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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Shrimp and Chicken Jambalaya

Everyone has their signature recipe, right? Your go-to in case of guests or a potluck. The one that makes really good leftovers and takes a little while to prepare but comes out great every time. That’s this recipe for me.

Jambalaya is best with really good andouille sausage. I can find only OK andouille here in DC, but in Austin it was everywhere. If you can’t find andouille, I’ve used kielbasa with good results, but make sure it’s a smoked sausage, preferably with pork. I like to start mine on the stovetop and finish it in the oven as I find that the rice turns out perfectly every time that way.

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Arugula Salad with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Lemon Parmesan Dressing

Arugula Salad with Poached Egg, Smoked Salmon and Lemon Parmeson Dressing

We always have arugula in our refrigerator because, as my husband will happily do with spinach, I have begun to eat it by the handful right out of the bag. I don’t think I can ever get to the point where I eat spinach like potato chips (and good on you if you love it that much) but I feel pretty good about my sincere love for something green, whether plain or dressed.

Another reason I always buy a big box of arugula is so that I can make this salad, which I eat for lunch at least once a week. It is easy to prepare so I don’t have to feel bad for taking a long lunch (an easy thing to do when you work from home!) and the dressing keeps in the fridge for a few days if you want a redux.

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Slow Cooker Indian Spiced Butternut Squash

Here I am with my 307th post (or so it feels) featuring butternut squash. This is adapted from one of my favorite new cookbooks, Anupy Singla’s The Indian Slow Cooker. The flavors are so authentic, it’s deceptively easy and keeps well, too. It only takes about four hours in the slow cooker and honestly the worst part about this is chopping up the squash, a task which once sent me to the emergency room for stitches!

Despite their ease and convenience, slow cooker meals aren’t always the tastiest. (Surprise! You can’t just dump a bunch of stuff into a pot, turn it on and expect greatness.) This recipe is an absolute exception: It’s restaurant-quality delicious, like everything else I’ve made from this book thus far.

I had a hard time finding the methi (fenugreek seeds) and after ordering an absurd amount from Amazon.com I found it at my local organic market. (In case you were feeling duped by this ingredient, check there or just omit it altogether.)

Enjoy the aromas as this cooks and get ready for some serious cold-weather comfort food!

P.S. Is it spring yet? Yeesh!

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Salmon over Walnut Lentil Salad with Tarragon

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Wow! It’s been a month since I last posted. I had a lot of life happen in rapid succession — my new FODMAP diet, another momentarily-worrisome-but-probably-nothing health scare (phew!) and really digging in to my dissertation. (That is, after all, half of this blog’s title.)

No matter. I am back with one of my all-time favorite recipes to share. Not only is it bomb dot com delicious, but it’s also a real crowd pleaser. The lentil salad makes a fantastic potluck dish that is sure to delight vegetarians/vegans and carnivores alike. And this is one of my favorite ways to cook salmon. I did a little combination of two trustworthy chef’s recipes, Carla Hall of Top Chef fame and Mark Bittman, to create something that doesn’t take a ton of time but tastes like it does.

Tarragon gets top billing in these recipes, making them perfect to serve side-by-side. Not to mention the nuttiness of the lentils compliment salmon perfectly. I suggest downing the lentils with the salmon all in one bite!

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Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Roast

This is the simplest, best way to cook pork. Those in the Caribbean have got cooking pig down to an art, whether it’s lechón (a whole pig roasted on a spit) or a pernil, a cheap cut of meat that’s often enjoyed around the holidays and easily found here in the States. If you like savory, tender, one-pot dishes and want something to impress your guests, this is it.

My mom is Puerto Rican, so we grew up looking forward to a pernil around Christmas or New Years. I’ve only just started making them myself and they are my husband’s new favorite food. (This, and cheesecake.) It’s garlicky, salty, crunchy on the outside and fall-off-the-bone tender on the inside. Some recipes call for brining it (like this one) which, knowing the benefits of brining having just also made a turkey, sounds like an excellent idea if you have the foresight. I’m going to stick with the original recipe from the stalwart known as Cocina Criolla, the definitive cookbook for Puerto Rican food, available in both English and Spanish.

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