Kevin is not thrilled about being awake today.
Kevin is not thrilled about being awake today.
Since the sudden absence O.D. Churroman last September, I have been without a source for Cuban churros.
Luckily, I had plans to go to Miami and friends who could appreciate how difficult life could be in the Churro Desert that is commonly referred to as Southern California. Being true friends, they picked me up from the airport and immediately took me to Morro Castle in Hialeah.
While they made mention that it was “too hot for churros”, they understood that a bit of Miami heat was not going to keep me from getting my fix.
They DID, however, insist that I eat something before having churros.
The “something” I chose was a “frita cubana” because I’d never had one. It’s kind of like a hamburger, but the meat is mixed with chorizo and then there is grilled onions and little french fries. Yes, it was rad.
After a couple of fritas (washed down with an Ironbeer, of course), it was time for the churros and hot chocolate.
Thiiiiiiick hot chocolate.
Gloriously fresh and hot churros.
There really is not much more a girl can ask for in life.
It was the best beginning to any trip.
Of course, there was a surprise
stalker visitor, who ended up charming his way into the arms of the waitress, but I couldn’t have cared less what he did. I was happy dunking and munching on my churros (“choo-rrrohs” not “chir-ohs“).
I am loathe to admit this, but I finally understand the “it’s too hot for churros” phenomena. Although, I think the statement SHOULD be: “It’s too hot for churros con chocolate” because the real issue is the hot chocolate, not the churros.
(Yes, of course I shared. Cuban Churros are not really meant to be enjoyed alone. They sell them in counts of 15 and 20. The big, thick, stuffed ones are a different story. I haven’t actually tried one of THOSE … yet.)
Only in Miami*…
*It has recently come to my attention that there is a Venezuelan place in Santa Monica proclaiming to have Cuban churros, but I would expect you to understand why I might be a bit leery. (Of course, since it is the only place I’ve heard of anywhere close to me, I will have to try it and see how well they compare to Morro Castle in Hialeah and the Churro Mania Food Truck.)
I was out to lunch with my sister, mami, and mami’s in-laws. Since mom didn’t have cash, she asked me to have the waiter give us a separate check.
Me: Can you give us a separate check?
Him: Only because you’re so beautiful.
Me (to myself): I don’t care about your reasons so long as you’re making it happen.
Me (to him): Thank you!
Him (to MY MOTHER): Suegra, I just wanted to introduce myself. I actually thought you were her sister.
(For those non-Spanish speakers, “Suegra” means Mother-In-Law.)
And then he brought me Kevin for dessert…
Way back at the beginning of December, Living Social had a deal for a cooking class at The Wine Artist.
I saw it. Thought about it. Decided it would be more fun with a friend. Realized I couldn’t come up with someone I would want to cook with because that has always been such a special thing for me. I cooked for Kaima. I cooked with O.D. Churroman. I cooked alone. That was it.
So I got on with my day.
Two hours later, my salsa dancing friend (Donna Martinez – whose has one of those names that you have to say her full name… and in quite the nasal tone) sent me an email asking if I would be interested in taking a cooking class with her because Living Social had a great deal. Since I already knew I had wanted to do it, I decided to just go for it. We bought it, booked it for January, and spent the next few weeks talking about how excited we were.
On the day of our class, Donna Martinez updated her Facebook status talking about how excited she was for her cooking class and proceeded to enjoy the ensuing commentary of how amazing she was and how she MUST cook for everyone. It seemed, Donna Martinez forgot to mention that I would be joining her. Of course, that worked to my advantage because then I would not have anyone demanding I cook for them, especially since none of them know that I only cook for special people.
Because Donna’s heritage is Mexican and and I’m Cuban, we decided to take the “Taste of Spain” class where we would learn to make:
Spinach & Cheese Empanadas
The Wine Artist is a winery in Lake Forest. (Who knew that Lake Forest had one?) It is a charming little place where they make and bottle their own wine. They even have Wine Bottling Events where you can design your own label, pick your own wine, cork it, slap the label on, and take it home.
It is SO. COOL.
Plus, they have all kinds of cooking classes and there is wine with every class. Yes, you read that correctly. Wine with every class.
I am not the biggest wine drinker, but some of these wines were DELICIOUS!! And I am in love with the idea of creating my own labels.
The first thing the chef/teacher/owner (MJ Hong) did was ask “Red or White?” and pour us all a glass. She explained that she likes to keep the classes between 8-10 people so that the intimate and dinner party feeling isn’t lost. Besides, if you have as much fun as we did with total strangers, how much more fun could be had with a handful of your closest friends?
Everyone got a station and a job. Not that we were assigned jobs it went more like:
“I’ll chop the bell peppers!”
“I’ll cut the fruit**!”
“I’ll handle the cucumber***!” (yes, of course that was Donna)
Once the sangria was …
Once the fruit was chopped and in a pitcher soaking up the wine and other alcohols and the gazpacho was chilling, it was time for the empanadas.
MJ explained that a ruler and a pie cutter were the easiest way to cut the dough into a good size for empanadas. She suggested we do triangles because it was easier and didn’t waste any dough, but that if we were going to make more than one kind of empanada (e.g. spinach and cheese, meat, mushrooms) that having one kind as a triangle and another as a half moon would be an easy way to distiguish the two.
Now that the empanadas were baking, we set down to “work” on the paella****.
And while our paella was cooking, we enjoyed our fresh-out-of-the-oven spinach & cheese empanadas and our gazpacho.
Did you know gazpacho can be served with tortilla chips?
