Delicious Dominican Cuisine

A Buen Tiempo... Buen Provecho! ;)

Dominican Style Sweetened Cornmeal Cake/Arepa Dominicana (Dulce)


Arepa is a rich, comforting cornmeal cake that is sometimes made sweet so it that can be served for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert with coffee or hot chocolate.  It can also be made salty or savory to accompany heavy meals like lunch and dinner.  Making arepa can be intimidating if you’ve never tried to before, since it can be tricky balancing out the moisture level to get a soft, creamy arepa, as opposed to a hard and dry one.  If you’ve never made an arepa before, give this recipe a try, it’s very delicious and although it’s sweet, it won’t overwhelm your palate.

This recipe will make a rather large arepa, depending on how big you cut the pieces you can probably get around 12 good sized slices.  To make this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

5 Cups of Regular Milk (may use Low fat)
2 Cans (approx 12oz each) of Evaporated Milk
2 Cans (approx 15oz each) of Coconut Cream
1/2 Cup Raisins
1.5 Cups Light Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Anise Seeds
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract (White Vanilla is preferable)
3 – 4 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 tsp Salt
4 Cups of Fine Yellow Cornmeal
5 Cups of Water
4 tbsp Butter or Margarine

To begin, add the fine yellow corn meal to a large bowl,

Then add about 5 cups of water, enough to completely soak the corn meal,

Stir it with a fork to make sure all of the corn meal gets moist and there aren’t any dry clumps,

You don’t want the cornmeal to be swimming in the water, you just want it to look like a thick grainy pudding.  Set aside until we are ready to use it.

Also, Preheat the oven to 350 degrees so that it’s nice and hot when we are ready to bake the arepa.

Then take a large pot and put it on medium high heat, add the milk (I usually use 1% fat, but you may use fat free or whole if you if you prefer),

Then add the evaporated milk, remember to shake the can well before opening it,

Add the cinnamon sticks and the raisins (can always add more raisins if you prefer),

Then add the light brown sugar (I don’t recommend you substitute with Dark Brown Sugar, since it will make the arepa sweeter and darker), give it a quick stir after adding the sugar,

I usually use the Goya brand coconut cream which can be found in pretty much all of the large chain supermarkets and Spanish bodegas.  There are other brands available which you can usually find this in the international isle in the grocery stores, I don’t recommend you substitute the coconut cream with coconut milk,

Then add the coconut cream (shake the can well, when you pour it will look like a thick oil),

Then add 1 tbsp of vanilla (I recommend you use Dominican white vanilla 🙂 ),

Then add about 1/2 tsp of salt to balance out the sweetness,

Last but not least, add 1 tbsp of anise seeds,

With a whisk or a spatula, stir well to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved and all of the ingredients are well incorporated,

Let the ingredients in the pot come up to a light boil (it will probably take 10 – 15 minutes), make sure to stir every few minutes so the milk doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pot, then add the moist cornmeal,

After adding the cornmeal, stir constantly to avoid clumps,

While the cornmeal is cooking, take 2 tbsp of softened butter or margarine and grease a large baking dish (the one I’m using is 4Q capacity, 15x10x2), if you have a pastry brush use that, if not use a spoon or your hands,

Once the dish is generously greased set aside,

Remember to stir the cornmeal constantly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot,

As the cornmeal cooks and absorbs the milk, it will turn into a thick pudding like consistency,

As it gets thicker, stir more frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom,

When the pudding is thick and you dip a spoon or spatula, then you get a thick “ribbon” effect, you are ready to add it to the baking dish,

Turn the heat off and I usually like to remove the cinnamon sticks before adding the pudding to the baking dish (I don’t know about you guys, but there’s nothing worst than biting into an arepa and getting a large chunk of cinnamon stick in your mouth :(),

Pour the cornmeal pudding into the baking dish, making sure to scrape all of it from the pot (a spatula will make it easier to do this),

Then spread the cornmeal pudding evenly over the dish, do this with pressure to avoid air bubbles, you can also lightly shake and tap the baking dish to settle the cornmeal as well,

Then take the remaining 2 tbsp of butter (may substitute with margarine) and cut it into thin slices (it’s easier to this with a stick of butter), then spread over the arepa,

Adding the butter makes the arepa develop a nice golden crust on the top as it bakes,

Then transfer the arepa to the oven, make sure to put the baking rack in the middle of the oven,

Bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  You’ll know the arepa is ready when you poke the center with a thin knife and it comes out clean,

When the arepa is thoroughly baked, let it rest for atleast 1 hour before cutting it.  Don’t cut it while it’s piping hot, let it settle first.  If you cut it while it’s really hot, the pieces will fall apart.

Doesn’t that arepa look delicious? 🙂

After letting it rest for a while, cut it into whatever size pieces you prefer.  It’s very delicious served warm or at room temperature, accompanied by some delicious ginger hot chocolate yum!

A piece of arepa is a delicious and comforting Dominican treat!

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

Dominican style Roasted Turkey/Pavo Horneado Dominicano


This recipe is very special to me because it’s one of my Grandpa’s special dishes!  He would make this roasted turkey for Christmas every year when I was a little girl in Dominican Republic and it was a real treat!  He taught me how to make it and now I make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Turkey season) for my family.

This recipe is written for a large turkey and to make it you will need the following ingredients:

~15lb Whole Turkey
6 Limes
3 Cups of Bitter/Sour Orange Juice, or 4 Fresh Bitter/Sour Oranges
2 – 3 Habanero Chiles (Aji Gustoso)
1/4 Cup Spanish Olives
1/2 Cup Uncooked Serrano Ham (or Virginia Ham)
1 Smoked Pork Chop (Chuleta Ahumada)
2 Cups White Wine
4 Cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Oregano
1/2 – 1 tsp Salt
1/2 Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cumin
1 Stick of Butter
2 tbsp Tomato Paste (optional)

The turkey that I will be cooking today weighs 13lbs.  To prepare it, make sure it’s defrosted (if you buy it frozen, let it thaw out in the fridge for a couple of days), then take out the neck and the giblets from the inside,

First, I like to brine the turkey in some bitter/sour oranges (naranja agria) and limes for a few hours (preferably overnight). If you have a hard time finding fresh bitter oranges (naranja agria), look for the bottled kind in the international isle of most super markets (where goya products are easily found),

To do that, place the turkey in a large pot and pour about 3 cups of the bitter orange juice over it, I’m using the bottled kind because the stores near me didn’t have fresh ones in stock,

Then squeeze the juice of 4 limes over the turkey and add the lime halfs to the pot as well, do not discard them,

Add enough fresh water to submerge the turkey,

Then let it hang out for a few hours (atleast 3), preferably overnight,

Then drain the brine water and give the turkey one more rinse with fresh water,

Now we are ready to start seasoning the turkey.  We are going to make a stuffing for the turkey with the smoked pork chop (chuleta ahumada), serrano ham (uncooked is better), Spanish olives, habanero chiles (aji gustoso) and almonds.  

The easiest way to do this is by using a food processor if you have one, if not, you have to finely chop every item.

With a pairing knife, cut some small holes in the breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings of the turkey (avoid bony areas).

 

Then take about 1 – 2 tsp of the mixture and stuff it into each hole.

