I STOLE THE CHEESE DIP FROM BAHAMA BREEZE!!!!!!

HAH! That’s what they get for taking it off the menu. It is now CMvsCF’s DIP!

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When we want happy hour, we go to Bahama Breeze (yes there is one in  Atlanta! On Pleasant Hill Road of off I-85, GO! Today! you’re missing out my friend.) Anyhow, we used to be able to order this amazing goat cheese dip that came served with inside a red bell pepper and with sliced Cuban bread for dipping. I don’t know what they were thinking removing it from the menu. Seriously, sometimes I wonder what are restaurants thinking? Like why the heck did Outback get rid off their onion soup.

Well my friends, I have made it a dozen times this year to perfection. Here is the recipe. It’s so damn good we have it for dinner some days. OK, we have it like once a week, for dinner. lol.

CUBAN MAN’s vs CUBAN FOOD GOAT CHEESE DIP:

4oz Cream Cheese (half a block)

4oz Goat Cheese (Publix gourmet cheese area)

2 tbl spoons Shredded Parmesan

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all of the above in a bowl, stirring and mixing well together. Takes a bit of strength without a mixer or if refrigerated.

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Cut and clean a bell pepper in half. Fill it with this heavenly mixture. Place on a pan and into oven.

Slice a Cuban bread, and this will knock out about 5 minutes. Place into the oven above you magic dip. Wait another 5 minutes and take out the bread. The cheese has now been in 10 minutes. Put the bread in a basket or into a bowl wrapped with a napkin to keep it warm. In a couple of more minutes the cheese will show a few brown spots at the surface. Time to dip!

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Tremenda Palomilla! @ Palomilla’s Cuban Grill House

On a lazy Sunday, my wife smells a familiar aroma as she relaxes on the sofa. Suddenly her senses comes to life “What smells so good?” I had to laugh. “Smells good huh?” “Really good.” she replies in calm surprise. It’s the left over palomilla steak from the night before, being reheated on the skillet. What is a Palomilla you ask? The word means small dove, and it describes this particular cut of meat. It is top round beef, sliced in thin fillets, and then pressed or pounded to make it even thinner still. Here’s a great recipe I found: http://www.thehungrycuban.com/bistec-de-palomilla-cuban-style-steak/

Now you know you have to get the seasoning and the quantities just perfect for that smell to be that good the next day. Homemade palomilla never smells or tastes that good the next day. So, either we’re having withdrawals or Palomilla’s Cuban Grill House has got the goods. So this post is not just to let you know, of all places for Cuban food in Atlanta this is our #1 recommendation; it’s also to let your know which one is the first Cuban restaurant we’ve gone back to for seconds.

Let me throw the only bad comment out there to get it out of the way. Can someone please make REAL Cuban bread at these restaurants?! C’mon man.

Also, I’d like to add that by now I have figured out why it is so hard to get quality Cuban restaurants that just cant seem to be bustling. Simple answer, and my Atlanta friends will nod as they read this, it’s tough to compete with the Mexican restaurants ’round here. Mexican food is darn good too, and the Mexican culture throughout parts of Atlanta is very rich. But we believe in this place, poor guys are next to a popular Mexican spot, in John’s Creek Commons, right on Medlock Bridge Road near Peachtree Corners.

Palomilla’s doesn’t dissapoint, doesn’t overdo, and is just like a simple everyday type Cuban restaurant we love going to. For my Miami friends who are fans of a Rancho Luna of decades past, or Islas Canarias of off NW 3street, the ambient at this one is just like it.

Clockwise from the top left: Ropa Vieja (Pulled Beef), Pan con Bistec (Butterfly Steak Sandwich), Media Noche (Midnight Sandwich), Flan, Snapper and Plantains.

The beans are excellent at Palomilla’s  Cuban Grill, creamy and soft as they should be, served with a side of WHITE rice! (Not yellow). In pulling the images from the first visit, I know why we went back. My wife had the Steak Sandwich the first time. And while the bread failed to deliver, the steak convinced her. I had the sweet dough bread with ham and swiss (media noche). The bread was a bit dry, but the rest of the sandwich was very good.

On our first visit, my wife noticed another guest had ordered a fried whole snapper. A few weeks later, as soon as she was craving it, she knew where she wanted to go, and we both have this place on our list as #1 for Cuban food in Atlanta. The fish was huge and tasted superb! There were two ways of eating this deliciously in Miami, buying yellowtail snappers at Don Camaron accross from the Magic City Casino and frying them at home, or going to Bahama Fish II in West Kendall on Bird Road and 133rd Ave and ordering it made to order. However, I go with kingfish everytime at Bahama’s. It’s the best! The fish at Palomilla’s was right up there on satisfaction.

