Cilantro Garlic Sauce

Freshly-washed-cilantro-without-stems-and-chopped-is-best-for-cilantro-garlic-sauce

Pollo Tropical got me addicted to cilantro garlic sauce. This place is a Hispanic fast food mecca in South Florida- easy take-out like the home cooking your abuela made. Chicken, pork, maduros, tostones, white rice, sopa de pollo, yuca frita (and have we mentioned the cilantro garlic sauce!?!) are all authentic and Cuban. My mom is a power business woman so when I was growing up she would often get us Pollo Tropical on the way home from guitar lessons, swim practice, or soccer games. I grew up eating this stuff and crave it; my love for Pollo Tropical is close to my passion for Publix Subs.

Fresh-garlic-for-cilantro-garlic-sauceFresh-ingredients-for-a-simple-recipe-pollo-tropical-cilantro-garlic-sauceMash-the-garlic-and-olive-oil-together-for-the-cilantro-garlic-sauce

I made cilantro garlic sauce and yuca frita for a post I did over a year ago. This single post has been by far my post popular post and drives the most traffic to this site. The fanaticism behind Pollo Tropical’s cilantro garlic sauce is no joke people. So I decided to test out the very best variations to make sure my recipe was just right. Based on my research, I have to modify my previous recipe. I tested the sauce with mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream, and I also did variations with two, three, and four garlic cloves to test the impact on flavor. As I tried out different recipes I also realized the freshness of the garlic impacted the flavor. Older garlic can tend to have a sharper and spicier flavor than fresh cloves- I prefer the fresh and lighter taste.

Cilantro-Garlic-Sauce-is-blended-and-ready-to-go

After trying to make the cilantro garlic sauce with mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and sour cream I decided I like sour cream the best, but hey you do you and make it according to your palate. Greek yogurt is the thickest of the three and the mayonnaise has that distinct underlying egg flavor. Cilantro garlic sauce is a great condiment for tostones, chips, tacos, yuca frita, burritos, and even crudites.

fresh-garlic-bulb-for-cilantro-garlic-saucefresh-garlic-tastes-best-in-cilantro-garlic-sauceCilantro-garlic-sauce-just-like-pollo-tropical

 Cilantro Garlic Sauce

  • 12 oz sour cream (or Greek yogurt or mayonnaise in any combination)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Remove the stems from the cilantro and wash it well in cold water. Cilantro can have gritty sand on the leaves so make sure to rinse well. Dry the cilantro using a salad spinner or I usually roll it up in several paper towel sheets and place it in the refrigerator while I prep everything else. Muddle the garlic and olive oil together with a mortar and pestle. Although you will be using a food processor, I think this step really infuses the garlic and oil together helping to smooth the taste of the garlic in the sauce.

Muddle-the-garlic-and-olive-oil-into-a-fragrant-paste-for-the-cilantro-garlic-sauceCilantro-garlic-sauce-ingredientsBlend-the-cilantro-garlic-sauce-in-the-food-processor-until-smoot

Mix the lime, salt, and cayenne into the garlic oil and then pour into the food processor with the chopped cilantro and sour cream. Pulse the cilantro garlic sauce until it is smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce to determine if it needs more citrus or salt. I have found that it can become very salty very quickly so err on the side of caution. Serve the cilantro garlic sauce with yuca frita, French fries, tostones, fajitas, chips, mariquitas, or with tacos, on bowls… at this point the possibilities are endless.

Share this: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page

Pastelitos de Carne

pastelitos-de-carne

In a city where bagels and rugelach are ubiquitous, I find myself craving real Cuban goodness- pastelitos de carne. Pastelitos are great at any time of day, kind of like ice cream, but they’re usually enjoyed for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or at any family party. I dream of days when I could walk into a bakery and stand before an array of golden pastelitos- de carne, de queso, de guayaba, guayaba con queso. The warm scent of homemade pastelitos de carne baking transports me to ‘la ventana’ or cafeteria windows, but I’m sipping my cortaditos at home in NYC instead of at Versailles nowadays.

Press-down-dough-for-pastelitos-de-carnePrep-station-for-pastelitos-de-carneDeliciously-golden-pastelitos-de-carnePerfect-pastelitos-de-carne

Pastelitos de carne are crazy easy to make- that is if you don’t have to stop every two seconds to take a picture! I made my mom’s classic Cuban picadillo for the pastelitos de carne, and I had enough picadillo left over for dinner that night. Making pastelitos de carne (or just pastelitos in general) is especially easier if you purchase pre-made puff pastry. While the idea of making puff pastry from scratch is warm and fuzzy and makes me feel legit, it’s just not realistic in my tiny NYC kitchen. These kitchens are small-I think the technical term is itty bitty. Kitchen size aside, these pastelitos de carne were worth every bit of effort, and I can’t wait to make pastelitos de queso soon.