Since this turkey runs on the smaller side at 13 lbs (this recipe makes enough stuffing for a turkey up to 20 lbs), take the extra mixture and stuff it under the skin of the turkey where it is accessible.  Be careful not to rupture the skin (it happens sometimes, I did making this particular bird 🙁 ),

Make sure to put some of the mixture inside the turkey as well,

Once the turkey is stuffed, place it into a big pot to season.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp of ground oregano all over the turkey,

Then sprinkle some salt over it (about 1/2 – 1 tsp is enough),

Add some ground black pepper (about 1/2 tsp is good),

Then add the finely chopped or mashed garlic,

Finally add a little bit of cumin (this is a strong spice, 1/4 tsp is more than enough),

Now let’s get our hands dirty!  Rub the spices onto the turkey, make sure to lift it and rub it on the bottom as well.

Then take 2 cups of white wine (you can use cooking wine, but I highly recommend you use a wine you enjoy drinking, even if it’s a little sweet), then lightly pour a little wine over the top (not alot to not wash off the seasoning), then pour the rest down the side of the turkey.

With your hands, give the turkey a bath in the wine and seasoning, make sure to get some inside as well,

Then, finally squeeze the juice of 2 limes over it (discard the juiced limes 🙂 ),

Cover and let it marinate overnight for best flavor.

Now comes the fun part, cooking time!! 🙂

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees.

Put the turkey on a roasting pan that has a floating rack (for better cooking), place the giblets on the bottom under the rack and make sure to pour all of the liquid seasoning onto the turkey so that it settles on the bottom of the pan,

Take 1 red apple (I’m using McIntosh for this recipe) and peel it, add the peel to the liquid on the bottom of the roasting pan,

Remove the core from the apple,

You can grate the apple with a shredder, or if you have a food processor just add it to the food processor with the butter (1 stick) to create a compound butter with it,

This is optional, but it’s how my Grandpa taught me to make it.  Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste to the apple butter to combine.  I have made this recipe using the apple butter without the tomato paste and it comes out equally delicious.  You don’t really taste the tomato paste in the dish, this is just to give the turkey a really dark almost charred color (my Grandpa loved that!) instead of the typical golden color,

After combining the apple butter with the tomato paste, rub it all over the turkey.  If you have a spare pastry brush laying around, use that to avoid getting your hands dirty (just make sure not to use that same pastry brush on desserts in the future), 🙂

Now the turkey is ready to start roasting.  Don’t worry if the compound butter is a little chunky.  The butter was very cold when I used it, if I would’ve used room temperature butter it would’ve been smoother.

Put it in the oven and let it cook for about 30 minutes, then baste it and pour all of those delicious juices over to top, sides and inside of it.  Then place back in the oven and wait 30 minutes until basting it again.

I usually baste it 3 times (every 30 minutes for 1.5 hours),

After the third baste, cover it with aluminum foil and let it cook covered for 1.5 hours.  If your turkey is bigger than 13 lbs, look up the suggested baking time to make sure you don’t under-cook or overcook  your bird.

Another way to check if the turkey is thoroughly cooked is by sticking a meat thermometer in the thick part of the breast, the temperature should be 180 degrees or higher.   When the turkey is fully cooked, let it rest covered for about 30 minutes before carving.

This is the turkey ready to be carved.  It has that dark charred look, but it is NOT burnt (it doesn’t have a burnt taste either).

One tip when it comes to carving the turkey breast, is to cut out the entire breast area out,

Then slice the turkey breast into medium sized slices, so that each piece of the breast has some of the skin,

Now let’s make the gravy.  You can always make the gravy while the turkey is resting, to save time, just put the turkey on another platter and cover it.

To make the gravy, take the pan drippings,

Pour the drippings into a blender cup and let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes so that the grease settles on the top,

I HIGHLY recommend you scoop out the excess grease,

After removing most of the grease, turn the blender on and let the gravy blend for a couple of minutes,

Then pour the blended drippings into a saucepan or small pot and put it on high heat, let it come up to a boil,

Then take a small bowl, add about 1 – 2 tsp of corn starch,

Then add a little bit of cold water to dissolve the cornstarch with a fork,

Then add the mixture to the gravy,

Stir well and let the gravy cook for a few minutes.  If you want a thicker gravy add another tsp of dissolved cornstarch to the gravy and let it cook for a few more minutes.  I prefer a looser gravy so usually 1 – 2 tsp is enough for me, also remember that when the gravy cools it will get thicker.  It’s a very flavorful gravy, but give it a taste before serving to see if you want to add more salt and pepper.

After the gravy is ready, turn the heat off and serve it with the turkey.

I HIGHLY recommend you pour some over the turkey, it just really completes the dish!  This turkey is very flavorful, juicy and will be the star of your dinner table during the holidays or family dinner. 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantain Dumplings with Salami/Bollitos de Platanos con Salami


If you’re a lover of plantains and salami (platano con salami) like myself, then brace yourself because this dish will knock your socks off!  This recipe really brings “platanos con salami” to a whole new level of delicious!

I usually make plantain dumplings to add to Sancocho (meat stew) and I love fishing them out when it’s time to eat.  One day I though to myself, these plantain dumplings would be really tasty in an “escabeche” (it’s a sauce with peppers, onions, tomato sauce, etc.), so I decided to write up a recipe and give it a try.  When it came time to make it, I decided to think like Emeril and kick the recipe up a notch by adding Salami and it just made it even tastier!

This recipe will feed about 4 people and to make it you will need the following ingredients:

4 Plantains
1.2 – 1 lb of Salami
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Onion
2 Habanero Chiles (Aji Gustoso)
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro
4 Cloves of Garlic
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
4 Cups of Chicken Stock (may substitute with 1 chicken bouillon and 4 cups of water)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp of Salt
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp Vinegar

To begin, take the salami and cut it into bite sized pieces,

Then take a large skillet or pot and add about 1 tbsp of oil (I use olive oil but you can use vegetable oil if you prefer), put it on high heat and add the salami to saute it,

The salami will release a little bit of grease, therefore, 1 tbsp of oil should be more than enough to get them going on browning.

Then take the onion and cut it into strips (as thick or thin as you like), then add it to the skillet to the browning salami,

Then take the garlic and mash or chop it (I love to use my “pilon” to mash mine), then add it to the skillet,

Then take the habanero chiles (aji gustoso),

finely chop them then add them to the skillet and saute, (please note that if you cannot find habanero chiles (aji gustozo), you may just omit it),

Then take the red and green bell peppers, remove the seeds and finely chop them (or cut them into slices if you prefer) and add them to the skillet as well,

After adding the peppers and chile, continue to stir,

Then add the tomato paste,

Add 2 cups of the chicken stock (may use 1 chicken bouillon (sopita) and 2 cups of water instead of stock) and stir to dissolve the tomato paste, (I prefer to use natural chicken stock instead of chicken bouillon),

Add the oregano,

Then add about 1/2 tsp of salt (you can adjust the salt level to your liking and add less or more, I suggest you add 1/2 tsp and then adjust the level after the dish is fully cooked),

Then add 1 tbsp of vinegar then stir,

Add the cilantro (whole or chopped),

Stir the ingredients in the skillet, cover and lower the heat to medium.

Now, let’s make some plantain dumplings (bollitos de platano).

