsley.

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