Baked-Pastelitos-de-Carne-are-ready-to-enjoy

Pastelitos de Carne

  • Cuban Picadillo (I used around a cup and a half or so)
  • Puff Pastry
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Prepare the picadillo according to the recipe link here. I let my picadillo get to room temperature before making the pastelitos because the hot meat can melt the cold puff pastry too quickly before it gets into the oven. While the picadillo is cooling you can begin to make your puff pastry from scratch if you are choosing to do so.  I have used this recipe and this recipe too and I liked them both. I chose to buy pre-made puff pastry this time from Trader Joe’s so I wait until the picadillo is slightly warm before starting. Puff pastry is in the freezer section and you will need to let it defrost overnight in your refrigerator.

roll-out-the-puff-pastry-for-your-homemade-pastelitosCut-pastry-rounds-for-the-pastelitos-de-carnePuff-pastry-circles-for-pastelitos-de-carneBrush-dough-rounds-with-the-egg-wash-for-the-cuban-pastelitos-de-carne

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet tray with wax paper or on other non-stick material to have ready for later. Lightly beat the egg with one tsp water and set aside. Dust a clean surface with flour before rolling out the puff pastry a bit. It is already quite thin, but I rolled it out a bit more. Using a round cookie cutter cut out as many pastry circles as you can. Re-roll and cut more until you are out of dough. I kept on adding pinches of flour to prevent the pastry dough from sticking. Dust off excess flour and begin to prep for the pastetlitos. My recipe made around 15 pastelitos de carne so 7-8 rounds per sheet of puff pastry, but maybe this is because I am not an expert dough roller? Who knows?- my argument is quality not quantity.

Pastelitos-de-Carne-are-perfect-Cuban-snacks

Place the pastry dough rounds down and brush with the egg wash. Add a spoonful of picadillo and press the pastry dough round on top making sure to firmly press the edges and create a seal. Repeat for all of the dough rounds until you run out. Place the pastelitos de carne on the lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I baked mine for only 20 minutes and they were a perfect golden brown. While the pastelitos are baking put the sugar and water in a cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove it and stir the simple syrup and microwave for 30 more seconds. Allow it to cool and you will have a small batch of simple syrup for brushing the pastries. This step is optional, but it adds a wonderful sweetness to the picadillo stuffed pastelitos de carne. Brush the pastelitos with the simple syrup the second they come out of the oven. I suggest waiting a little bit before digging in as these pastelitos de carne will be piping hot! Buen provecho!

Share this: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page

Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin-Pie-Flan-is-picture-perfect-and-a-great-make-ahead-dessert-for-Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving or even a fall dinner party can be stressful. Hosting triggers my Virgo perfectionist mode and corresponding anxiety so I either sip too much wine or worry too much. I like to prepare as many things as possible in advance so everything the day-of is smooth sailing. Thankfully the last thing you need to worry about is making Thanksgiving dessert because pumpkin flan (or pumpkin crème caramel) can be made a day or two day in advance.

Pumpkin-puree-and-pumpkin-pie-spice-for-the-pumpkin-flanPumpkin-Pie-Flan,-traditional-Cuban-flavors-for-Thanksgiving-on-StellarAsh

Pumpkin flan embodies all things basic and good in this world. As of October 1st I only want to eat squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and anything else that is golden and orange. Sweet or savory fall’s produce is nutty, rich, and earthy. The pumpkin and spices did not turn the flan orange, but it did impart its sweet buttery flavor accented by fragrant spices. Flan itself is an extremely versatile dessert- I have made coconut flan, Cuban coffee flan, traditional flan, and cream cheese flan.

When it dawned upon me that pumpkin flan was in the realm of possibility I nary shed a tear. I have a foolproof method for manipulating my classic Cuban flan or crème caramel recipe. Where the classic recipe calls for a half cup of milk, I replace this ingredient with a half cup of the flavor I am adding to the flan like a half cup brewed Cuban coffee or a half cup canned shredded coconut. Whether pumpkin flavored or not, flan is a classic dessert worthy to have in your arsenal.

Pumpkin-Pie-Flan-is-easy-to-make-and-tastes-amazing

Pumpkin Flan

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch salt

Allow the eggs to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the caramelized sugar coating for the pumpkin flan first since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.

This is the hardest part of making the pumpkin flan, just don’t psych yourself out. Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera. I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the pumpkin flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.

Caramelized-sugar-is-very-hot-but-you-need-to-swish-it-all-around-the-flanera-for-the-Pumpkin-Pie-FlanCaramelized-sugar-goes-all-around-the-flanera-for-the-Pumpkin-Pie-Flan

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.

Caramelized-sugar-for-the-Pumpkin-Flanhorizontal-kitchenaid

Preheat the oven to 350. Before I got a KitchenAid I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera through a strainer or sieve. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.

Cut-into-the-perfect-pumpkin-pie-flan Pumpkin-Pie-Flan-on-StellarAsh-Blog

Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. Sometimes I feel this step out and add 15 minutes or so to be sure the center is firm. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.

Remember as the pumpkin flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become firmer. Allow the pumpkin flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the pumpkin flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!

Pumpkin-Pie-Flan-is-an-easy-Thanksgiving-dessert

Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the pumpkin flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful pumpkin flan you have just made, slice, and enjoy!

*For a pumpkin cheesecake variety use only 4 eggs and add a ½ cup softened cream cheese.

Share this: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page