Peel the plantains, (if my hands look shiny it’s because I rub oil on them to avoid getting the stain from the plantains on them),

To grate them, you can use a grater or a food processor.  I prefer to use a food processor because it’s quicker… 🙂

Cut the plantains into small slices and add to the food processor and grate,

Add about 1/2 tsp salt to the shredded plantains,

Then add about 1 tbsp of olive oil,

Mix thoroughly with a spoon or your hands,

Then take about 2 tbsp of the plantains and put them in your palm and make an oval shaped dumpling (bollito), making sure to pack it well so it doesn’t fall apart,

4 Plantains usually render about 18 – 20 dumplings, depending on how big you make them,

Once all of the dumplings are made, with a large spoon, gently nest them into the sauce in the skillet,

Add 2 cups of chicken stock or 2 cups of water if you used a chicken bouillon (don’t add another bouillon), doing this will submerge the dumplings,

Gently stir the dumplings in the sauce, just shift them around so they don’t fall apart.  Then cover them and let them simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat (they should be boiling gently in the sauce),

After letting them simmer, uncover and look at how delicious this looks?

The dumplings paired with the salami smothered in the thick sauce will make for a really heart and filling meal!

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominican style Potato Salad/Ensalada de Papas Dominicana


This potato salad is also known as “ensalada Russa”, which means “Russian potato salad” in Dominican Republic.  It’s a delicious companion to any meal, especially during the holidays or parties.

Some people like to add corn to it as well, I however, prefer to omit that altogether. Also, adding the  vinaigrette that is infused with the onion gives it a delicious tangy flavor without the raw onion taste.

This salad serves about 6 people with generous portions.  To make it, you will need the following ingredients:

5 Large Potatoes
3 – 4 Carrots
4 Eggs
2 Apples
1 Cup of Peas
1 Cup of Beets (optional)
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Salt

Vinaigrette:
1 Small onion
1 Cup Vinegar
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1//4 tsp Ground Pepper

To begin, let’s make a vinaigrette to let it marinate.  You can do this ahead of time (even the night before) so that the onion releases it’s flavor into the vinegar and oil.  Adding this to the salad infuses some of the onion flavor without having to add raw onions to the salad.

First, take a small onion (can use a red or white onion) and cut into slices,

Put the onions in a bowl or small container, then add the vinegar to it.

Then pour the olive oil over the vinegar and onions,

Then add 1/2 tsp salt,

Then add about 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper to give it a little kick,

Now give it a good stir with a fork,

Cover it, and let it marinate for atleast an hour.  I usually let it hang out at room temperature, but if you don’t plan on using it for a few hours (if you are making it ahead of time) then put it in the refrigerator.  You will have some left over, it makes a delicious salad dressing. 🙂

Now let’s prepare the other vegetables for the salad.  I prefer to boil everything separate since they all cook at different time intervals, also the carrots make the water orange and somewhat bitter, that flavor is infused into the potatoes if you boil them together.

First, take 4 eggs and add them to a small pot and add cold water to them, then put them on the stove on high heat to boil them (they will boil for about 15 minutes).

While the eggs are coming to a boil, take the potatoes, peel them and then cut them into small cubes,

Make sure to cut the cubes into nice big bites so they don’t break apart later on when they are cooked,

Cutting them like this will make it much easier to work with when it comes time to assemble the salad.

When all of the potatoes are cubed, add them to a pot and cover it with water, then put them on the stove to boil on high heat, (they will boil for about 15 – 20 minutes),

While the potatoes and eggs are starting to come up to a boil, peel and cut the carrots into bite sized cubes,

3 – 4 medium to large sized carrots should be enough.  When they are peeled and cubed, add to a small pot and cover it water to put it on the stove on high heat, (they will boil about 25 – 30 minutes),

Make sure to cover the pots so that the potatoes and the carrots come up to a boil faster.

When the potatoes come up to a boil, add a generous amount of salt (about 1 tablespoon) to the water, when they are boiling let them cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until fork tender.

When the carrots come up to a boil, add some salt as well.  Let them boil for about 25 minutes until they are fork tender.

When the eggs come up to a boil, let them cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and drain the water and set them aside to let them cool,

When the potatoes and the carrots are fork tender,

Turn the heat off, drain the water and add the potatoes and carrots to a large bowl, set aside to let them cool off a bit,

When the eggs have cooled down enough to be able to handle them, peel them and then cut them into bite sized pieces and add them to the potatoes and carrots (I like to have big chunks of egg in my salad, but if you prefer to have smaller pieces just cut them smaller),

Then take the apples (make sure the apples are firm, not soft), peel them,

Remove the core and then cut them into small pieces,

Add the apples to a small separate bowl, then take the vinaigrette we made earlier, stir it well and add 2 tablespoons to the apples,

The acidity from the vinegar will prevent the apples from turning brown and give them a tangy flavor.  Mix the apples with the vinaigrette well, then add them to the bowl with the potatoes, carrots and eggs,

Then drizzle an additional 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the potatoes and carrots in the large bowl,

Add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise (may use low fat if you prefer),

Then add 1 cup of sweet peas (make sure they are drained),

Add about 1/2 tsp of salt (you can adjust the salt level later if you want to add more),

At this point, if you want to add the beets to get a pink salad, you can add them.  I will be adding the beets later to show the difference in both salads.

With a spatula (or a wide spoon), start to fold the ingredients in the bowl by turning the bowl and bringing the ingredients that are on the bottom towards the top,

Remember to do it gently so that all of the ingredients don’t turn into mush,

After thoroughly folding all of the ingredients, give it a taste  and add more mayonnaise if you want it to be creamier.  I prefer to have the salad be light on the mayonnaise.  Also add more salt or vinaigrette if you want a more intense tangy flavor.  Remember that after the salad is in the fridge it will develop more flavor and the salt will be more noticeable in the taste.

If you want the salad to be “white”, stop here and serve it warm or put it the refrigerator to let it chill.

If you want a pink salad, take 1 cup of beets (I use canned), cut them into small pieces,

Then add it to the bowl and fold it into the salad.  The more beets you add, the “pinker” the salad is, therefore, you can always add more beets if you prefer,

Fold until the beets are thoroughly incorporated into the salad.

I love to serve it with “La Bandera“! Yum! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

Dominican style Rice with Noodles/Arroz con Fideos Dominicanos


This rice dish is very hearty and delicious, it also brings back lots of childhood memories of my Grandma.  She used to make this rice dish often and serve it with different types of meat dishes, especially her famous mustard pork chops.  It’s also one of my favorite ways to make rice when I’m in the mood for “arroz con huevos” (rice with scrambled eggs). 🙂

 

This recipe will render about 4 servings.  The ingredients needed are the following:

1 Cup of crushed Thin Spaghetti or Angel Hair
3 Cups of Rice
4 Cups of Chicken Stock (may substitute with a chicken bouillon and 4 cups of water)
1 Cup of Water
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Celery Stalk
1/2 – 1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 Habanero Chiles (aji gustoso)
2 tbsp of Vegetable Oil

To begin, I like to use thin spaghetti to make this recipe because I always have some on hand.  You can use angel hair noodles if you prefer, just make sure to use thin noodles.  1 cup is about 1/4 of noodles from the 1lb box of pasta.

