Cubano Sandwich

Cubano Sandwich

Cubano Sandwich

This sandwich was inspired by the movie "Chef", which Barry and I went to see in 2014.  In the movie the chef walks out on his uninspiring job as an executive chef, and eventually ends up in Miami with a food truck specializing in Cubanos, the sandwich in Miami.  Well, that got my juices flowing, and I starting looking for an authentic recipe for the pork roast portion, and once I did, Cubanos went on the menu at the cafe.  A French roll is spread with butter, then yellow mustard then sliced dill pickle, a thin slice of ham, Swiss cheese, and the pulled pork roast are layered on, then pressed on a plancha (at the cafe or at home, a panini grill) until it's crisp outside and hot and cheesy inside.  They were a huge hit, and I still crave one from time to time.  I wanted to share this recipe, and though it makes a lot of pork, it can be frozen for future Cubanos.  Now, about that food truck................

For the pork roast:

6 pound pork shoulder roast

20 cloves of garlic

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (this is hard to find in the Midwest, so I use 3/4 cup orange juice, and 6 Tablespoons each lemon & lime juice)

1 cup finely-minced onion

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 cups olive oil (not extra-virgin)

Puree the garlic salt, and pepper in a food processor, (or in a mortar and pestle if you have one).  Add the oregano, onion and juice and mix thoroughly.

Heat the oil over low heat in a 2-quart saucepan until hot (not deep-fry hot, around 220-degrees.)  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Carefully add the garlic mixture to the hot oil and whisk in.  Let cool.

Pierce the pork roast as many times as you can all over with a meat fork.  Pour all but 3/4 cup (reserve for basting) of the cooled marinade over the pork, cover and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees.  Place the roast, fat side up, in an open roasting pan.  (I insert a meat thermometer with a cable that I can read without opening the door into the pork now and set it for 195-degrees, at which time it beeps.)  Place the roasting pan in the oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 225-degrees.  Spoon some of the reserved marinade over the roast once in a while to keep the top moist.  Cook until the internal temperature is 195-degrees, several hours.  Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes before pulling or shredding the meat.

Make the sandwiches:

(Quantity for each ingredient is per sandwich, you can adjust to suit your taste!)

French roll, split

Butter, softened

Yellow Mustard

2-3 ounces shredded pork roast

2 thin slices deli-style ham

2 slices (2 ounces) Swiss cheese, halved to fit the bun

1 Dill pickle spear, cut into 2-3 thin slices

Butter the inside of the roll on both sides.  Spread with yellow mustard.  Layer on 1/2 the cheese, the pickles, pork roast, ham, and remaining cheese.  Close the sandwich and heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until warmed a bit.  Butter the outside of the roll and place on a smooth panini grill, close, and grill until heated through and the cheese is melted. (Alternately, grill in a cast-iron skillet with another heavy skillet on top.  Brown well, turn, then grill other side until toasted and the cheese is melting.)  Let stand for a couple of minutes, then cut in two on the bias and serve.

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Country Split-Pea Soup with Ham & Potatoes

Country Split Pea Soup with Ham & Potatoes

Country Split Pea Soup with Ham & Potatoes

Having never been a fan of spit pea soup, I was surprised at how many requests we got for it at the cafe.  To accommodate, I bought green split pea soup from a vendor, but quickly decided that soup just wouldn't do; it was a green, gelatinous mess that customers ordered, but I abhorred.  The search for something better began, and this soup is the result.  The yellow split peas have true "pea" flavor, and the addition of lots of aromatics and carrots give it a mellow yet robust flavor and a surprising color.  This soup is pureed, silky and smooth, and the addition of chunks of potato and briny ham are just what it needed to become a standout on the menu.  This version was very popular, and it made a split pea soup fan out of me!

3 Tablespoons butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, sliced

8 large carrots, peeled and sliced

3 minced cloves of garlic

1 pound yellow split peas

12 cups chicken stock

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

3 large potatoes, cooked in their jackets, cooled, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I bake them in the microwave until just tender.)

