I’m a hustler–I think. I’m told I get it from my wild aunt that lives in Cuba. With no food to eat on a daily, she makes it work by any means necessary. Last time I was there, my aunt Mercedes had managed to buy a chunky pig she then raised and fed for about 6 months. And for what? For us to eat during our two week visit (back in ’99). I guess it’s the cheapest acquisition for poor islanders, so I deeply appreciate the effort, sincerely.
No offense, but I don’t eat pork. Never have so I can’t say I know what I’m missing. I ate a lot of mango while there. Chicken too!
My hustler mentality got the best of me during Christmas. We’re supposed to be in the spirit of giving. Jesus after all gave His life for us. While I sat in what was my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house, I thought about how I could give the gift of food. I worked diligently with my web developer to have this site up in just one week. Yeah right. Joey must think I’m crazy. I pressed forward trying to conjure up a way to get that gift out there without spending too much. Since I’m not finished paying for the site, I know I need to be frugal. Ding ding ding! Instantly, an email was blasted out to my known and food eatin’ network in ATL. “You pay for groceries, I cook for you.” In a matter of minutes I had received several emails in response with all kinds of inquiries. Will I fix this or that. Will I cook in their home. How many times would I cook and would I cook for a family. Why, yes yes and yes! No one refuses an opportunity to make a bit of cha-ching doing what they love. My barter email landed me one faithful and repeat customer. Every Sunday in January and February, my friend Jacqueline and her 2 kids would indulge in my fixin’s. No matter what they are, they’ll grub.
I started the process at my house. Pollo asado (roasted chicken), vegetable yellow rice and an everyday tomato and cucumber salad. Nothing complicated but very savory. The pollo has to marinate for atleast an hour. Because it was Sunday, lo adobè, got dressed and hit the streets. A stop at LNT for some culinary accessories (quickly eyed Rachel Ray’s cookware–pass and go). Macy’s for some post Christmas sales at Lenox Mall, Publix and my final destination for family cooking. It was 7 by the time I got to Jackie’s house. 6 hours of the chicken marinating–we should be good.
One big mistake I made, and please do take note… Don’t assume anyone has everything basic. The 2nd step in cooking pollo asado is frying and browning each side. Well, that requires oil! J had no oil! None! The French cook in butter, we cook in oil. I think even Jesus had fish oil! A bit of grape seed oil held me over until she returned with some aceite Español. All in all we made it work. The chicken was done in just 40 minutes, the rice as as yellow as sunflowers and I managed to make up a carrot salad. Cuban style of course. Thanks to Dave, my faithful graphic designer and supporter who rolled with me all day–he calls himself quality control.
Chicken in the making…No, the brand of Mojo (pronounced mo-ho) was not intentionally cut off! But good!
On the epiphany, ending the 12 days of Christmas, I found a way to give. I also received. 3 happy hearts were full with my dinner and I was on my way to Little Maggiano’s for mediocre chicken marsala.
Christmas ’07 was great after all.
- 3 whole chicken breasts
- 1/2 large sliced red or Spanish onion
- 4 smashed garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup mojo criollo *
- 1tbsp oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 lemon wedge
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
In large pot, season chicken with garlic and onion, salt, oregano, cumin. Pinch chicken with fork to allow seasoning to sit well. Add 1/4 cup of mojo to chicken, stir and let marinate for one hour to 90 minutes.
In same pot, lightly fry chicken breast in vegetable oil until both sides have browned, for 6-7 minutes. Add remainder of mojo and squeeze lemon wedge. Bring heat down to medium-low, cover and let cook for another 30 minutes. If you find your chicken too dry, you can add 1/2 cup of dry white cooking wine. Steam from pot will create the excess mojo sauce.
VEGETABLE YELLOW RICE
- 2.5 cups white rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 lb. frozen mixed vegetables
- * if you prefer fresh vegetables: 1 ear of corn for kernels, 1/4 cup peas, 8 oz. small carrots, 8 oz. small cut green beans
- 1 packet of Sazon seasoning with achiote (this yellows the rice)(see note below)
- 3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 2.5 tbsp salt
In rice cooker, add rice and water to pot. Add sofrito, mixed vegetables (frozen or fresh), packet of Sazon seasoning, salt, and oil. Stir and click on cook! Should be done in about 20 minutes. When cooker chimes, let sit for 5 minutes. Fork and comb through rice, lifting the grain. Allow to sit for another 5 minutes. Yields enough for 7.
SOFRITO FOR YELLOW RICE
- 1/2 diced green pepper
- 2 diced green onion stems
- 1/2 diced large onion
- 1 whole tomato
- 4 minced garlic cloves
In light oil, sautee onion, garlic, green onion (scallion) green pepper and tomato on medium heat, allowing onions to cook down.
NOTE: Mojo is a liquid seasoning concoction made up of citrus fruits, dried seasoning like cumin, oregano, basil, etc... It is commonly used in Latin cooking to marinate chicken, pork and beef. The mojo I used was store bought. Goya makes a really good one, if you're interested. Pick it up in your International section of your grocery store. I'll make a batch from scratch next time and will post here to share. I can't wait for that. And, for the fresh vegetables instead of frozen ones, steam together for about 8 minutes and then shock in cold water for about 20 seconds. They will finish cooking in rice cooker. Do not season the vegetables as the seasoning from the sofrito and achiote have done the work.