The easiest way to crush them is to put them in a ziploc bag and break them until they are small pieces (be careful to over-crush them,, you don’t want to pulverize the noodles),

Add about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to a pot (I am using a caldero, which is an aluminum pot) and put on high heat, then wait a couple of minutes for the oil to get hot, then add the noodles,

The noodles will start to fry quickly, keep moving them around so that all of the noodles cook evenly,

As the noodles cook in the oil, keep moving them and they will start to get crispy and golden,

You don’t want the noodles to burn, just get golden brown,

Then add the crushed (or chopped) garlic, make sure to have the garlic ready before hand so that you can work quickly when you need to add it,

Have 2 habanero chiles seeded and finely chopped ready to add to the pot.  Habanero chiles (aji gustoso) are very flavorful little chiles that give the dish a punch of flavor.  They can be found in most Spanish stores and lots of larger supermarkets are carrying them depending on the season.  Just remember to use the green ones because usually the red ones are very HOT,

Then add the finely chopped habanero chile (aji gustoso) to the pot and stir well,

Cook the noodles with the garlic and the chiles for a minute or two, you don’t want the garlic or noodles to burn, just develop some flavor, then add the chicken stock.  I prefer using natural chicken stock instead of chicken bouillon (sopitas), but you can substitute the stock with 1 bouillon and 4 cups of water,

Then add 1 more cup of water,

Cut the celery stalk into 3 or 4 large pieces and add it to the pot, stir well,

Then add some salt, usually 1/2 tsp is enough but you can adjust the level and add less or more if you prefer just give it a taste,

Then add some ground black pepper,

Cover the pot and let the items in the pot come up to a boil.

When when the items int he pot come up to a boil, take 3 cups of rice and wash it,

When you wash the rice, make sure to change the water a couple of times until the water is translucent,

When the rice is clean and drained, add it to the pot,

Stir well and then let the rice absorb the water,

Stir every few minutes and keep an eye on it until the rice absorbs most of the water,

A way to check if the rice is ready to be covered, is to take the spoon and open a “path” with it running it from the edge towards the center.  If the rice stays put and doesn’t run into the “path” you open, then it’s ready to be covered,

Pile all of the rice in the center of the pot,

The common method that most Dominicans use to cook their rice is to cover the rice with a plastic bag and then cover it with the pot lid.  I prefer to use aluminum foil, but you can skip this step and just use the regular lid.  I find that with the aluminum foil the rice cooks better,

Put the lid on, put the heat on low and let it cook for 30 minutes without uncovering,

After 30 minutes uncover the rice and it should be fully cooked,

“Voltea” which is the term we topically use, which just means to turn and mix the rice to bring the rice that is on the bottom towards the top and fluff it up,

Cover it for 5 minutes before serving.

This delicious rice can be served with anything from meat, eggs to even soup! Yum! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominican style Cake/Bizcocho Dominicano


I must confess that it took me atleast 3 – 4 cakes before I dominated the art of baking a perfect (well to me it was perfect) Dominican cake, which figures because I honestly thought the frosting (suspiro) would be the difficult part. 🙂   In my adventures I learned the following:

AVOID dark Teflon pans, they tend to cook the cake really fast on the outside and leave it raw on the inside (I found out the hard way the first time), unless you bake it at really low temperatures. Baking at low temperatures for really long times leads to dry cakes (I found out the hard way the second time haha).  But then I realized that most bakers I know use aluminum pans so I decided to go out and buy one (well actually 2).  It made a huge difference and my cakes came out perfect using those instead.

Moral of the story, I recommend to always use aluminum pans to get even baking.

Also, to make the batter, it’s easier to use a stand mixer.  If you don’t own one and only have one of the handheld mixers, just use that for your first cake since some of the good quality stand mixers can be very expensive.

Last but not least, making a cake is a messy task!  It was a challenge trying to keep everything nice and organized for the pictures, I am proud of the outcome though.

*Disclaimer*

My decorating skills are really awful, therefore, I’m not going to go into details on proper techniques on how to decorate a cake.  Just have fun with it like I did. 🙂  If it comes out ugly, just hide it and secretly serve it to your family, then make another one to continue practicing. 😉

This recipe makes what we Dominicans call “un bizcocho de una libra” (1 pound cake), therefore, it feeds about 20 people depending on how big you cut the pieces.

To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

Cake Batter:
4 Cups of Flour
10 Eggs  (5 whole eggs and 5 egg yolks)
3.5 Sticks of Butter
3 1/4 Cups of Sugar (granulated)
1 tbsp White Vanilla
1.5 tbsp Baking Powder
1 Can (approx. 12oz) Evaporated Milk
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Cold Water
1 Lime (zested, about 1 tbsp)

Frosting:
1 Cup Egg Whites (about 5 Egg Whites)
3 Cups of Sugar
1 Cup of Water
2 Strips of Lime Peel

Dulce De Leche Filling:
2 Cans of Condensed Milk
1/2 Cup Evaporated Milk

Okey, let’s make us a Dominican cake! 🙂 First, prepare the ingredients so that you have them ready to go when it’s time to start making the batter.  Also, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add 1 cup of flour to a strainer that is placed over a large bowl to sift, (you can use a flour sifter if you have that, but I don’t so I use a strainer 🙂 ),

In the middle of sifting add 1.5 tbsp of baking powder and sift with the flour,

Do not skip the sifting method because this will avoid lumps in your batter,

After sifting the flour and baking powder, set aside. Take 1 lime and lightly grate the peel, make sure to grate the green part not the white, since the white part is very bitter,

Then take 2 separate bowls and separate the yolks from the egg whites from 5 eggs,

Remember to break the eggs open very gently because egg yolks break very easily,

Set the egg whites aside to use later for the frosting (suspiro).  Don’t put the egg whites in the refrigerator because they need to be at room temperature when we use them.

Then add 5 whole eggs to the 5 yolks and the zest of one lime (about 1 tbsp) to the bowl, keep in mind that you can add the lime zest directly to the batter, but I like to let it soak in the eggs for a few minutes before adding it to the batter,

I recommend that you let the butter hang out at room temperature for a few hours before using so that it’s nice and soft.  If you use cold butter, cut it into cubes before you start to mix it for the batter.

Take the butter and add it to a nice big bowl (my stand mixer has a 3q capacity bowl), then turn the mixer on low to medium speed and start to “cream” the butter,

While the butter is being mixed, slowly add the sugar to incorporate them both,

The mixture will turn into what looks like a thick paste,

Then add the eggs slowly (drop 1 or 2 in at a time) to incorporate into the butter and sugar, remember to beat at a slow to medium speed so that you don’t get bathed in the ingredients you add,

Depending on what kind of stand (or hand) mixer you use,  you can shut the power off and scrape the bowl with a spatula.  I usually leave the mixer running when I scrape since the blades on my mixer are on the side and the bowl spins,

When the eggs, sugar and butter are mixed well,

Start adding the flour slowly while the mixer is running,

As you add the flour and the batter get’s thicker, remember to scrape the sides of the bowl so that everything mixes well,

After adding half of the flour, slowly add 1 can of evaporated milk,

After adding the milk, continue to slowly add the remaining flour,

Remember to scrape the bowl to avoid clumps, it’s alright if you have to shut off the power on the mixer to do this (I do it to scrape the blades as well),

After adding all of the flour,  add 1 tbsp of white vanilla (use Dominican vanilla if you can get some 🙂 ),