I didn’t, but Kevin did.
Just about the easiest thing ever to make.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, you DO NOT need a paella pan.
Does it make it easier? Maybe a little.
Does it look cooler? Sure.
You can make it in a frying pan, just remember that wider is better than deeper. 😉
You want a shallow-ish pan otherwise your rice won’t cook all the way through.
However, if you feel like you really want the Paella Pan in order to score “Cool Points” then don’t worry about spending hundreds of dollars on one. You can find a great pan at Target.com for around $30. OR, if you’re already going to special order the Spanish Chorizo, you could order the exact size paella pan you want from LaTienda.com.
So, how do you make paella?
Heat the oil in the pan.
Brown the chicken.
Add the chorizo and onions. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the garlic, bell peppers, annd tomatoes. Stir fry for a few more minutes.
Heat the chicken broth in a sauce pan and, once heated, add the saffron. (This way, the saffron will color everything a bit more evenly.)
Stir the rice in to the paella pan and sauté for 5 more minutes.
Pour in the broth.
Add turmeric, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper to suite your taste buds.
Add the shrimp on top.
Add the mussels on top.
Make sure just a bit of broth from the paella gets into the shell so the actual mussel cooks, but it still should be sitting on top of the paella, not drowning in it – you don’t want to take too much of the broth away from the rice.
Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
(Until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.)
The bottom will burn a little. That is the best part. It does not mean you failed.
Top with parsley.
Garnish with lemon wedges.
*My fascination with paella first occured when I saw a Pinky and the Brain episode where Brain says, “Pinky, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
And Pinky replies, “I think so, Brain, but how are we going to get the Spice Girls into the paella?”
**Fruit for the sangria.
***Cucumber for the gazpacho.
****Up until recently, no one could get me to eat anything that came out of the ocean. Up until the night we made paella, I had never had mussel before. Luckily, I’m not allergic. Oh, and I eat seafood now. 🙂
I didn’t really want to go to Palm Springs.
Ok, yes I did… sort of.
I thought it would be fun. Until I had this long week that kept getting longer and then all I wanted was to stay home, alone.
And I didn’t think it would happen.
I had heard my abuela would be home. Which is fine. She just watches the ball drop and then goes to bed, but I was a little embarrassed to have anyone witness me doing all of my silly traditions.
So, because I wasn’t entirely sure how my New Year’s Eve 2011 was going to go, I decided to begin celebrating early. So I went to dinner with a buddy of mine who had also had a long and hard week. We went out for Cuban food because he’s nice and knows how much I like it (and because EVERYONE loves Cuban food – it’s delicious). And then we went dancing. Well… we went to a local place that plays salsa and bachata music, but we didn’t dance much because it was stupid crowded and neither one of us really felt like dancing anyway. (However, I DID run into my timbales teacher and we danced a salsa – he is what I like to call a “stop motion dancer” and I had a tough time following him, especially since he was trying to dance “on 2,” and worried that he was judging me and thinking, “Damn, esta Cubana doesn’t have any rhythm so I have my work cut out for me – and later we danced a cha cha. Since I knew he was an “on 2” dancer I knew he would be fun for a cha cha and I had no other options because I am picky about who I cha cha with and my favorite person wasn’t there and the 2 other people I tolerate were also not there.)
Anyway, I left early, went home, and watched TV until I fell asleep.
Today I woke up with a splitting headache. It was practically a repeat of Halloween and I was less than thrilled. So I spent most of the day in bed which was what I had planned on doing anyway, but now it was because my head hurt.
Around 6pm I decided that I needed to take a shower and at least attempt to feel human again. My Aunt Alina (I call her “Aunta”) was on abuela patrol, but abuela was demanding to stay home until midnight and watch the ball drop. So we sat and chatted and I decided it was time for some evening Taka Taka. By the time I was finished making the café, I was feeling better and abuela had decided she was tired and ready to go.
As I set the red tacita on the table for abuela, I noticed there was a giant rose in a vase from the Gemini rose bush I bought for her years ago.
And the chicken salad (that is cute, but looks unedible) she makes every year had a red flower on it instead of her usual clock almost at midnight.
And this year the grapes were red.
And the little bottle of champagne I had bought for myself was called “Rose Regale.”
And she referred to Aunta as her “Red Rose.” (I had never heard that before.)
I don’t believe in coincidence.
And I have no idea what all this rose stuff means, but it makes me hopeful for 2012. I am sure it means SOMETHING. And I get to spend the whole year finding out what!
And since every year I have a theme song, I have chosen THIS as my theme song for 2012. (or maybe it chose me?)
Because I couldn’t wait for my “Vie en Rose” to start, I celebrated “On Cuban Time” at 9pm.
I dressed up.
I wore the orange with hot pink lace white polka-dotted thong instead of yellow or red.
I ate grapes.
I toasted with my rose champagne and said “El año que viene, estamos en Cuba.”
I ran outside with a bag over my shoulder and all the way to my mailbox to put money inside (in 5″ sparky heels, no less).
I didn’t have a bucket of dirty water handy because I didn’t mop the floors so instead I took a couple of used coffee cups from this morning, filled them with water, and dumped that water out.
I’m leaving the bag outside and the money in the mailbox until morning.
I came back inside, changed into yoga pants, and played my timbales for an hour.
I am successfully Kikitiando my way through another New Year’s Eve.
Plus, look who made a guest appearance tonight?
Kevin has had fans from Day 1, but he now has a fan who takes things to a new level.
For your consideration… Kevin as The Grinch.
(submitted by a fan)