Category Archives: Tested Cooking Techniques

Paella Mixta~Learning to Prepare Paella

This was my first time testing out my new paella pan last summer….A fully loaded seafood paella, well somewhat, lol!….I am certainly no authority on preparing paella. But as I often say to my husband, “How will I know if I never try?”. Try to recreate my version of paella in my very own kitchen, that is. This was actually my fourth or fifth time preparing paella. The first couple of times, I used the widest and deepest pan that I had in my kitchen and cooked it on the stove top. I was very happy with the results, but my goal is to try it in a real paella pan on a wood-fired grill. I have this one friend Jose, who is from Spain, and the pictures of his paella creations are incredible. I will never reach his level of expertise, I just want to feel comfortable that I am somewhat knowledgeable about the basics of preparing a good paella recipe. 

Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella

Paella Mixta…Valencia Style

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 poblano pepper, minced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced thin
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or if possible seafood broth)
1 cup white wine (I used Pino Grigio)
2 cups Arborio rice
1 large pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8 ounces large shrimp, cleaned, tails on
6 ounces bay scallops
2 six ounce tilapia fillets, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 dozen mussels, because this was my first time using the mussels in paella, I got a little help from the store and bought frozen, already cooked.
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
6 to 8 Lemon wedges

Paella Pan
Paella Pan

 

Directions

1. Preheat 3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and serrano chile. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the poblanos, sweet peppers, and tomatoes and Spanish chorizo. Cook for another 2 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the broth, wine,saffron and paprika. Stir well to combine, taste for salt. Add in the rice and spread out evenly. Cover the pan with foil paper and cook for 14 to 16 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Layer the shrimp, scallops, and tilapia evenly over the top of rice, pushing it down slightly into the rice. Add the mussels, season lightly with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil paper again and continue cooking until shrimp turns pink and mussels open up.

3. Remove from heat and let sit for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Before serving, fluff the rice with a large fork, folding in the seafood and vegetables. Garnish with cilantro and parsley, serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Tips~ When cooking paella, it is not custom to cover it. But because I was cooking it on an electric stove top instead of on a special made paella burner or wood fired grill, the pan does not heat evenly. While it was cooking, I gently moved the rice from the outer edges towards the center of pan to make sure it was cooking all the way through. My pan burns hotter in the center, creating a crusty layer of rice. No need to panic, this is a good thing when it comes to cooking paella.

Always a good idea to prep ahead...
Always a good idea to prep ahead…
Adding great flavors with a longer saute time for paella
Adding great flavors with a longer saute time for paella
Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella
Seafood Paella

 

Fideo with Shrimp and Mussels. Here is a variation or twist on preparing paella, but using fideo or vermicella style pasta. Click onto picture for the full recipe. 

Fideo with Shrimp and Mussels
Fideo with Shrimp and Mussels

 

Chicken and Shrimp Paella. My first time preparing paella I kept it pretty simple. I used bone in chicken and jumbo shrimp, alot of peas and carrots on top, lol! But it was so tasty! Click onto picture for full recipe. 

Chicken and Shrimp Paella
Chicken and Shrimp Paella

Taco Tuesday ~ Think Outside the Tortilla Shell

Taco Tuesday? How could you designate just one day out of the week to enjoy tacos? Tacos have come a long way since my childhood days of frijoles con chorizo with homemade flour tortillas. Wait, now that I think about it, that’s still my favorite taco of all time. Nothing can compare, lol! Especially when it was prepared with lots of love in my Mama’s cocina. Right here and right now, I confess to you all that I am somewhat of a tortilla snob, ha haha! I mean , how could I not be, when I had a mom who would roll the most delicious homemade flour tortillas. Then there was my Dad, who would test out fresh masa, right out of the molino and prepare fresh corn tortillas just like that. After leaving home, I had to adapt to what was available to me. I was not happy about it, but I survived various brands of “not like mom’s” tortillas before I learned how to prepare my own. This blog post is really not about tortillas in particular, but more about how we can enjoy tacos in various forms. Whether it’s the traditional  taco, tostada, gordita, taco bowl or salad, the flavors are all there. My first recipe for this blog post is a simple and delicious recipe for skirt steak. For years I would avoid cooking any kind of steak because it always was overdone, tough and dry. Those days are long gone, thank goodness. One of the newest things I have tried and love, is reverse marinating. Instead of marinating your beef, chicken or pork for days, this is much quicker!   And leftovers?? Oh, they only get better and more flavorful the longer the cooked meat sits in the marinade. *Check out a few of my favorite recipes at the end of the post.