Then take a cup and add 1/4 cup of cold water and 1/4 cup of orange juice,

Then slowly add it to the batter,

After adding the orange juice, let it mix for a few minutes, make sure to scrape the bowl and the blades with the spatula to make sure there aren’t any clumps of flour or butter stuck on the sides.  The batter should be smooth and creamy,

When you dip a spoon or spatula in the batter and let it drip, you should see the “ribbon” effect, which just means that the batter drips at quick rate leaving a ribbon trail where it lands,

Let’s prepare the baking pans.  For even baking, use aluminum pans (Wilton is a popular brand that makes good quality pans).   I have two 12″ x 2″ pans that I like to use to divide the batter in half.  Diving the batter in two pans will allow for it to rise easier than using just one pan.  It will also be easier to add the filling since you won’t have to cut the cake in half to do so. 🙂

You can grease the pans by spreading butter or baking spray.  I like to use a method my cousin taught me (who is a commercial baker that makes really delicious cakes with her top secret recipe), which is to take 2 tbsp of butter and melt it over medium heat,

Then add about 1 to 1.5 tbsp of flour and mix it well until it’s to the consistency of a thick gravy,

After the flour is dissolved with the butter, turn the heat off, then take a pastry brush and grease the pans with the mixture,

When the pans are greased, divide the batter in half between both pans,

Remember to scrape the bowls with the spatula to make sure to get all of the batter out.

After adding the batter to the pans, shake it and give it a few taps to settle the batter and avoid air pockets,

I usually bake both cakes at the same time since I can fit them both in my oven.  Put it in the preheated oven and bake them at 325 degrees for about 55 – 60 minutes.  Make sure to have the rack in the center of the oven.  If you have the rack on the bottom, the bottom of the cakes will overcook.

However, I do have to switch their position halfway through the baking so that they bake evenly, after about 25 – 30 minutes, I bring the cake that is in the back towards the front, and I rotate the pan as well,

Continue to bake for another 25 – 30 minutes.

When the cakes are ready they will be golden and have what I call a “flattened muffin top”, which is a slightly raised top with some “cracks” in the cake.  To ensure they are thoroughly cooked you can stick a toothpick or a clean knife through the center, if they come out clean the cake is ready.

Set the cakes aside and let them cool for a few hours.  Do not attempt to put frosting on a hot or warm cake, it will just cause the frosting to wilt and become a mess.

Now let’s make the filling.  You can also make this before the cake, the order is really up to you.

If you are a frequent visitor of my blog you probably know that I am addicted to dulce de leche caramel and that I like to use it often.  So it’s no surprise that’s what I’ll be using to stuff my cake today. 🙂

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take a small baking dish and pour both cans of condensed milk into it,

When all of the milk is in the dish,

Take a separate baking dish that is large enough to hold the baking dish containing the milk and set it aside,

Cover the baking dish with the condensed milk with some aluminum foil, then place it in the larger baking dish we set aside earlier.  Then poke some holes in it with a fork to will allow the steam to escape while the milk cooks down.  About 10 – 12 pokes should be good,

Add some warm water to the outer baking dish, this method of cooking the milk is called “baño de Maria”, which means “Maria bath”.  It’s the same method used to cook flan and other types of custards,

Transfer the dish into the oven and let it cook for 1.5 hours.  While it cooks, DO NOT remove the aluminum foil.

After 1.5 hours, remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes because it will be piping hot!  After you’ve let it cool, remove the aluminum foil and feast your eyes on this deliciousness:

With a spoon or spatula, mix the caramel then add about 1/2 cup of evaporated milk (if you want a thicker caramel add less evaporated milk, if you want it looser, add more milk),

I suggest you use a whisk to mix the caramel and milk,

Continue to mix until it’s nice and smooth,

A method I like to use to check to make sure the caramel is a good thickness is to dip a clean spoon and then run your finger down the middle, if the caramel stays put it’s a good thickness,

Transfer the caramel into a different container and set aside uncovered to let it cool down.

When the cakes and the filling are cool, let’s put them together.  Take each cake and trim the top off (to get a flatter surface).

Save the piece you shave off, it’s delicious with some coffee or milk, or I like to put it in the toaster oven and “toast” it then spread a little butter on top.

Then take about 1 cup of the dulce de leche caramel and spread it over one of the cakes, make sure to leave a border of about 1/4″ to 1/2″ on the edge so that the caramel doesn’t drip out over the sides,

Then place the second cake (shaved side down) over the filling to seal it in,

Now let’s make the frosting (suspiro)! 🙂

Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature, place them in a large bowl and set aside,

Take a small sauce pan, put it on medium-high heat and add 1 cup of water,

Then add 3 cups of sugar,

Take 1 lime and trim off a couple of pieces of the peel,

Make sure to only peel the green part, trim the excess white part off because if you leave it that will make the syrup bitter,

Add it to the sugar and water, then mix well to dissolve,

While the syrup starts to get hot and becomes translucent, let’s start to beat the egg whites.

For my particular stand mixer, it doesn’t beat the egg whites well enough unless I detach the mixer and do it by hand since I can detach the mixer from the stand.

Start to beat the egg whites at high speed, the egg whites will start to get frothy,

Continue to beat until they become a thick foamy consistency,

Make sure to get good contact with the bottom of the bowl to mix all of the egg whites.  When they are nice and stiff, you can stop mixing and wait for the syrup to be ready,

When the syrup is boiling and translucent, let it cook for a couple of minutes (you don’t want it to turn dark brown, just ensure all of the sugar is completely dissolved), then turn the heat off,

Scoop out the lime peels and discard them, you don’t want them to land in your frosting 🙂

Then start to the beat the egg whites at high speed again and very slowly start to add the syrup,

Add a few tablespoons of the syrup at a time, set the syrup aside and make sure to beat the egg whites well by rotating the bowl,

Then continue to add the syrup slowly,

Add a little at a time then stop and continue to beat and rotate the bowl,

Continue this process until you’ve added all of the syrup, (It’s fine if you have a small amount left over)

Continue to beat, the frosting will get thick and stiff,

After adding the syrup, add 1 tsp of white vanilla,

Beat for a few minutes making sure to get good contact with the bottom and the sides of the bowl so that all of the frosting is thoroughly mixed, then turn the mixer off and lift the blades.  You should see some stiff peaks and the frosting will be thick and smooth.  You can also stick a clean dry spoon in and give it a taste. 🙂 (ALWAYS use DRY utensils when working with frosting)

Now, let’s frost the cake! 🙂

The easiest tool to use to frost the cake is the frosting spatula,

Again, make sure the spatula is clean and DRY.  Take a generous amount of frosting with the spatula and start to spread it over the cake,

One tip I can tell you is to use ALOT of frosting and pack it onto the cake, it’s the best method to avoid seeing crumbs on the frosting.  When you use small dollops and smear it on the cake, they tend to get full of crumbs.