8 ounces diced, cooked ham

Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic.  Saute for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until everything starts to soften and be aromatic.  Add the split peas and chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a good simmer, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are soft and tender.

Remove from the heat.  Add the sherry and hot sauce.  Puree in the pot with an immersion blender until velvety and smooth.  (Alternately, puree the soup in a blender in batches, filling only 1/2 way.  Return to soup pot.)   Return to the heat, and stir in the diced potatoes and ham and heat through. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.


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Crispy Country Fried Chicken

Crispy Country Fried Chicken

Crispy Country Fried Chicken

One of the best food memories I have of growing up on a farm is watching my mother prepare chickens that we raised and frying them in a cast iron skillet (in lard, of course).  That succulent chicken was a favorite then, and is still.  Over the years I've tried various methods for making the best fried chicken, and this is my favorite. A soak in brine overnight does amazing things, the buttermilk flavors and acts as "glue" for the breading, and I recently discovered from a Southern cook how to get a more substantial "crust" on my chicken, something I had tried to do for years. This fried chicken recipe will make you a rock star with your family and friends!  Serves 4

2 quarts cold water

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup hot sauce (I like Frank's)

3 pounds chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, drumsticks)

1 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups self-rising flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 cup buttermilk

4 cups vegetable or peanut oil

Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a 6-qt. plastic container with lid.  Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Add the hot sauce.  Add the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate 3-8 hours, or overnight.

One hour before cooking the chicken, remove it from the brine and place in a gallon freezer bag with zip-top.  Combine the buttermilk, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne in a glass measuring cup and pour over the chicken.  Press out the air and seal the top.  Turn the bag and massage the chicken to coat with the buttermilk mixture.  Allow to set on the counter for one hour.

Whisk together the flour, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne. until well-combined.  Pour the buttermilk over the mixture and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.  (Small clumps will form that add texture to the finished chicken-who knew!?)

Heat the oven to 400-degrees.  Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.  Place about 3/4-inch of oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is 375-degrees (use a thermometer).

Carefully place half of the chicken pieces, skin side down into the oil.  Fry until deep golden brown on both sides, about 6-7 minutes.  Adjust the burner to keep the temperature of the oil between 350-375 degrees.  Transfer the chicken to the rack in the pan, then fry the remaining chicken, and add that to the rack.

Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until an instant-read thermometer registers 165-degrees, 12-18 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve.

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Goat Cheese & Tomato Tart

Goat Cheese & Tomato Tart

Goat Cheese & Tomato Tart

Goat Cheese & Purple Onion Tart.JPG
This is hands down my favorite summer appetizer.  A crisp pastry shell holds creamy goat cheese flecked with chives, and is topped with sweet purple onions, dead-ripe tomatoes, and briny Kalamata olives.  If you don't like really strong goat cheese, look for a mild variety, or replace part of the goat cheese with cream cheese to mellow it out.  I serve this, some nuts, cured meats, and wine for a fabulous start to a lovely summer's evening with friends.

8-inch tart shell, baked and cooled using 1/3 Basic Pie Crust recipe or purchased pie dough

12 ounces goat cheese

2 Tablespoons minced chives

2 medium, ripe tomatoes sliced into thin rounds and laid out on paper towels (Use heirloom tomatoes if available)

8 whole Kalamata olives

Purple Caramelized Onions

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 Tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Fresh Herbs for garnish, optional

Prepare the caramelized onions:  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and sprinkle with the salt.  Saute the onions until soft but not browned at all, about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass bowl.  Refrigerate until cooled.  Onions will turn purple as they cool.

Assemble the tart:

Place the goat cheese in a glass bowl and warm in the microwave just until soft.  Add the chives and combine well.  Spread evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.  Arrange the tomatoes by overlapping around the outside edge of the tart.  Place clumps of the onions around the edge and in the center of the tart.  Place Kalamata olives in the center atop the onions.  Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.