Reverse marinated skirt steak. You can leave tha marinade chunky or blend for a smoother finish.
Reverse marinated skirt steak. You can leave tha marinade chunky or blend for a smoother finish. The marinade pictured contained roasted red and green chiles.

 

Reverse Marinated Steak   or Boneless Chicken

1 pound skirt or flank steak (or 1 pound thin sliced boneless breast or thighs)

Salt, fresh cracked pepper and granulated garlic

 

For Marinade

Juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 serrano, jalapeño or chipotle(in adobo) pepper, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 teaspoon each of  cumin, mexican oregano, fresh cracked pepper and smoked paprika

Salt to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

Reverse Marinated Skirt Steak
Reverse Marinated Skirt Steak
Besides inside a tortilla, I love preparing crispy tostadas and simply topping with fresh lettuce and spicy salsa!
Tostadas~Besides inside a tortilla, I love preparing crispy tostadas and simply topping with fresh lettuce and spicy salsa!Take any homemade or store bought corn tortilla and brush both sides with oil. Cook at medium heat until crisp on both sides. Saves oil and calories. The recipe for the Green Chile Sauce and Homemade Corn Tortillas can be found right on the blog. Search tortillas and salsa/hot sauce under categories.
I had my first store bought crispy taco shell when I was 12 years old. It was fun while I was a kid, but for me, nothing can beat preparing them at home.
Crispy Tacos~I had my first store bought crispy taco shell when I was 12 years old. It was fun while I was a kid, but for me, nothing can beat preparing them at home. All I do is brush my corn tortillas with oil and cook them on a hot comal/griddle. When they are soft, fold over into a taco and continue cooking until crispy on both sides. Fill and enjoy!

Directions

1. Season the steak lightly with salt, pepper and granulated garlic on both sides.

2. For the marinade, you could finely chop all of the ingredients and use it that way. Or you can everything to the blender and pulse to blend until you reach the consistency that you like.

3. Grill your room temperature steak on a preheated outdoor grill or cast iron pan on high heat for 3 to5  minutes per side.  Three minutes will give you a medium/rare steak, so cook it according to tatse. As soon as the steak comes off the heat, quickly pierce with a fork in most spots. Pour marinade al over the top and cover loosely with foil paper for 5 to 6 minutes. transfer to cutting board and slice thin against the grain.

Whenever I use leftover carne asada, I like to saute onions and chile peppers at high heat and then quickly add the meat just until warm.
Whenever I use leftover carne asada, I like to saute onions and chile peppers at high heat and then quickly add the meat just until warm.
Using my leftovers of Reverse Marinated Steak, I quickly assembled these tasty tacos for brunch the next day.
Taqueria Style Tacos~ Using my leftovers of Reverse Marinated Steak, I quickly assembled these tasty tacos for brunch the next day. Serving double layered corn tortillas is typically the taqueria way of serving tacos. Very filling!

Tips~ If cooking chicken, it will only take 2 minutes per side for breast meat and 4 minutes per side  for thigh meat if sliced thin.  

 

Chifrio, A Costa Rican Taco Bowl!

Chifrijo

Mexicali Style Taco. Check out this recipe for a loaded taco on the Hispanic Kitchen. Click onto picture for full recipe.

Mexicali Style Taco

Tacos Arabes. Marinated Pork Tacos. Click onto picture for full recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen. 

