Mirliton Casserole, a Mexican-Creole fusion

School’s out for summer and we’ve moved. Now that I have more time to cook, I thought I’d try to make mirliton casserole again. I realized as I was gathering my ingredients that I didn’t have any mushrooms, but I did have a can of pickled carrots (zanahorias en escabeche) from our local Latino grocer. I love these. If you’ve never had them, they are carrots pickled with jalapeños and onions. The vinegar adds a nice edge to the dish I didn’t know it needed.

Latino Mirliton Casserole

3 medium mirlitons, boiled, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 toes garlic, minced
1 lb. chicken thighs, deboned and diced
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced on bias
1-14 oz. can diced tomato or Ro-tel (canned tomato and jalapeño)
1 small can pickled carrots (zanahorias en escabeche)
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
2-2 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

optional:
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Halve the mirlitons and boil them in lightly salted water until you can pierce them all the way through without using excessive pressure. Then remove them from the pot and set them aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté the chicken until browned. Add sausage and brown. Add onion and bell pepper, sauté until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until everything is soft and tender. Add carrots, tomato, and spices. Scoop the cooked mirliton meat into a bowl and mash or dice well.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Add to the the mirliton meat to the mixture and cook until the sauce forms a paste-like consistency (15 minutes).

Begin working in bread crumbs into the casserole mixture (this is best done a little at a time). When all the crumbs are added, you should end up with a somewhat dry paste that sticks to the spoon. If it is still too moist, add a few extra bread crumbs, if the mixture it too wet it will run during the baking process. If your stuffing mix turns out too dry, moisten it with a little canned chicken broth.

Transfer the mixture to a large casserole dish. Put the dish into the oven on the center rack, and bake it uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the topping turns a toasty brown. For a little extra, liberally sprinkle the casserole with shredded Parmesan cheese when it has 10 minutes left to bake in the oven. This will form a nice crusty topping on the dish.

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Happy Belated Fiesta 2007!

As you probably all know by now, I am a direct descendant of the Canarian immigrants (Canary Islanders-Los Isleños) who settled in SE Louisiana in the late 1700’s. No, that doesn’t make me latino (not that there’s anything wrong with it!). But according to the newest US demographic questionnaires (the ones you have to fill out for colleges, financial aid, and census information), it does make me “Hispanic-Other”. Those silly bureaucrats. Although, that “Other” bit makes me and my brother laugh. If you know us personally, you know why.

I am about a month late posting the following links since the Los Isleños Fiesta occurred on March 23 and March 24. I like to make a late entrance.

Canary Islanders Heritage Society

Los Isleños Society Events

Un favor, por favor. If any of you gentle readers happens to go to any of these various events in the future, piense de mí and kindly get me a shirt?

Now for a traditional Canarian recipe: Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Verde. This is similar to mainland Spain’s papas bravas except the papas in the former recipe are boiled and then steamed rather than pan-fried. This is a great substitute for hash browned potatoes at a brunch.

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Verde

4 1/2 lbs. small or new potatoes
5 tablespoons Kosher salt (plus enough to make the water as salty as sea water)

Wash the potatoes well. Put salt into large pot—start with a few tablespoons, you can add more to the water later. Add water—it is best if you add enough water to cover the potatoes so that you know you have added enough salt—the potatoes will float when the water is perfect. Add the potatoes to the pot of salted water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain most of the water from the pot and sprinkle the potatoes with the 5 tablespoons of salt. Turn down the heat and gently shake the pot so that salt crystalizes on the potatoes. Finally, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a tea-towel for 5 minutes and the potatoes should now be arrugadas (wrinkled). The old school way of covering the potatoes was done with cabbage leaves in lieu of a tea-towel. Maybe for taste?

Mojo Verde:

1 teaspoon cumin
1 head of garlic
4 fresh jalapeño peppers
Italian parsley, fresh and chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (fleur de sel)

You will need a mortar and pestle or a good food processor to make this. Take the cumin, garlic, and salt and combine them with your mortar and pestle or food processor until they create a paste. Clean out the peppers of all seeds and veins, dice and then add diced peppers and parsley to your mash. Blend well. Combine mash, vinegar. and olive oil and mix thoroughly. This can either be a dipping sauce (preferred) or poured over the potatoes.

Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

Good on a cold night as a side or as a main course. Many people think they hate okra, mainly because it’s gummy or slimy, but in this dish (and gumbo) it uses that “slime” to help thicken the dish. Good with french bread.

Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

1/2 stick butter (substitute 1/8 cup olive oil for vegan)
1 large yellow onion
1 package frozen okra
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 toes garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons creole seasoning

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add chopped onion and okra. Saute until onion is translucent and slime has mostly cooked out of the okra. Add all remaining ingredients. Season and then simmer slowly for 30 minutes or until it has acheived a stew consistency. Serves 6.

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Jambalaya

Another flexible dish, like gumbos, with infinite combinations. There are two types of jambalaya that I am aware of; creole and cajun. Creole jambalayas use tomatoes and lean on the red side as a result, cajun jambalayas lean on the brown side and (as far as I know) don’t use tomato. The following recipe will be for a creole jambalaya.

I make jambalaya in a strange way… according to tradition. Rather than cooking the rice WITH the sauce, I cook them separately so that the rice comes out correctly each time. I found that when I did it the traditional way (cooking the rice in the sauce for an hour or so), the rice either came out underdone or mushy. If you choose to make it the traditional way, double the chicken/beef stock to 1 1/2 quarts.

Fin!

Jambalaya

1 lb. smoked sausage or andouille, sliced and browned
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut from bone, diced and browned
1/2 cup + 2 Tbps. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 toes garlic, diced
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 quart chicken or beef stock
1 small can of tomato paste

1 tablespoon creole seasoning (use more if you like)
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce

6 cups rice, cooked

Brown the sausage and chicken in half the olive oil in a large saucepan or iron pot. When meat is nice and brown and you get the “gratin” on the bottom, saute the trinity. Add diced tomato (juice and all), garlic, bay leaves, thyme and heated stock. Add creole seasoning and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes at least, preferably longer like an hour or two. While sauce is simmering, in a separate small pot take 2 Tbps. olive oil and heat over medium heat. Empty can of tomato paste into hot oil and stir, stir, stir. This is called pincé-ing. Stir until paste is the color of mahogany (deep reddish-brown). Add paste to sauce. This will serve two purposes: one, it will thicken the sauce slightly and two, it will add that extra bite. When sauce is done, add cooked rice and mix thoroughly. Serves 6.

Variation: you may use pasta instead of rice. Add 1 lb. cooked pasta. Bake in a preheated 350 degree; oven for about 30 minutes in a casserole dish.

Creole Sauce

This is yet another flexible (and easy) red sauce that is most often known from the dish Shrimp Creole, this chicken creole. This tomato-based sauce is cooked relatively quickly (unlike red gravy) so that the vegetables remain distinct and somewhat crisp. Creole sauce is Spanish in origin and was probably carried to Louisiana by the Los Isleños (from whom I was spawned). The folks in New Orleans prefer the Creole Tomato for this dish as it has the richest tomato taste of any variety grown in the US (no lie!), but any tomato used for sauce will do (if using plum or Roma tomatoes, use 12 instead of 6).

Chicken Creole

3 lbs. cut-up fryer chicken
2 or 3 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons dark roux (peanut oil and flour, see below for recipe)

2 Spanish or yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
4 stalk celery, diced
6 large tomatoes, skinned and seeded and roughly chopped 
 (or substitute 1-28 oz. can diced tomato)
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
3 (Turkish) bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
hot sauce to taste

Roux: You may be able find jarred roux at some grocery stores, if you don’t have the patience to make your own, this is what you want to get. Roux can be made in large batches and refrigerated for several months. Start with ¼ cup peanut oil and heat over medium heat. Add ¼ cup flour and turn heat down to low. Stir constantly until it turns a color somewhere between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, this may take upwards of 25-30 minutes. If black dots appear, it is ruined and you will need to start over.

In a small saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat and fry tomato paste. Turn heat to low and stir paste until it turns mahogany and takes on a chunky consistency. Set aside.

Dredge chicken pieces in a little flour and brown in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Remove chicken and add (to the same pot) roux and sautée the trinity (onion, peppers, celery) until wilted. Add tomatoes and garlic, cook for 2 minutes or so.

Add all remaining ingredients to sauce mixture including browned chicken. Simmer covered on low for 2 hours. Taste sauce for seasoning after an hour and adjust as necessary. The sauce should be about the same consistency as gumbo when done.

Serve over hot rice.

Note: many people make Creole sauce and add seafood (shrimp, crab) instead of or along with chicken. Add seafood when the sauce is about 5 minutes from being done.

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