Serve immediately or it may be held up to a day.   If preparing in advance, warm it in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes before serving.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Maple-Blueberry Sauce

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Maple-Blueberry Sauce

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Maple-Blueberry Sauce

I made these pancakes on the weekends many years ago, but had pretty much forgotten about them until my daughter-in-law and granddaughter enjoyed them for brunch at a restaurant and texted me a picture of the.  Well, it didn't take long for me to dig up my old recipe and start experimenting with blueberries and maple syrup to perfect this recipe!  The pancakes are light and fluffy and a little lemony, which is complemented beautifully by the sauce of blueberries and maple syrup with a hint of lemon.  I'm so glad they reminded me of these.....enjoy!  Makes 16 4-inch pancakes.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons worth, depending on size)

1 cup milk

1 cup low-fat (or regular) ricotta cheese

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons melted butter

Preheat a griddle to medium-high heat, or a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, then use your fingers to rub the mixture together, distributing the lemon zest evenly.  Make a "well" (a hollow in the center of the ingredients for the wet ingredients to be poured into) in the ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, cheese, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Whisk in the lemon juice and melted butter.  (The mixture may look curdled, but that's okay.)  Immediately pour the wet ingredients into the "well" in the large bowl and whisk to combine (there may be a few lumps). 

Spray the griddle or skillet with non-stick spray or brush with melted butter.  Pour a generous 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake onto the preheated surface. (Adjust the heat to one that browns and cooks without over-browning or under-cooking, as skillets and griddles vary widely-you will have to experiment on the first batch, most likely.)  Cook until bubbles appear all over the surface of the pancakes and the bottom is a golden brown.  Turn, and cook until golden and the top springs back when lightly pressed.  Transfer to a warm platter, cover with a damp towel, and hold in a warm oven until all are cooked.  Serve with Maple-Blueberry Sauce, recipe follows.

Maple-Blueberry Sauce (Makes about 3 cups)

4 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries

1 cup maple syrup

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 Tablespoon water

In a medium saucepan combine the blueberries and maple syrup.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the blueberries burst.  Stir in the lemon juice.

Place the cornstarch in a measuring cup or ramekin and stir in the water until smooth.  Bring the blueberry mixture back up to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch.  Cook for a minute or two, until the sauce has thickened and the sauce is no longer cloudy.

Serve over Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes, or any pancakes.

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Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Very Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Some meals just aren't complete without a warm, tender, flaky biscuit on the side.  This recipe is my absolute favorite, and is no-fail.  It all starts in the food processor, then the resulting mixture gets transferred to a bowl to receive the buttermilk;  you can make these in a flash!  Makes 8 large biscuits.  Inspired by a recipe from America's Test Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) vegetable shortening or lard, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse just to combine.  Add the butter and shortening and pulse just until the mixture resembles a really coarse meal.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in the buttermilk just until combined.

On a lightly-floured board, knead the dough 8-10 times.  Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle that is 3/4-inch thick.  Cut with a 3-inch floured biscuit cutter and place on the prepared pan.  Gather up the remaining dough and pat into a 3/4-inch thick circle and cut out remaining biscuits.

Bake until the biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 400-degrees.  Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.  Serve immediately, or transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before storing in a zipper-lock bag.)

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Watermelon, Jicama, & Cucumber Salad on Arugula with Honey-Lime Dressing

Watermelon, JIcama, & Cucumber Salad on Arugula with Honey-Lime Dressing

Watermelon, JIcama, & Cucumber Salad on Arugula with Honey-Lime Dressing

My sister brought a yummy watermelon and feta salad to a family gathering, which inspired me to create this one.  I was after Latin flavors, and this combination of ingredients definitely accomplishes that.  This is a refreshing, juicy side salad for a hot summer day; all that's needed to make it a meal is a piece of grilled chicken and Corn on the Cob with Compound Butter.  Serves 6 (recipe can be halved)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Large pinch each of cumin, ground chipotle powder, and salt
3 ounces baby arugula, washed and dry
5 cups 3/4-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
2 cups 3/4-inch cubes of peeled jicama
2 cups 3/4-inch cubes of English cucumber, seeds removed
3/4 cup very thinly-sliced scallions
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
6 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
Chia seeds
Honey-Lime Dressing

Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the vegetable oil and heat until it begins to shimmer.  Add the pepitas and, shaking the pan and tossing from time to time, "toast" the pepitas.  When the pepitas look toasty and are fragrant, remove from the heat and stir in the cumin, ground chipotle, and salt. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.