Tacos Arabes

Tempura Style Fish Tacos with Spicy Pickled Radishes and Sriracha Mayonnaise. Click onto picture for full recipe @the Hispanic Kitchen

Tempura Style Fish Tacos

Spicy Dishes with Asian Flavors~ Fusion Cooking

Spicy Asian Shrimp with Black Thai Rice. The first time I tried black Thai rice was a few months back. I had heard about it on the cooking channels, then was lucky enough to find it at my friend Kim’s bulk food store. I love a good food challenge, as long it plays out in the comforts of my own kitchen, lol! The first time I cooked it, it was a marathon, or at least it seemed, of rice cooking, soaking, sauteing, until I finally was happy with the results. It cooks up alot different than regular white or even brown rice. It’s more like a wild rice, but very starchy and a little sticky. Even with all that I still enjoyed it very much and thought I would give it another go. This time I broke out my pressure cooker to do the job. It cooked the rice in half the time. The shrimp recipe was adapted from Nigella on the Cooking Channel and it sounded so delicious. These are the things that happen while walking on the treadmill, ha, ha, ha! Makes me work out even harder and help pass the time. The shrimp texture after poaching and marinating in the sauce reminded me of  a shrimp cebiche recipe I prepare. And knowing that my better half is not that crazy about cebiche, I decided to take half of the recipe and saute the shrimp after marinating for a short while. Both recipes worked as far as I am concerned and would definitely try them again.

 

Chinese Noodles with  Indian Spiced Jumbo Shrimp & Spinach ~Asian/Indian Fusion September 5, 2014. Found these great, already cooked Chinese noodles for stir fry! Love them!

Chinese Noodles with Shrimp and Spinach
Chinese Noodles with Shrimp and Spinach

8 jumbo shrimp, cleaned and peeled
*Spices 
Coriander
Cumin (I use cumin seeds and crush them in a mortar)
Turmeric
Cayenne
Garam masala
White pepper
Salt
Grapeseed oil

2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 hot peppers, your choice (I used 1 serrano and 1 cayenne), minced
2 mild peppers, your choice (I used 1 Anaheim and 1small red sweet pepper), diced
3 cups fresh baby spinach
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup water
14 ounces KA-ME brand cooked noodles for strir fry

*Cilantro and green onions for garnish

Chinese Noodles for Stir Fry
Chinese Noodles for Stir Fry
KA-ME brand Chinese Noodles for stir fry, Hokkien style
KA-ME brand Chinese Noodles for stir fry, Hokkien style
Indian Spiced Jumbo Shrimp.
Indian Spiced Jumbo Shrimp. I sometimes find it easier to cook the shrimp on these skewers.

 

Directions

1. In a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of each of the spices listed above. Stir well to combine and season the shrimp on bothe sides. Reserve any remaining spice mixture.

2. Preheat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil to medium/high heat for a few minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side or just until pink. Remove from pan onto plate and cover loosely.

3. In that same pan, add one more tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir fast so the garlic does burn. Add the fresh peppers and cook for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts down.  add a pinch of remaining spice blend. In a small bowl, combine the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, sriracha, sesame oil and water. Stir well to combine. Once spinach has wilted, add sauce from bowl, cooked noddles and shrimp. Toss until combined just until warm. Serve right away. Garnish with cilantro and green onions. Yields 2 hearty servings.

Chinese Noodles with Indian Spiced Jumbo Shrimp and Spinach
Chinese Noodles with Indian Spiced Jumbo Shrimp and Spinach

 

 

My Spin on General Tso’s Chicken August 13, 2014. I have experimented with a few recipes for General Tso’s Chicken in the past. So far this one is my favorite to date. I have been working with a few masa harina (corn flour) recipes and I decided to try using it in my coating mixture for the chicken in this recipe to see how it fried up.  I was very pleased with the results and more importantly so was my husband. This is the dish he orders ever single time we eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Yes!!  Sonia 1, Chinese restaurant 0!! Cook at home for the ones you love as much as you can. It’s magic.

