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Thursday, April 24, 2014

2014 Kitchen Experiment # 4 - Arroz con Leche (Cuban-style Rice Pudding)

     Every Latin American country has its own version of rice pudding, but for me, none compare to the way my Cuban mother and all my Cuban aunts make it.The time has come for me to follow in the tradition.
     Any recipe that includes condensed milk makes me giggle with delight.The amount of sugar in the recipe was a bit scary considering the presence of the sweet milk, but remembering the bodacious flavor of my childhood, gave me the courage to make it snow heavily over the thick mix of rice and condensed, evaporated and whole milk. No regrets.
     Now for the texture. One of the features that turns me off in other versions is the consistency, the way the spoon cuts into the pudding. I simply can't get on board with runny Arroz con Leche. For me, it has to have a soft thickness, a hint denser than condensed milk itself. In my attempt to avoid undercooking it, I ended up overcooking it. The flavor was comforting and familiar, but it had the firmness of bread pudding.
     Midway through the cooking process, I gave John a flavor quality control teaspoon that seemed a little thin to me. I should have allowed for the effects of refrigeration and quit right there. Lesson learned. Nonetheless, I am satisfied to have finally taken the plunge and followed in the footsteps of the illustrious cooks in my family.

Ingredients:

2 cups arboreal rice
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp butter
3 cups of water
Pinch of salt
Ground cinnamon to taste

Preparation:

Add rice and salt to boiling water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft.

Add three milks and sugar, and simmer for 45 minutes or until mixture is creamy.

Add ground cinnamon.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pincho Factory

     I confess... I am a burger snob. Over the years, I have outgrown the fast food versions. For a while, Wendy's could satisfy the craving, but then Five Guys dethroned Wendy's. That reign lasted a very short time when Shula Burger appeared. Now, my burgers only come from Bar & Grill eateries, Fuddruckers (because they serve bison burgers), or specialty restaurants.
     A couple of weeks ago, on the Today show, I saw a cooking segment with a guest chef who dared to replace the hamburger bun with 'tostones', latin-style plaintain fritters. I was intrigued. This would be my new quest for the upcoming weekend.
     Pincho Factory is a minuscule place in a strip mall with predominantly black and white d├ęcor and a lot of traffic. Their specialty is skewers, or 'pinchos'. You can have single pinchos, you can make them into a full entree with a rice bowl, a salad bowl or swaddled in a thick pita wrap. You can make them into a vegetable dish, you can have them Buffalo-style, a la Caesar, or go Greek. They know their pinchos, no question.
     John teetered on the verge of ordering a pincho, but in the end his love of burgers won out. He ordered the classic 'Pincho Burger', served on potato bread and with all the traditional embellishments plus potato sticks (missing from John's) and their "secret pink sauce".
     I customized my 'Toston Burger' by adding bacon and switching the Jack cheese with my beloved blue cheese, which probably nullified any flavor their cilantro sauce may have offered.
     Both items were flavorful but neither was exceptional. The tostones didn't add or subtract from the total burger experience. One thing we found really disappointing was the size. They were just a smidgen bigger than a slider.
     As I often do, I've left the best for last. We shared a small but very generous order of sweet potato puffs, an ethereal delight so sublime that they melted in your mouth like cotton candy. And, in case you had any doubt that they were made in heaven, they're served with apple butter on the side for that extra burst of sweetness. It's the kind of thing that puts a smile on your face whether you like it or not.
     I don't know that I would go back for the burgers, but I'm captivated by the pincho craze so, if I'm in the area, I will investigate... and have more sweet potato puffs.

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