After covering the cake with the frosting, just smooth out the frosting the best you can (using a rotating stand is easier but not necessary), it will never be perfect. 🙂

Another tip, when coloring the frosting, use a toothpick to slowly add the food coloring to the frosting (you will probably have to use several toothpicks),

Add small amounts at a time until you get the shade of color you desire, a little goes a long way,

Remember, you can always add but you cannot subtract food coloring,

Use a clean dry spatula to scrap the bowl to make sure to get all of the frosting colored,

When all of the frosting is colored, add it to a decorating bag (you can find those in craft stores or stores like Walmart and Target) with the tip of your choice, then I suggest you practice a little on a plate or aluminum foil before you start to decorate your cake,

After practicing, get creative and see what your decorating skills are capable off, 🙂

Here is a sample of one of the cakes I decorated:

Not the prettiest, but it was very tasty and I was very proud of it! 🙂

Keep in mind when you slice into this cake, the caramel will start to drip down the sides, and it will be heavenly! YUM! 🙂

Now go on and bake yourself a Dominican cake, it will be worth the labor, I promise! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Hot Chocolate/Chocolate Caliente con Gengibre


If you love hot chocolate as much as I do, brace yourselves because this recipe will make your taste buds scream in delight!  It’s very rich and really warms your bones on those chilly fall and winter nights.  This recipe was inspired by a good friend of mine’s mother (who is like a second mom to me) who makes really delicious home made teas and ginger hot chocolates.   I usually serve it with some buttered toast, but ideally this drink goes especially well with a slice of warm cake or arepa, yum!

You can also make this recipe extra special by adding some Bailey’s or Khalua. 😉

 

To make this decadent hot chocolate, you will need the following ingredients:

1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
2 Cups Regular Milk (may use lowfat)
1 12oz (approx 2 cups) Evaporated Milk
1 Small piece of ginger root (approx 2″ long)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Allspice (whole)
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 tbsp Honey
1 Cup water (optional)
Whipped Cream (optional)

Before we begin, I recommend you use good quality chocolate.  I am partial to using bittersweet chocolate to make this drink because milk chocolate tends to be much sweeter.  My favorite brand of chocolate chips is Ghirardelli, but you can always use any brand of your choice. 🙂

To begin, take a small pot or saucepan and put it on medium heat on the stove.  Then add the chocolate chips,

As the chocolate melts, make sure to smooth it out with a spatula or spoon,

When the chocolate has melted, add the milk (I use 1% low fat, but you can use whole milk if you prefer),

Mix the chocolate and the milk, then add the evaporated milk,

Mix well and make sure that there isn’t chocolate stuck to the bottom of the pot,

Then take the ginger root, (make sure to use fresh ginger, if you use powdered ginger it won’t taste the same),

Peel it, and cut it into 4 vertical slices and add it to the pot, (if you love ginger, add a bigger piece, but remember that it is a strong spice),

Then add the vanilla extract (use Dominican Vanilla if you can get some 🙂 ), also, I prefer to use white vanilla instead of the dark one (but you can use the dark one if you prefer),

Then add the allspice,

Then add the honey, this gives the hot chocolate  a nice of sweetness,

Take the cinnamon sticks and add them to the pot as well,

Then last but not least, add about 1 cup of water.  You may omit this step, but I am warning you that this is a very rich and decadent hot chocolate even with the water.  But if you want it thicker and richer, than just omit this step,

Once all of the ingredients have been added, mix well and cover it and let it simmer on medium – low heat for about 20 minutes.  Make sure to stir it every 5 minutes so that the chocolate doesn’t settle on the bottom.

After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and serve! 🙂  Remember, the longer the ginger stays in the hot chocolate, the stronger ginger flavor it will have.  Therefore, if you don’t love the taste of ginger, pull the ginger pieces out and toss them.

I love to put some whipped cream on top, makes me feel like I’m having some fancy hot chocolate in a nice restaurant. 😉  Paired with some buttered toast (no arepa today 🙁 ) and you have yourself a yummy breakfast, snack or even dinner! Yum! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

Dominican Style Stewed Pork with Eggplant/Carne de Cerdo Guisada con Berenjena


First, I must admit that I am not a lover of eggplant at all.  There are very few eggplant dishes that I enjoy eating and this is one of them.  I also enjoy them fried, but that will be a whole other post. 😉

Pork chops is usually the popular cut of meat that is used to make this dish.  I prefer to use boneless pork instead just because it’s less messy to eat.  If you don’t like eggplant, give this recipe a try, you might be surprised how tasty it is and how well the eggplant works with the pork.

 

To make this recipe you will need recipe you will need the following ingredients:

2 – 3 lbs Pork Meat (boneless or pork chops)
1 Small Onion
1/2 Cup Cilantro
1/2 Green Bell Pepper
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Eggplant
2 Limes
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cumin
1 tbsp Achiote Oil (optional)
1 tbsp Sugar
1/4 Cup White Wine
1/2 Cup Vinegar
1 – 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Salt

For this recipe I usually just buy a pork roast and cut it up into chunks.  You can also use pork chops as well if you prefer the meat to have bones on them.

If you decide to go with the roast, just cut it into slices,

Then cut the slices into big chunks.  Make sure not to cut them into small chunks because when the meat cooks it will shrink a little and get very tender,

Once the pork is cut into chunks,

Give it a rinse with cool water and add some vinegar to let it soak for a few minutes (5 minutes is good),

After letting it soak, give it a rinse with more fresh water and drain,

After cleaning the meat, put in a container to marinate.  I am partial to using ziploc bags because they can be washed and re-used, they also don’t take up much space in the refrigerator.

To begin marinating the pork, add 1 tsp of salt,

Then add the ground black pepper (freshly ground is better),

Then add the oregano (use Dominican oregano if you can find some 🙂 ),

Then add the cumin, be careful in adding too much of this spice if you adjust the seasoning level.  It is very strong and a little goes a long way,

Take the onion and finely chop it, then add it to the pork,

Finely chop or mash the garlic and add it as well,

Finely chop 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a red bell pepper and add it to the pork.  You can add both of the entire bell peppers, but I find that adding half of each is perfect for this dish,

Squeeze the juice from limes on the pork,

Add the achiote oil to give it some color, be careful not to get it on your clothes or counter-tops because it is very hard to wash off.  You may omit this ingredient if you’d like, I use it because it gives the dish a nice color.

Add the cilantro, you can chop it if you’d like, I usually just add it whole,

Then last but not least, add the white wine.  Make sure to use a white wine that you enjoy drinking, preferably one that is not dry.  I usually use Riesling because it’s my favorite and I enjoy the sweetness.  Adding dry white wine will slightly change the flavor of the dish.

Then mix all of the ingredients together so that everything is incorporated and covering the meat,

Let it marinate for a few hours, for best flavor put it in the fridge and let hang out overnight. 🙂

Now comes the fun part… Cooking time!! 🙂

Take the pork and separate it from the liquid, set them both aside.

Before we start cooking the pork, I’m going to soak the eggplant in some salt water to help remove some of that bitter taste and extra seeds.  This is a method my mom taught me to prepare the eggplant.  If you like to taste the slight bitter tang from the eggplant, skip this step.

Take the eggplant, I like to buy the big dark purple ones,

Peel it and then cut it into thick slices,

Then cut the slices into bite sized chunks,

Add the eggplant chunks into a large bowl and add cool water to it,

Then add a generous amount of salt, about 1 – 2 tablespoons,

The eggplant chunks will float in the water, so I usually cover it with a large plate to make sure that they are submerged well in the water,

Set them aside for later use.