My spin on General Tso's Chicken
My spin on General Tso’s Chicken
Testing out different recipes using masa harina instead of all purpose flour
Testing out different recipes using masa harina instead of all purpose flour

 

General Tso’s Chicken 


1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs and breast, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons masa harina flour
* if not using the masa harina, just bump up the cornstarch to 3 tablespoons
Oil for frying, I used canola

For Sauce
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup soy or tamari sauce
1/4 cup orange preserves
3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (I used garlic chile sauce)
*if you go with the savory/spicy chile sauce, add 1 tablespoon brown sugar to the sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

You will also need
4 cups steamed jasmine rice
4 cups steamed broccoli

 

My twist on a Spicy General Tso's Chicken
My twist on a Spicy General Tso’s Chicken

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, add the chicken and water. Use your hands to massage the water into the chicken until it it mostly absorbed. Add the spices listed and mix well. Add the cornstarch and masa harina flour and stir just until combined. Set aside.

2. For the sauce: In a bowl, whisk together the water, soy sauce, preserves, chile sauce, sugar (if using), cornstarch and vinegar. In a saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil to medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and chile flakes. Saute for a few minutes, then whisk in the sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until sauce becomes thick. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.

3. Preheat 1 cup of oil in a 10 inch skillet to medium heat for 5 minutes. Fry the chicken pieces for 4 minutes per side and drain onto a plate line with paper towels or onto a wire rack. You can keep them warm in a low temperature oven.

4. When ready to serve, warm the sauce and toss with crispy chicken pieces. Serve over your favorite rice and steamed or roasted broccoli. Yields 4 servings.

 

 

Spicy Asian Shrimp with Black Thai Rice
Spicy Asian Shrimp with Black Thai Rice

 

12 ounces jumbo shrimp, cleaned and peeled (about 20 shrimp)
*enough boiling water to cover shrimp
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Sauce 
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, minced
3 red super chiles, sliced thin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons brown sugar

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For Thai Black Rice 
1 cup black rice
4 cups chicken broth
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
*this rice was cooked in a 5 quart pressure cooker

 

Black Thai Rice cooked in the pressure cooker
Black Thai Rice cooked in the pressure cooker

 

Directions 

1. Transfer cleaned shrimp to a glass heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over shrimp. Add juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently and let sit until shrimp turn pink. Drain and rinse with cool water, set aside.

2. Combine all of the ingredients to prepare the sauce. Stir well, taste for salt and then pour over cooled shrimp. Cover and chill for an hour.

3. To a 5 quart pressure cooker, add the black rice, 4 cups of broth, lime juice, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Secure the lid and heat to high. Once safety valve locks, turn heat to low and continue cooking for 22 minutes. Carefully remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. During this time the valve will release and the rice will absorb more of the broth. Fluff rice with fork before serving and serve shrimp in sauce over rice. Yields 4 servings.

Notes~ If you are not feeling that adventurous to try cooking the rice in the pressure cooker, you can cook it on the stove top, Saute the rice in a little olive oil at medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and cook for 45 to 55 minutes, checking to make sure it does not run dry. This was my experience the first time I cooked it anyway. I tried steaming it and soaking it to remove some of the starch, but it still took that long. it will not be fluffy and separate like regular white rice. It tends to be more starchy and sticky, but still tasty.

 

Spicy Asian Shrimp with Black Thai Rice
Spicy Asian Shrimp with Black Thai Rice


 For the Sauteed Version Spicy Asian Shrimp

Spicy Asian Shrimp
Spicy Asian Shrimp

 Prepare the sauce as directed.  Add the raw shrimp and marinate for at least 1 hour. Remove shrimp from sauce/marinade and shake off excess liquid. Reserve the sauce. Preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium/high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Cook shrimp for 2 minutes per side or until it turns pink and curls slightly. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. To the hot pan add the reserved sauce and 1 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Cook for a few minutes, add shrimp back in and cook just until shrimp is warm. Pour over steamed jasmine rice and toss gently to mix.