Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo

This is my comfort food. When ever we had a special occasion, my mother would make this recipe. My sister and I are home to visit? Arroz con pollo. The day after Christmas? Arroz con pollo. This, like my pernil recipe, comes from Carmen Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla (here in English). I recently made it for one of our friend-family dinners, and it was a hit even for the pickiest eater in the group. In this version I’ve kicked up the spices to make it extra savory.

The recipe in its original form calls for ajíes dulces and culantro. These are not readily available ingredients in most markets.  I found the ajíes (a small, savory and slightly sweet green pepper, about the size of a super large hatch pepper but without any of the spice) in the local Hispanic market in Mt. Pleasant here in DC. If you’re unable to come upon any ajíes, I’d simply double the green pepper quotient. And be careful which you buy, the Peruvian ajíes are super spicy! Puerto Rican food is pretty much never spicy, so unless you want this dish to be that way, be mindful of which you come across.

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Lemon Bars

Me and all the moms in Minnesota love to make lemon bars. I don’t know what it is that draws me to this dessert. I certainly have my affinity for all things chocolate, but the tart lemon custard and shortbread crust is irresistible. I traveled to Italy about five years ago and spent considerable time on the Amalfi Coast, known for its steep, terraced lemon groves. They had lemons the size of grapefruits! Not to mention the limoncello… and the lemon gelato… it haunts my dreams.

So, to mix it up from creamy and chocalatey, lemon bars are one of my favorites, especially for large crowds. This recipe yields an entire pan full, and they are quite tart so best in small doses. You’ll be slicing away at these for days! Trader Joe’s almost always has Meyer Lemons, which are my favorite to use. But beware – the skin is usually quite thin so they don’t yield much zest at all, a key ingredient in this recipe. Instead, either buy lots of extras or go half-half on Meyer lemons and commercial ones.

This recipe is an amalgam of Mark Bittman’s, Smitten Kitchen’s (too much flour!), Ina Garten’s, and from a lady named Lee Bailey. Yeah, I like lemon bars.

I recently perfected my lemon/lime bar recipe, so this is the same as the key lime bars with the addition and exemption of a few key ingredients in the curd portion. Enjoy!

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