Now let’s start cooking the pork. 🙂

Take a medium to large sized pot, put on high heat and add the vegetable oil and sugar,

Let the sugar melt and caramelize,

Keep an eye on it because as when it starts to turn brown, it cooks very quickly,

When the sugar is a deep dark brown color and starts to smoke, it’s ready.  Be careful and don’t let it burn and turn black, because if it does and you cook the dish with it will make the dish bitter.

Add the meat to the pot.  You will hear a very loud sizzling noise which is normal, it doesn’t mean that the meat is burning, it’s just getting a good sear, do NOT stir it for a few minutes,

The meat will start to release some liquid and the sizzling noise will die down a bit.  Let it cook without stirring for about 5 – 7 minutes,

Then stir it,

As it continues to cook the liquid will cook down, continue to stir every few minutes or so,

When most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is sizzling in the oil (for me it usually takes about 20 – 25 minutes after adding the pork initially to the pan), let it continue to “fry” for a few minutes so that it develops more color and flavor, keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t start to burn,

After the meat is nice and dark (after about 5 minute or so of “frying” in the oil in the pan), add the remaining marinade and stir,

Then take the eggplant that has been soaking and drain away the salt water.  You will notice that the water is somewhat dark (sorry no photo available for this step 🙁 ).  After draining, rinse the eggplant with plenty of fresh water,

Make sure to drain the eggplant well, then add them to the pork and stir,

After stirring, cover the pot and turn the heat down to a medium temperature and let it cook without uncovering for about 10 minutes,

After 10 minutes, uncover and stir, then cover and let it cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Let it continue to cook down until the eggplant is very tender and falls apart easily.  It usually takes about 15 – 20 minutes after adding it to the pork.

At this point you can give it a taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.   Once it’s ready, turn the heat off or put it on the lowest temperature and keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out until you are ready to serve it.

I recommend you serve it with a side of white rice and beans, yum! 🙂

But as always, you can serve it with whatever side dish you prefer! 😉

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Caramel/Bizcocho de Chocolate con Dulce de Leche


I cannot deny that I have quite the sweet tooth with a weakness for dulce de leche caramel.  I find any excuse I possibly can to smother any type dessert in one way or another with dulce de leche caramel.

This cake was inspired by the Royal Wedding that took place earlier this year, I came across a recipe for Prince William”s favorite biscuit cake.  I took the concept of the biscuit cake and made a bunch of changes to get this decadent cake.  The best part, it’s so easy to make because you don’t have to bake it!  You just have to be very patient since it takes a few hours before it’s ready to eat. 🙂  Whether you are a culinary wiz or you are just starting to explore your skills in the kitchen this dessert will fit the bill.

To make this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 Stick of Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Can Evaporated Milk (approx 2 cups)
4 Cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1 7oz Package Maria Cookies (approx 35 cookies)
1 Cup of Sliced Almonds
2 Cans of Condensed Milk (approx 4 cups)

I like to use “Maria Cookies” to make this cake because they very tasty, easy to find and work wonderfully for this recipe.  You can substitute with another type of butter cookie of your liking though.

Take the cookies and give them a rough chop, you can also break them with your fingers or put them in a ziploc bag to crush them as well.  I like to leave them into good bite sized chunks, but you can crush them into smaller pieces.  DO NOT GRATE THEM to the point that they are like flour.

Now let’s prepare a baking dish or cake pan before we make the base of the cake.  I will be using a square shaped baking dish but you can use any shape you prefer.

Cover the baking dish (or pan) with some saran wrap or parchment paper.

Now that the dish is ready, let’s start making the cake! 🙂

Take a medium pot and put it on medium heat, then add the butter, do not substitute the butter with margarine, 🙂

While the butter is melting, add the evaporated milk,

Then add the cinnamon,

Then add the vanilla, make sure to use good quality vanilla extract,

Stir well and let it heat up and cook for about 5 minutes,

When the milk is hot, it will be steaming but not boiling, add the chocolate chips (use semisweet instead of milk chocolate, to ensure the cake is not overly sweet),

After adding the chocolate, stir constantly while the chocolate starts to melt,

As the chocolate melts, the milk will get thicker, make sure to stir constantly,

Once all of the chocolate is melted and incorporated with the milk, it will be very smooth and thick,

Now, add the cookie chunks and stir well,

Stir well to make sure all of the cookie pieces are thoroughly covered with the chocolate,

Let the cookies hang out in the chocolate for about 1 minute, then take the mixture and pour it into the baking dish we prepared earlier,

Give the pan a few taps to make sure that everything sits well and there are no air bubbles,

Now it’s ready to go in the fridge.

Make sure to put it in the fridge uncovered (since it’s still warm) and let it sit in there for atleast 4 hours (preferably overnight) so that the chocolate sets well and gets hard.

While the cake is in the fridge, let’s make the dulce de leche caramel. 🙂

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

There are several ways to make this caramel, but for me this is the easiest and safest method.  Take a small baking dish and pour both cans of condensed milk into it,

When all of the milk is in the dish,

Take a separate baking dish that is large enough to hold the baking dish containing the milk and set it aside,

Cover the baking dish with the condensed milk with some aluminum foil, then place it in the larger baking dish we set aside earlier.  Then poke some holes in it with a fork to will allow the steam to escape while the milk cooks down.  About 10 – 12 pokes should be good,

Add some warm water to the outer baking dish, this method of cooking the milk is called “baño de Maria”, which means “Maria bath”.  It’s the same method used to cook flan and other types of custards,

Transfer the dish into the oven and let it cook for 1.5 hours.  While it cooks, DO NOT remove the aluminum foil.

After 2 hours, remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes because it will be piping hot!  After you’ve let it cool, remove the aluminum foil and feast your eyes on this deliciousness:

Doesn’t that look yummy?  I can just take a bath in that and call it a day… 🙂  (But I know better than to do that 😉 )

With a spoon or spatula, mix the caramel to make it smooth.  At first it will be a little lumpy, but as you mix it the lumps will even out,

The caramel is thick and rich and that’s exactly what we want for this recipe.  If you want a looser caramel, you can just add some evaporated milk to thin it out.  I will not be adding milk to thin this caramel out though.

Once the caramel is nice and smooth, transfer to a bowl or container to use later on when the cake is ready.  Resist the urge to eat it up right out of the bowl, it will be hard but trust me, the caramel will be much better on the cake. 😉

When the cake is ready,

Take a large plate or serving dish (this will be the home to your cake from now on),

Then take two pieces of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set them side by side covering the plate.  It has to be two pieces because it will be easier to remove them later on,

Now this part might be a little messy, but it’s very worth it.  Flip the cake onto the dish, removing the parchment paper from the top.  After doing this, the cake will not look very pretty, but will be very tasty. 😉

Then take that delicious dulce de leche caramel we made earlier and spread it all over the top of the cake,

Once the cake is thoroughly covered with the caramel, (you might have some caramel left over, you can just save it aside for later use),

Still not looking pretty but that’s about to change. 🙂

Take the sliced almonds, and sprinkle them over the cake to cover it nice and evenly.  You can use a different kind of nut if you prefer, but I am partial to almonds and it works really well with this recipe.

Once the cake is covered with the almonds, remove the parchment (or wax) paper from the bottom.

This will ensure the cake looks neater on the plate.  Doesn’t this cake look tasty now? 😉

Make sure to keep this cake refrigerated when it’s not being served since the chocolate can melt in warm temperatures.  Serve this to your guests and family and I assure you, they will be licking their plates and begging for seconds!

