Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Papas La Juan Caina

Having a live-in housekeeper has presented a new problem…well, more than one, but that's a different story. The food related issue is an interesting one and quite frankly, not something I had expected. Often, Vilma cooks something and I am around - I have a kind of in-and-out eye on what she's doing and have a sense of what will be for dinner. She is now cooking about two dinners per week, not including the occasional time she will throw together something unexpected for lunch for me or the boys.

When I don't have an eye on what she's doing we end up with tasty mystery food. Most of what she cooks has potatoes, so that part's easy, but sometimes there is a sauce or a flavor that is completely beyond me. Earlier this week I bought a bottle of canola oil. I use is sparingly for greasing cookie sheets or frying falafel on the rare occasion that happens. There seems to be about a cup of canola oil missing - clearly that canola oil is now sitting on my thighs.

I do have to say though - compared to Dominican food - Vilma's cooking is light and chocked full of veggies. I once heard Oprah say you shouldn't feel guilty about eating a piece of pizza as long as you pair it with a salad. I don't usually feel guilty about food anyway (and don't take Oprah as an authority), but if I did (on both counts), I would remember that Vilma's cup of Wesson probably accompanied several cups of fresh veggies…right?

Well, back to mystery food. So, one of our mystery dishes for about a week was repeatedly referred to as - "una crema." As in, "Puedo hacer una crema si Uds. quierren." I had no idea what that would be like - a soup, a drink., a…I'm out of ideas. Like with most things relating to Vilma I said, "Sure, we'll try anything." One of the main ingredients we needed was "queso crema." I had a feeling I would end up bringing back a box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese so I had her pick-up whatever she needed. It turns out the necessary cheese was Queso San Juan Fresco. It must be this cheese or something like it deemed comparably "rico."

Ingredients in hand, we returned home where I went off to play with the boys and returned an hour later to find dinner looking quite mysterious, but very tasty. I thought this dish was a little strange, but the flavors worked and I felt like it was a nice, light, easy dinner. Kind of like what we call around here "snack dinner." So, here's the scoop on what is now known by me as Papas la Juan Caina:


For the Sauce -

  • One pound Fresh San Juan Cheese - this is a soft, fresh, mild cheese - I am sure any kind would work - get creative.
  • One half pack Ala Cena Salsa de Ají Molida - if you're interested you can order it here.
  • Milk - I don't know how much, but enough to turn the cheese and aji into a sauce.

For the salad -

  • 4-5 medium size potatoes, peeled, boiled and then cut in slices
  • 5-6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and then cut in half
  • Nicoise olives - however many you like
  • Romaine lettuce - left in big leaves

For the onion salsa -

  • One onion halved and very thinly sliced
  • One Serrano pepper, halved, seeded and very thinly sliced length-wise
  • Ala Cena Salsa de Ají Molida, olive oil and salt to taste

To make the sauce simply put the cheese and a little milk in a saucepan, heat until melted and add the ají. Add milk as needed to make the sauce creamy - you want it to be like a thick salad dressing. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.

To serve -

Place the lettuce leaves on a plate and top with slices of potatoes. Pour on sauce. Top with hard-boiled egg, olives and onion salsa on the side.


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