When ready to serve,  arrange the arugula around the perimeter of a large deep platter, with a bit in the center, to "frame" the salad and also provide a bit of a bed for the salad. 

Combine the watermelon, jicama, cucumber, green onions, and cilantro in a bowl and toss to combine.  Drizzle with some of the Honey-Lime Dressing and toss.  Arrange on the platter.  Sprinkle with the crumbled queso fresco, then sprinkle the pepitas over, followed by a generous sprinkling of chia seeds.  Serve additional Honey Lime Dressing on the side.

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Sauteed Sweet Corn & Zucchini

Sauteed Sweet Corn & Zucchini

Sauteed Sweet Corn & Zucchini

Corn & zucchini always seem to come on at the same time, and abundantly!  How many ears of corn, zucchini fritters, breads, cakes, and muffins can one eat in a season?!  This has become my favorite "go-to" recipe when the gardens are overflowing with zucchini and corn.  Butter and shallot give it rich flavor, the corn remains crisp, the zucchini soaks up the flavor of the other ingredients, and the chives finish it with a bit of fresh flavor.  Try this once, I know you'll be hooked!

4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed (or 1 large)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, finely minced

Freshly-cut kernels of sweet corn from 2 ears

1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater, or with the shredding disk of a food processor.  Wrap the zucchini in a non-terry dish towel or triple layer of paper towels and squeeze out the excess liquid.  Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the butter.  When the butter stops foaming, add the shallot and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes.  Add the zucchini and corn and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the chives and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Fast & Easy Fresh Fruit or Berry Tart

Fast & Easy Fresh Fruit or Berry Tart

Fast & Easy Fresh Fruit or Berry Tart

I love a fresh fruit or berry tart when the fruit is perfectly ripe and succulent.  However, "fast & easy" a fruit tart is not!  Summer is so busy, and I just don't have time for pastry cream or tart shells sometimes.  So I called on one of my favorite staples, frozen puff pastry, and strawberry jelly and cream cheese instead of pastry cream, to create a luscious fruit tart in a fraction of the time, and it reminds me of a fancy French pastry!  You can bake the crust up to a day ahead of time, then spread on the sweetened cream cheese and any combination of ripe fruit or berries a few hours before serving and refrigerate.  I'll still bake traditional fruit tarts, but this is perfect for the busy, or lazy, days of summer! Serves 6

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (about 9X9-inches)

1 egg, beaten well, for egg wash

2 teaspoons sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons strawberry jelly

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups ripe fruit or berries, cut into bite-sized pieces (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, apricots, plums, etc.)

!/4 cup strawberry jelly

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.

Line a 10 X 15-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unfold the thawed puff pastry sheet onto the baking sheet.  Brush all over with the egg wash.  Fold 1/2-inch of the pastry over along each edge of the pastry to form a rim all the way around the pastry, it will look like a frame.  Take a fork and pierce the pastry inside the frame in rows up and down the dough, very close together, so that the pastry won't puff up in the center.  Sprinkle the sugar all over, including the edges of the crust.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-22 minutes, until the pastry is a dark golden brown all over.  Remove from the oven.  If the pastry has puffed up in the center, use the back of a fork to gently press it down a bit.  Place on a cooling rack and cool for at least one hour.

While the pastry cools, melt the 2 Tablespoons of strawberry jelly and combine it with the cream cheese and vanilla, whisking until very smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Just before assembling, place the fruit in a bowl.  Melt the strawberry jelly in the microwave until liquid, about 30 seconds.  Add to the fruit and stir to coat all of the fruit well.


Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the pastry.  Spoon the fruit or berries over the cream cheese, arranging it evenly. 

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Berries will hold for several hours, but if you are using cut-up fruit, as pictured, you will want to wait to add the fruit until just before serving, as the cut fruit weeps.)

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