Buen Provecho! 😉

 

 

Dominican style Sweet Plantain Casserole/Pastelon de Platano Maduro


Pastelon is a type of casserole that can be made in many different ways.  For this dish, some people use mashed plantains or fried plantains, others add raisins and boiled eggs to the ground beef.  I prefer to omit the raisins and boiled eggs and use a combination of mashed and fried.  The end result is really tasty and a bit more figure friendly. 🙂

You can play around with it and adjust the recipe to your liking, but give this method a try!  It’s usually a hit when I serve it in my family and it makes an excellent casserole for a party.

To make this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

8 Ripe Yellow Plantains
3 – 4 lbs Ground Beef
~2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp Ground Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 Lime
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Small Onion
1 Small Red Bell Pepper
1 Small Green Bell Pepper
2 Aji Gustoso
2 tbsp Spanish olives
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
4 Eggs
1 tbsp Butter (or Margarine)
2 Cups of Cheddar Cheese
1/2 – 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Let’s begin by seasoning the ground beef.  Before we start, the meat looks a little dark in some areas and that’s because it was frozen then I let it defrost in the fridge for a couple of days.  It’s still good, but I just wanted to point that out first. 🙂

Also, when cooking ground beef, it’s better to get the leanest ground beef available because as it cooks less grease will be released in the pan.  Although, the leaner the meat the more expensive it is, but if you decide to use meat that is not lean you can always scoop out the excess grease.  For this dish I am using 85% lean beef, but sometimes you can find beef that is up to 95% lean.

Add 1 tsp of salt to the meat,

Then add some ground black pepper,

Add the oregano,

Then add the garlic powder,

Then add the coriander,

Add the cumin,

And last, but not least, squeeze the juice of one lime over the meat,

Then mix well (with clean hands for better results, or a fork) and let it hang out for atleast 2 hours (overnight for more flavor) in the fridge before cooking.

To begin making the pastelon, take a medium pot and fill it halfway with fresh water, then put it on the stove on high heat.

Then take 4 plantains and peel them to add to the water.  To peel them, cut the ends off,

Then run the tip of the knife and cut a thin line through the skin of the plantain,

Then pull the skin away from the plantains,

It will be firmer than a banana, but the  skin peels away very easily,

Take the plantains and cut them in half,

Then take each half and slice it into two slices through the middle,

Then take the cut the plantains and add them into the pot and let them come up to a boil,

While the plantains come up to a boil, let’s cook the ground beef.

Take a large skillet and add 2 tbsp of olive oil put on medium high heat and add the chopped garlic,

While the garlic cooks, finely chop the onion then add it to the skillet along with a pinch of salt and saute,

Then finely chop the bell peppers and the habanero chiles,

Aji gustoso can be hard to find sometimes, so you may omit them.

I love using aji gustoso in many of my dishes because they enhance the flavor.  Just make sure to not use the ones that are hot (usually the red ones) because they are very spicy!

So, to continue, take the chiles and finely chop them,

Then add them to the skillet along with the chopped bell peppers and stir,

Then take the Spanish olives and give them a rough chop,

Add them to the skillet and stir.  Then take about 2 tbsp of the Spanish olive liquid from the bottle and add to the skillet,

Let the vegetables cook for a couple of minuets, then add the ground beef to the skillet and stir,

At this point, the plantains must be boiling, add some salt about 1 tbsp, then let them boil until they are fork tender.

Back to the ground beef, continue stirring breaking down the ground beef so that it doesn’t cook in big chunks,

As it cooks the meat will release some liquid,

Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the tomato paste and stir well to dissolve it,

I usually add about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of salt at this point and stir,

Let the meat cook until all of the juices have reduced and the meat starts to “fry” in the oil.

At this point, the plantains should be fork tender,

Turn the heat off and set aside.

When the beef’s liquid has reduced and it’s getting darker in color as it cooks in the oil, it’s ready so turn the heat off.

I like to scoop the excess grease from the meat so that the pastelon is not drenched in it as it bakes.  One method I like to use is to pile the beef on one side of the skillet, then take a small kitchen towel and fold it and put it on an a cool area like a heat safe counter top or unheated stove top.

Then take the skillet and put it on the folded towel so that it’s at an angle and the grease accumulates on the bottom end of the skillet,

Even at 85% lean, see how much grease the meat releases?  All of that grease accumulates at the bottom of the pastelon and makes the bottom layer of the plantains very oily.  Let the skillet hang out at this angle for a few minutes and then scoop the grease out. Set the meat aside for later use.

Before assembling the pastelon, we have to cook the remaining plantains.  take a medium pan and add the vegetable oil, enough to coat it by about 1/8 of an inch. Put the heat on medium high.

While the oil is heating up, take the remaining 4 plantains, peel them then cut each one in half,

Then take each half and cut it into slices (about 3 – 4 slices each),

When all of the plantains are peeled and sliced, the oil should be ready.  Add enough slices so that they cook lightly (do not over crowd the pan),

Let them cook for about 3 – 4 minutes then flip them over, the cooked side should be golden brown,

Let them cook for a few minutes until the other side is golden brown. Then transfer to a cookie sheet that is lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Cook the remaining plantain slices.

When they are all cooked sprinkle a pinch of salt on them.

Set aside the fried plantains for later use. 🙂

Take the boiled plantains and drain them, then add about 1/4 tsp of salt,

Then add the butter (or margarine),

Then mash and incorporate all of the ingredients well,

Add a splash of water (about 1/4 cup) to make the plantains a little creamier,

Mash until the plantains are smooth and creamy,

Now comes the fun part, assembling the pastelon! 🙂  First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take a medium sized baking dish, the one I’m using is 13x9x2 (3Q), then pour the mashed plantains into it,

Spread the mashed plantains on the baking dish into an even layer,

Then pour all of the meat to make the second layer of the pastelon,

I love a meaty pastelon so the meat layer is very thick, just pack it in with spoon or spatula,

After layering the meat, take the fried plantains and lay them over the meat,

Usually 4 plantains renders more than enough slices to coat the meat, you might have some slices left over but I find that some just magically disappear (well not magically haha ;)) during the assembly stage….

Now we have to separate the egg whites from the yolk.  Give each egg a tap, then gently open the egg to release the egg white into a bowl,

Pour the egg on your partially opened fingers and let the remaining egg whites go into the bowl while the yolk stays on your hand,

Put the yolks in a separate bowl,

Beat the egg whites with a whisk or a fork for a couple of minutes until they start to get fluffy,

Then beat the egg yolks into the egg whites one by one,

When all the eggs have been beaten, pour over the pastelon coating all of the plantain and meat,

Then add a layer of cheese over the top of the pastelon.  I usually buy the cheese already shredded that comes with white and yellow cheddar.  You may use a different type of cheese, I have tried mozzarella as well but I find that cheddar works best for this dish.

Once the pastelon is thoroughly covered in cheese transfer to the preheated oven (350 degrees),

Let it bake for about 45 minutes until the cheese has melted and formed a nice crust on the top.

Let it cool for about 20 – 30 minutes before cutting.  Pastelon is like a lasagna, you need to let it rest because if you cut it when it’s piping hot, it will become a runny mess.

I recommend you serve it with a nice side salad, yum! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 😉