El Pescador (Seafood and Rice Casserole)

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Considering the absolute disaster the Paella a la Valenciana turned out to be, this dish turns around and delivers an amazing punch of flavour and flare. Cooking the rice separately (finally!) guarantees perfectly cooked rice. The combination of salted pork, ham, beef gravy, and pimientos provides a perfect foundation of flavours that plays between savoury and sour on your tongue and allows for the rest of the ingredients to just enjoy the show. The dish called for just shrimp and lobster, but you could really incorporate any type of seafood and it would taste great. Definitely a go to recipe.

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Black Bean Soup

I will eat black beans as well as black bean soup, but it certainly isn’t my favourite. This recipe didn’t change my mind exactly but it certainly did reinvent the traditional black bean soup. An incredibly simple dish that elevates itself by straining the mashed beans through a sieve to create a velvety texture. Along with the infusion of Sorrel leaves, this is a really nice soup that holds its own amidst the many excellent soups in this cookbook.

Asopao de Pollo

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This is a pretty good recipe and the flavours are there, the problem I had was trying to execute this “stovetop” in the oven. Unless you have some type of monumental stovetop pot, trying to cook 2 cups of rice and 2 whole chicken along with everything else, just isn’t an option. Where I came into a problem was that the recipe called for extra liquid that was to be boiled down before covering the rice, which I didn’t do. I probably should have used less liquid because my rice came out almost like an Asian congee. However, I would certainly cut this recipe in half and try it again, but this time completely on a stovetop.

Pump Room Chicken Hash

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The Pump Room Chicken Hash is what Chicago’s famous Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel used to serve as a midnight snack of the rich and famous. A simple enough dish to prepare, assuming you already have some “Sauce Escoffier.” What is Escoffier sauce you ask? After some hunting on the internet, I uncovered a pair of extinct sauces called Robert and Escoffier (or Diable) last produced around the late 1980s. I was able to create a facsimile based on Uncle Phaedrus’ recipe which worked for me and made sense, despite the fact that it drastically differed from the last known ingredient list of Nabisco’s sauce Diable. What was interesting is the fact that these sauces, apparently quite established, simply ceased to be. Imagine a world without Worcester sauce or Tobasco. Even more interesting is that it was named after the famous chef Auguste Escoffier who popularized the five French “Mother Sauces.” Anyway, history lesson aside, this was an excellent dish and would work well as the stuffing for a chicken pot pie, with biscuits, or any other way you please. The only alteration I made was to cut in half the amount of Madeira used so that it wasn’t quite so boozy (call it learning from experience). I don’t think I would ever make it again because building the final sauce really took several hours (and several pots) but it was worth it. Strangely, this recipe differs from another version of the Pump Room Chicken Hash released in 1980 sans Escoffier sauce but with cloves and nutmeg. Another recipe that just goes to show what a treasure trove and gateway of culinary history this book is.