Cuban Chicken Soup with Plantain Dumplings

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Recipe adapted from the cookbook
Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen
by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy
2016

The winter doldrums continue and there is nothing more perfect than a comforting bowl of chicken soup to warm your soul.

But wait!

This is not your grandmother’s chicken soup and dumpling recipe, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Cuban grandmother. With its long simmering time and the addition of calabaza, a tiny orange-and-white squash, this is a wonderful way to warm up on a chilly day. The additional of Bijol, a traditional Cuban blend of ground achiote, cumin and corn flour, infuses the soup with a pleasant yellow color, but if you don’t have a Latin specialty market in the neighborhood, a pinch of turmeric makes a good substitute. The plantain dumplings are a lovely combination of sweet and savory, but they do not hold well. If you have leftover soup, the dumplings will completely disintegrate overnight. If you are not planning to eat all the soup in one dinner serving, add only enough dumplings to suit your hunger pangs, then freeze the soup without dumplings and whip them up whenever you are ready to dive into the leftovers.

And like every recipe, this soup has many variations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In Ecuador it is known as Caldo de Bolas and in Columbia, it is called  Sopa de Pollo y Platano Verde. Where as in Puerto Rico it takes on the name  Sopa De Pollo con Mofongo which is considered the Puerto Rican version of Matzah Ball Soup. Imagine that!

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
For the Soup:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups calabaza squash, cut into 1-inch dice
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Bijol (optional)*
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the plantain dumplings:
2 ripe plantains, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup rice flour

Directions:
In a large pot over high heat, combine the chicken, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool slightly. Using 2 fork, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and add the squash, tomatoes, cumin cinnamon and Bijol. Simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings: Place the plantains in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 teaspoons water and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave until very soft, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the plantains in a fry pan with 1/3 cup  water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat until the plantains are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. NOTE: Do not use any more water than this or  the plantain’s sweetness will leach out into the water. Sprinkle the plantains with the salt and pepper and mash them with a fork until smooth. Add  egg, cornmeal and rice flour to the plantain mixture until a combined. Roll the mashed plantain into smooth balls about 1 inch in diameter.

Drop the plantain dumplings into the soup and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

*Cook’s Notes:
Six to seven bone-in chicken thighs can be substituted for the chicken breast if you like more flavor to the soup.

If Bijol or tumeric are not readily available, Goya Sazon Culantro y Achiote® seasoning is available in most major supermarkets and grocery stores. With its combination of garlic, cumin, coriander seed, it can be the perfect seasoning for this soup, also giving a vibrant red orange color that is visually appealing.

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Spinach Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola

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Pears with gorgonzola is  just one of those classic combinations. Put them in salad with any kind of greens. Pick what you like best, anything from a spicy arugula or watercress to a mild butter lettuce.We used fresh baby spinach.The same goes for the pears: Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou or Comice would all be great choices.

And since the ingredients in this pear salad are so delicious, a champagne vinaigrette with a hint of lemon juice and Dijon mustard worked best for this salad. A heavy dressing would mask the delicate flavors.  A sprinkling of cheese, walnuts and  pomegranate arils also adds flavors and makes for  delicious lighter first course to start off a meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoons minced shallot
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese*
1 medium Bosc pear, cored and thinly sliced*
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (arils), for garnish
1/2 toasted walnuts, roughly chopped, for garnish

Champagne Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
For the Salad:
In a large bowl, add shallot,  salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, whisking constantly while drizzling the oil slowly. Add the spinach and toss with tongs until the leaves are well coated.

For Champagne Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl or glass jar, add all the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil  and whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, evenly divide spinach greens between 4 salad plates. Top each plate with cheese and garnish with pear slices, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts and serve with a drizzle of champagne vinaigrette.

*Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute Blue cheese or Roquefort cheese for the Gorgonzola.
Any variety of apple can also be used as a substitute for the pears.

 All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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Pan Fried Quail with Bacon and Country Ham

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Quail are elegant and delightful little game birds that you never have to worry about being tough if you able to buy them fresh. And it is getting easier to find them in supermarkets and local butcher shops these days, although many are sold frozen. For the most part, quail are good to make for guests because they can “hold” in a pan for 15 to 20 minutes without drying out.

For this dish, white grape juice is used, which adds a tart flavor to the sauce and as an acid, it easily cuts through the fat of the ham and the bacon.

It is the perfect dish to serve with brunch with a side of grits.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leave
8 quail, spatchcocked
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 pound Virginia ham, cut into 1/4-inch julienne
4 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup white grape juice*
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Combine salt, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the birds with seasonings.

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until it is foaming, barely browning. Add the quail skin side down. Sprinkle with ham and cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until skin is golden brown. Turn the birds over and continue to cook until the juices run clear, another 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and let the quail rest, covered for about 10 minutes.Arrange the quail on a serving platter and sprinkle with ham and bacon.

Pour the fat from the skillet, reserving two tablespoons. Add the grape juice and bring to the skillet to a boil. Cook for about 1 minute, scraping the brown bits from the bottom, to deglaze the skillet. Pour the sauce over the quail and garnish with  parsley if desired and serve.

Cook’s Note:
This dish calls for country ham which is salt cured, so be be VERY cautious with any additional that you add to the dish, while cooking.

*White cranberry juice, white wine or water are suitable substituted for  the white grape juice in this recipe.

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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