I had the ropa vieja the second time around. It was just enough meat to satisfy, and had a unique criollo pallette to it. A taste that one can only come accross in Old Havana. Listen we love this place, and guarantee you will too! Flan is still best at Havana South in Buford, but Palomilla’s is the kind of place that makes you want to stay for coffee!!! Now that’s Cuban Food Atlanta.

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A True Sandwiche Cubano @ Pan-Am Bakery

A true Cuban Sandwich needs to deliver on 3 things; low price, loaded meats, and be unfinishable by one person or on a single sitting. Pan American Bakery in Chamblee gets them all with their Cubano at $5.00. Indeed,  Cuban Food in Atlanta and it’s no wonder they top the list on Yelp and other internet searches when looking for CubanFood or Cuban Bread in Atlanta. 

  
Walking into this shop was a just like walking into one of those hole in the wall “cafeterías” on the outskirts of Winwood, particularly the NW 17th avenue area. It’s a cash only deal, and your bound to see some shady characters lurking outside. But inside it’s also just like home, joking around with other Cuban locals, and having many of the goods offered in Miami. 

Of all the Cuban Sandwiches I’ve had so far, this one tops the list. It’s better than Mojito’s in Norcross by far, and makes La Fonda’s supposed Cuban Sandwhich officialy disqualified to call itself Cuban. 

The meats were packed heavy, and while the pork was not as tasty as I’d like, the Cuban Sandwhich is about size and quantity more than it is about taste. The bread gets real close to authentic and if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought it was the real thing, just had more of a buttery “tostada” taste and not as thick as real Cuban bread (being pressed makes it thin, but also gave it the best taste and texture). I left wanting to go back just for the toast another day. 

I went with Ironbeer for the drink. The closest thing to describe this is Dr. Pepper but is based on an authentic Cuban soda. This is pretty close to real Cuban food in Atlanta. Location doesn’t help, but if you’re out to feed a large appetite or in a group of working men looking for a good lunch deal, this is the place. 

  

“Fricase de Pollo” Atlanta Recipe

  
My grandfather was a Cuban chef who continued his culinary career in the U.S. with Little Havana’s inaguration of Casa Juancho in the early 1980’s. He went on to directing kitchens on Washington Avenue in Miami Beach in the later part of his life. My grandmother learned what she could and perfected a few dishes, but I have to give my mom the credit for truly capturing the essence of his pallete.

This recipe comes as a response to a special request from a neighbor here in Atlanta, with a longing for the authentic taste of this Cuban adaptation to what seems to be originally a French dish “fricassée”. A common Cuban household dish, I could not just jot down what I know we usually put together. This required a call to Miami, to my mom, who of course claims that she had learned to make this better than both my grandparents, and well friends…you’ll just have to taste for yourself. 

Now I’ve claimed this to be an Atlanta recipe, because the only way you’re getting this in Miami is at my moms house, and I’ve added a secret ingredient, replacing the usual cooking wine with Martini&Rossi’s extra dry Vermouth. So when you make this and love it, remember the recipe came from the ATL! Lol. And that’s Cuban food in and from Atlanta.

Here’s what you’ll need:

5-6 chicken drumsticks

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 green bell pepper chopped

1/3 yellow bell pepper chopped

1/4 yellow sweet onion chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 cup extra dry vermouth

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red potato

Rinse/wash the chicken well and place in a large bowl. Chop the veggies (peppers, onion, and garlic) and throw over the chicken along with the salt, pepper, and olive oil. Peel the potato and toss in with the chicken. Add the tomato sauce. You should now have all the ingredients except the vermouth in the bowl.

  
Bring a big enough pan to medium heat. Once hot, toss in everything together and move around to make sure all ingredients are well mixed. Then pour in half of the vermouth (1/2 cup). 

 
   

The foods should be about halfway covered by the sauce. Cover the pan and allow to cook for 15 minutes, occasionally turning the chicken to cook on all sides. After 10 minutes, add the remaining vermouth and make sure the heat is medium ( high enough to slowly boil, but not dry out, and low enough that it should not sizzle). The chicken is done and cooked thoroughly once the back end of the drumstick breaks away from the bone. The potatoes will also be very soft at this point so avoid them when turning the chicken. Once done, bring the heat to high for 2 minutes to give the sauce and chicken a good serving temperature. “¡ A chuparse los dedos!” (Finger lickin’ good!)

  
 

Mojitos Cuban-American experience, Norcross

Walking into Mojito’s felt a lot like walking into a Cuban restaurant on Miami’s Calle Ocho. Calle Ocho which translates to 8th Street has become a major tourist destination in Little Havana, the center of Cuban cultured businesses in Miami; and home to 2 amazing annual festivals, Carnaval Miami, and the Three Kings Parade. With that said, I give Mojito’s a 10 for atmosphere.

