Hiatus

Hi readers. You’ve probably noticed a bit of a lag in postings. I’m not even sure how to explain what’s going on, and I’m not sure this is the right forum anyway. I will need to take a bit of a break, at least through the end of the month of October, to deal with the loss of a person close to me. I feel strongly that I need to be available to focus on non-blog related things right now. I don’t want to be gone for too long, partially because I also feel that blogging here, and cooking in general, is going to play a major role in my own healing process.

Thank you, as always, for your support. I hope you’ll stick with me. I’ll be back on track as soon as it’s appropriate.

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Arroz by any other name…

Ever come across one of those recipes that, by name alone, sound pretty uninteresting, but then you make it and are kinda blown away?  For me, it’s Arroz con Pollo. I mean, let’s break that down– it’s chicken and rice, right? How much fun can that be?

Turns out, a lot of fun, and a ton of flavor. Someone should really come up with a better name for it, because while it might be a staple for lots of Latin American households, I doubt I ever would have made it if I hadn’t been assigned to do it in class. Now that I know, though, you can be sure it’ll be something I make pretty regularly.

Every Latin American country has a version of this. The one we made (at least according to the book) is a Puerto Rican variation, and it’s kind of similar to a paella. Don’t be scared away by the number of ingredients! I don’t think any of them should be very hard to find, and can pretty easily be substituted with whatever similar ingredient you can find.

The original recipe calls for one whole 2 1/2 to 3 lb chicken cut up, but you could lower the total cost of the dish by just using chicken thighs and/or legs. I’m a fan of dark meat for dishes like this anyway, so when I make it again, that’s probably what I’ll do. You could also substitute with a chicken sausage, if you wanted to go that route. The steps would be the same, regardless, so don’t be afraid to apply a little imagination to this recipe.

This recipe serves 4 generously.

Equipment:
Large skillet
Knife & cutting board
Measuring cups & spoons
1 gallon sized freezer bag
Tongs
Mise en place containers
Pot for making the annatto oil (If you choose to make it. I’ll list that recipe separately.)
Container or large plate for holding the chicken
Blender or food processor to make the sofrito (I’ll list that recipe separately, too.)

Ingredients:
8 pieces of chicken
1/2 C longaniza or linguiza or just plain old ham, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 C bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 1/2 C chicken stock
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 T Red wine vinegar
2 T Annatto Oil*
1 C white onion, 3/4 inch dice
1 C red bell pepper, 3/4 inch dice
2 T green sofrito**
1/2 C tomato sauce
1 C banana peppers, 3/4 inch dice
2 C long grain rice
2 T capers, rinsed

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Directions:
Wash the chicken and pat it dry. Mix together the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and vinegar in the freezer bag. Place the chicken pieces in the bag and zip it closed, then toss the chicken around in the bag to thoroughly coat it with the marinade. Let it stand for 30-45 minutes.

While you’re waiting, if all the rest of your prep is done, feel free to watch that episode of Scandal that’s been sitting in your Hulu queue since last week, or ponder the meaning of life, or research how to cut your own bangs. Maybe lock yourself in the bathroom with the new Ikea catalog. Or just sit there and stare into space. This is your time.

After the chicken soaks in its little flavor spa for awhile, brown it in the annatto oil, then set it aside.

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In the same skillet, brown the ham/longaniza and bacon. Drain off all but about 3 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper, sofrito, tomato sauce, and banana peppers. Stir it all to combine and let it cook for about 2-3 more minutes.

Add the capers as well as the rice and stir it to get all the grains coated really well in the sauce, cooking for about 2 minutes.

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Add the chicken pieces back to the skillet, along with the chicken stock, and salt to taste. Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook it for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the chicken is tender.

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For those of you who are more intimately familiar with a Crock Pot, I’m sure this recipe could be adapted for slower cooking. If you are one of those people, and you figure it out, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to update this recipe with your slow cooker directions.

Imagine tucking into a plate of this deliciousness on a cold day.  Aside from some pretty basic chopping and dicing, this recipe comes together without a lot of fuss. There’s so much more to it than the name implies, and the results are so full of flavor and color!

*Annatto Oil:

NOTE: If you can’t find/don’t feel like hunting down Achiote seeds, feel free to just use regular vegetable oil, or another flavored oil that would fit the flavor profile of the dish. The seeds give the oil a bright red color, which then colors the chicken as its cooked, but it’s by no means absolutely critical to the overall flavor of the dish, in my opinion.

Ingredients:
1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C Achiote seeds

Heat the oil over a low heat, add the seeds. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the oil is brightly colored. Cool the oil, then strain out the seeds. The unused portion can be stored in the fridge.

**Green Sofrito:
This is a super easy puree made of aromatics that can be used to flavor just about any vegetable based sauce or soup. You’ll make more than you need, but freeze the rest in ice cube trays, transfer the sofrito cubes to a freezer bag, and throw one or two into all those yummy stews and soups you’ll be making this winter.

Ingredients:
2 medium green bell peppers or cubanelle peppers, seeded
2 medium onions, peeled and rough chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of cilantro leaves
Water, as needed

Throw everything into a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a paste. You can add some water a little at a time if the mixture needs to be loosened up a bit to combine, but remember, you’re not making soup! It should be a loose paste.