Since the purpose, aside from lunch with my girls, is to rate and compare the food to what Cuban food should taste like, I’ve taken to ordering the media noche sandwhich, a Cuban staple. Reader’s be advised, this has all been meant to be fun, a bit constructive, and most of all, as source to bring people to the table for the best Cuban food in Atlanta.

Aside from a great atmosphere, this place has a few things going for it, the “mariquitas” which is a plantain chip, is cooked perfect, and served with mojo garlic sauce to dip. Materva and Jupina is available for ordering, as well as malta! Service was great also, everyone is making sure that you are satisfied and have everything you need. A 10 on staff as well.

My wife ordered a “pan con bistec” (steak sandwich). That was a tough one, man she’s tough lol. Cuban food in Atlanta is going to have a tough critic. Palomilla Steak goes into that sandwich. This is a slice of beef round, butterfly cut for thinness, and grilled over oil and onions with light amount of seasonings.  the sandwich includes the onions and goes great with lettuce, mayo, tomato, etc. My wife’s favorite sandwich is the Pan Con Bistec at the Mojito’s down in Miami in The Falls shopping center. I thought it was funny she would order the same from this Mojito, heck! Where’s her blog? She liked it, never the same because Atlanta is really slacking on the quality of Cuban bread, but it did put Mojito’s in Norcross over Havana South in Buford on her list. Me? I’m not too sure…

I ordered my Media Noche (a large sweet Cuban bread sandwich with thick layered sliced pork, thick layered ham or at least it should have been, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles cut in half which I argue is why it’s named a media noche, but hey be romantic about it if you want, it means midnight, whatever, lol) and paired it with a side of broiled yuca. It was not good. Both things were just OK. My sandwich left too much to be desired. Price would be a little high at $8.50, but it does include ANY side of your choice, and that’s well worth it, plus I get irritated at having a side of yellow rice and black beans forced on the deal. That’s not Cuban food Atlanta, don’t be fooled. Anyway, this Cuban food in Atlanta was not well balanced on the meats, too much pork and cut too thick, barely any ham. It’s supposed to be layered thick, not thick cut. And half and half, not a ton of pork on a bitty slice of ham. Pork was not marinated that well, bland to taste. It also was floppy, as you can see on the photo, even the bread was drooping, SMH. Ah but he pickles, those Georgia pickles, man they are good! But I have to be honest, I almost sent it back. I did send the yuca back though, it was just not edible. They did not cook them well, and where too hard (raw) to chew and swallow. It was a shame since they tasted great (seasoning and sauce), but it was just too hard to even cut into. Boil them well guys, get it almost pasty on the outside and I will have them everytime.

I have to give it to them on the desert though! The flan was excellent. I have to say I have not had bad flan in Atlanta. I’ve had lot’s of bad flan in Miami, but flan in Atlanta is a winner! If you have not had this, it’s like a cheesecake, but with caramel and much softer like a custard. It could just translate as a caramel custard. I will also say that other people were ordering entrees, such as ropa vieja (pulled beef), white rice and black beans, etc, and it looked delicious.

We’ll have to go back for dinner!

 

Lemon Shrimp Alfredo Secret Recipe

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Hi friends! OK not Cuban, lol. Clearly an Italian dish, but so good I just had to share.  I’ll just tell you the secret ingredients (brand specific) right off the bat, McCormick’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning, Buitoni Alfredo Sauce (refrigerated isles), and half of a lemon squeezed (not too ripe).  This recipe serves 4, the rest is simple…

Choose first if you want linguine or fettuccine. Linguine is thinner and will allow more room for flavor so that is my recommendation. Then choose your preferred size shrimp, or if budget is good for the day, go with a couple of small lobster tails. Here’s what you’ll need:

12 oz of linguine pasta (about 2/3 of the box. the whole box will be too much)

Water to boil the pasta

1/2 lb cooked shrimp.

1-10oz Buitoni Alfredo Sauce, here’s the product link http://www.buitoni.com/Pasta-Products/266/Alfredo-Sauce.aspx

2 Tablespoons McCormick Lemon Pepper Seasoning and here’ that link http://www.mccormick.com/Spices-and-Flavors/Herbs-and-Spices/Blends/Perfect-Pinch-Lemon-Pepper-Seasoning

1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon dry basil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 tablespoons vegetable spread

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

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Place the pasta in water, and start to bring to boil on high heat, add a dash of sea salt and a tablespoon canola oil to keep it from sticking. Once it begins to boil, reduce it to just below high heat and allow to boil. An Italian relative taught me that pasta was “al dente” when you could throw it to the wall and it would stick. After doing that a couple of times, you learn to know when it’s ready.

 

After many years, I’ve come to observe that when it creates a whirl of water at the center and the pasta is moving with the water, it means it’s just soft enough to eat. It’s overdone if it begins to turn pale or the water gets thick. Let that boil while we do the rest…

Back to the good part…in a medium sauce pan (large enough to fit the pasta later) , saute the garlic using the olive oil. As soon as it begins to roast, throw in the vegetable spread and sea salt and bring to low heat. The heat would be a simmer, just enough to melt the butter (spread, but not high enough to boil it). Once melted, throw in the cooked shrimp, the lemon pepper, and the black pepper. Stir to coat the shrimp well.

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Once you have the heat on the shrimp and spices under control, add the alfredo sauce and basil. You don’t want this goodness to boil away, so control the heat, there is nothing to cook, just the flavors to fuse. Stir it in, it will appear a little dark at first (yellowish) but that’s ok. After a few minutes of simmering, add the 1/2 cup of whole milk, the parmesan and the half lemon squeeze, this will neutralize the heat for a bit longer and bring it to a whiter color, stir to make sure the bottom is not boiling too much, and to fuse the flavors even more. Meanwhile, your pasta is boiling.

When the pasta is ready, strain it well, and then just toss it into the sauce mix. Bring the sauce pan with the pasta and sauce (all the ingredients) to high heat (on a flattop stove, just switch the pan to where the pasta was, will be faster). Stir well and get it real hot. Check the consistency of the sauce, should drip off the spoon like hot syrup, not like water. Serve right out of the pan!

P.S. Best wine pairing for this dish is HESS Chardonnay. Cheers!

 

Arroz Chino (Chinese Special Fried Rice Recipe)

There is a notable Chinese influence on Cubans. For evidence, there is the fact that Cubans eat a lot of white rice. Perhaps it’s just hearsay, that the Chinese were demanding such high amounts of plain white rice that it became a common item in the markets of Havana. There is a China town in Cuba, and there are many “Chino-Cubanos” (Chinese Cubans) living in Miami today. Go to any local take out in Miami and you can hear the heavy accents speaking Spanish as they take orders over the phone or at the tables. Having married into this interesting culture, in 2009 I made it a New Year’s resolution to learn to cook Chinese entres. Using online recipes, I managed to learn the art of shrimp lo-mein, and special fried rice. Both were and continue to be a big hit; I highly recommend you give this rice recipe a try.

As promised, below is a recipe that I have adapted over the years into a family favorite. Though a bit laborious, it’s always a great choice when entertaining my big Cuban family or friends. Leftovers are always great too! I will provide brand names when I have a preference, but feel free to use your favorite brands.

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4 cups Mahatma long grain rice

1 chicken breast**

1/2 lb cooked medium (20/21 count) shrimp

1 slice cooked ham

1/4 chopped white onion

4 oz Country Crock vegetable spread (about 2-3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 tablespoon sesame seed

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 eggs

1 green onion (chive)

8 oz bag of bean sprouts

Kikoman Soy sauce “to taste” usually about 6 tablespoons total.

**Make sure to always keep raw chicken away from other foods and cook separate.

First cook the white rice without any salt and just a teaspoon of olive oil to keep from sticking. Let the rice cool afterward, and hopefully have enough time to leave in the fridge. A couple of hours will do, but left overnight is better (dryer is better).

When ready to begin, mix the chopped onion, ginger, garlic and black pepper in a bowl. Cut the ham into squares and place in a separate bowl with the cooked shrimp (peeled). Wash your chicken breast and keep separate.

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“Ginger Mix”
Place a wok on low heat, and a sauce pan on medium heat. You will be using both at the same time.

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Let the vegetable spread melt in the wok. Once liquid, add the rice all at once and mix well to cover the rice with the butter. Let sit (wok). From this point on, the less often you stir the better the end result.

 

 

 

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Toss the ham and shrimp over the already cooked chicken.

 

Cut the chicken breast into slices and stir fry it with just a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Let it cook all the way through. Once it’s turning golden, throw in the ham and shrimp over it. Add another tablespoon of soy sauce to this mix and stir. Just when the shrimp starts to want to shrink, toss the ham chicken and shrimp into the wok with the rice. Stir just to blend and let sit.

Saute the onion mix bowl in the sauce pan using only 1 teaspoon of olive oil until the garlic starts to turn. Once its turning golden, toss this into the wok as well. Stir to blend in the flavors. Add the sesame oil, sesame seed, and about 4 tablespoons of soysauce at this point. You can taste as you add to make sure you don’t overdo the soy sauce.

Using the same sauce pan, scramble the 2 eggs and toss the cooked eggs into the wok. Stir to blend everything in the wok.

Now bring the wok to high heat. Stir about every 3 minutes and let the wok do the work. After a while, you will see that when you stir the rice, it is getting crisp (fried). Once its done to your liking, throw in the bean sprouts. Mix in well and let them work into the heat for about 2 minutes. Throw the chopped green onions (chives) fresh over the plates as your serve (or over the rice at the end if guests will serve themselves.)

Enjoy!

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