And the winner of the SWAG Giveaway is…

Christopher Sorrel!

The Winner was chosen at random using this free online tool.

Congratulations! And thank you so much to everyone who entered. If you’ve looked through my older blog posts at all, you can probably tell I LOVE doing giveaways, so please sign up for notifications so you don’t miss the next one, ok? OK!

Christopher, please email your mailing address to gonnacookthat@gmail.com and I’ll get your prize in the mail ASAP.

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I Get SWAG, You Get SWAG!

Happy Monday Morning, Ya’ll! Normally, my brain doesn’t really function this early, but I was so excited to do this post I just couldn’t wait anymore.

A group of food bloggers (10 of us) who all went to IFBC cooked up a little Multi-Blog SWAG giveaway for our readers. Every single one of us is sharing one or more of the SWAG items we were given by vendors at the International Food Bloggers Conference. Cool, yes?

I just recently learned that SWAG stands for Stuff We All Get, and in this case, that’s really true!

I’m giving away this cool 4-in-1 citrus tool from Crisp, a company that makes kitchen tools specifically for fruit and vegetable prep.

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They also gave me one of their paring knives, which has a sharpener built right into the cover. I used it in class last Monday night, and I was really impressed. It cut through every veggie like butter. Very cool!

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. For an extra entry, just Tweet about the giveaway, like this:

I just entered the @CrispCooking 4-in-1 Citrus tool #giveaway on @GonnaCookThat! http://wp.me/p4kgZ8-eo 

After you’ve entered here, head over to A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen blog to enter her giveaway (it’s a good one!) and find out where to go next.

Good Luck!

This giveaway is sponsored by I’m Gonna Cook That! and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Twitter. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 at 12:00am MST. One winner will be selected at random and will be announced in another post. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification of win or a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be sent via US Postal Service so you’ll need to provide your mailing address if you win. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Open to US residents only including APO & FPO addresses, must be 18 years or older to enter.

I Surrender! Let’s Pumpkin Spice ALLLL the Things!

Not really. Not all of them. For instance, while I was in Seattle, I saw this:

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The gentleman behind the counter assured me it’s delicious, but I just can’t get on board. Sorry.

However, there is a time and place for pumpkin spice things, and in my humble opinion, breakfast is one of them. A pumpkin-y breakfast is a great way to start your day!

Did you know that 1 cup of mashed pumpkin contains 200% of your recommended daily Vitamin A? PLUS, it has beta-carotene, the stuff that makes it orange, which your magnificent body changes into even more Vitamin A. Know what Vitamin A is good for? Your eyeballs. Especially when they need to see in low light, say, when you’re waking up at 6am in the winter.

If you’re one of those people I don’t understand at all who gets right out of bed and goes to the gym, having some pumpkin in your post-work out breakfast can help replace some of the potassium you lost–even better than a banana!*

Anyhoots, what I’m saying is, eat some pumpkin in the morning. Do yourself a favor.

Maybe you could try these pumpkin polenta bars? They’re pretty easy to put together the night before, and one batch should last you at least a couple of days, and maybe all week, depending on how many people are eating breakfast at your place.

Equipment:
1 medium sized pot
1 saute pan
1 wooden spoon, for stirring
can opener
9×9 baking pan (you might call it a brownie pan)

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups water
1 cup polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar + 1 T for the topping
3/4 cup panko (I used honey panko, but regular is fine)
1/3 cup rough chopped walnuts or pecans
1 T butter + some to butter the pan

Preheat your oven to 350°. Butter the pan lightly all over the bottom and at least halfway up the sides. Set aside.

In your pot, combine the water and maple syrup and bring it to a boil. Add the polenta, sprinkling it in a bit at a time as you stir to avoid lumps.

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When all the polenta has been incorporated, lower the heat to a simmer and stir for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon and sugar, and stir it all in well.

NOTES: 1) Polenta gets hot… like molten lava hot, so keep your heat low and don’t stand right in front of the pot or you’ll get splattered and that’s not fun. 2) Make sure you are stirring pretty constantly to avoid scorching. If you need to walk away from the pot for any length of time, go ahead and remove it from the heat until you can get back to it. The polenta will keep thickening without the heat. If you come back and it’s a little too thick, just add a little water back in to loosen it up and keep stirring until it’s cooked.

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This isn’t an overly sweet breakfast bar, but at this point you can taste the polenta and adjust the sugar and cinnamon as you see fit. Continue stirring until the polenta is thick, but not stiff. It should still be loose enough to spread into your pan.

Pour the polenta into your buttered pan and spread it around to even out the thickness. Set aside.

In your saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat until the bubbles have subsided and it just starts to brown. Add the panko, the nuts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and stir to combine with the butter. You’re basically just trying to toast the panko and the nuts slightly.

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Top the polenta with the panko mixture, and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.

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The polenta won’t brown. You’re basically baking it to set it up so it can be cut into bars.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool, cut it into squares, and viola! Portable Pumpkin Polenta!

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*Source: Huffington Post