Monday, December 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Part Dos: Curried Batata Gratin and Mama's Cocktail Meatballs

Meatballs blending with the curry cream sauce. So good.

The best picture I can find of the Curried Batata Gratin.
Still leaves a little to the imagination. Can you just trust me on this one?

Welcome to Part Dos of the First Annual Gluten-Free, Mostly Vegetarian, Dominican-American Thanksgiving. 

I'm going to skip right to the recipes, because these babies deserve all the attention. Both of these dishes are equal parts sweet and savory, and on a plate, when the sauces mix together, it's pure perfection. Compliments abounded about these two, and I hope you'll try them out for yourself.


Curried Batata Gratin 
Thanks to 

In my case, I used batatas, the DR's version of sweet potatoes. Though they look different at the outset (pictures coming soon), they are very similar in taste, and you can substitute the batatas for sweet potatoes wherever you may be. The crunch of the almond gives this dish a remarkable spark - so don't skimp on this ingredient!

I doubled this vegetarian recipe, since I wasn't sure who would make it to the actual Thanksgiving dinner. 14 people showed up, I made enough for 16-20, and there were no leftovers of this dish. That says it all my friends.

1 quart heavy cream (I know, I know. Not my healthiest recipe. But the holidays are for indulging every once in a while, right?)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch fresh fine-chopped cilantro
2-3 large batatas, or 4 large sweet potatoes
2 egg whites
2 cups parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted almond pieces
1 teaspoon salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole pan - a 9x13 baking dish will work fine.

Bring the cream, curry powder, turmeric, bay leaf, and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan. Set aside and let the flavors steep for about 30 minutes.

Strain the bay leaf and garlic from the cream. Peel the batatas or sweet potatoes. Slice them 1/2-inch thick.

Whip up the egg whites in a large bowl. Toss the batatas, salt and pepper into the egg whites, and mix. You may have to do this in batches.

Place a layer of batata in the casserole pan. Spread parmesan cheese on top. Repeat until you are out of batatas.

Pour the cream on top of the potatoes until it is gone and evenly distributed.

Top the casserole with the remaining cheese and almonds. Cover with tin foil, and bake in the oven until it is golden and bubbly - around 30 to 45 minutes.

Top with cilantro and serve right away! Serves 8-10.

You can make this dish ahead of time, but I would say at most 4-6 hours ahead. Make it in the morning and re-heat it for your afternoon/evening meal.


Mama's Cocktail Meatballs

Just about every holiday/special occasion at my house is accompanied by these luscious, easy-to-make meatballs. In fact, my sister also made them this year for the fam's Thanksgiving in North Carolina.

1 lb. ground chuck
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 12oz. bottle chili sauce
1 8oz. jar grape jam

Combine the ground chuck, egg, cornstarch, onion, salt and pepper. Shape them into small meatballs. 1 teaspoon per ball = 50 meatballs. Brown in a large skillet and remove the grease.

Combine the chili sauce and grape jam in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir. Drop in the meatballs and cook for 15 minutes. Put top on pan and set aside until you are ready to eat!

Make this a day in advance and refrigerate, and the flavors of the sauce will seep into the core of the meatballs!

Serves 8-10.

a buen tiempo!

The First Annual Gluten-Free, Mostly-Vegetarian, Dominican-American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving meant something extra special to me this year. I'm so thankful for exactly where I am in my life right now, and for the people that are in it with me. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be saying that, and how rare it might be to feel that way. I say "might be" because even though I know that when "life" is on the upswing, it's almost impossible to imagine a downward slope, I really think this feeling of peace is here to stay. Who's the one maturing, biatches?

  I'm trying to bottle up this feeling for rainy days, because de verdadthings. are. good. 

An evening of food and friends was more than I could ask for, (even though it was exactly what I had asked for) and the 2 days of cooking that led up to it were so therapeutic after a it's-nearly-the-end-of-the-semester work marathon.

The First Annual Gluten-Free, Mostly Vegetarian, Dominican-American Thanksgiving Menu:
(I know what you're thinking - it sounds like a high maintenance Starbucks order, right? Wrong, it's my Thanksgiving. Remember the name for next year.)

1. Fresh Salad (clearly vegetarian): ripe tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber tossed with salt and vinegar

2. Caribbean Tortilla-Cornbread Stuffing (vegetarian, make ahead recipe): Gluten-free cornbread stuffing topped with shrimp

3. Curried Batata Gratin (vegetarian, make ahead recipe): The Dominican Republic's version of sweet potatoes, sliced and layered with parmesan cheese, baked in a sweet, curried cream sauce, and topped with almonds (that magical crunch)

4. Mama's Cocktail Meatballs (not vegetarian, make ahead recipe): Cocktail-sized meatballs cooked in a sweet and sour sauce

An important note: These recipes make for 8-10 people, and since I was cooking for around 15, and most of them were big guys, I doubled each recipe. 

Broken up gluten-free cornbread

In the process of making the Caribbean Tortilla-Cornbread Stuffing

Making the salad! Scary Mario!

Cilantro to top the Curried Batata Gratin

The spread.

Fresh Salad
Curried Batata Gratin

Caribbean Tortilla-Cornbread Stuffing

Mama's Cocktail Meatballs

Gettin' in there.



The evidence.

Today's Featured Thanksgiving Recipes: 
Fresh Salad and Caribbean Tortilla-Cornbread Stuffing, Vegetarian Style

Fresh Salad: 

Use your imagination for this salad. So much of it depends on what's in season, wherever you are. In the Dominican Republic, avocados are literally everywhere, and tomatoes/cucumbers are in season all year round.

Slice them up, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with vinegar, and toss. Keep it simple.


Caribbean Tortilla-Cornbread Stuffing, Vegetarian-Style

This cornbread stuffing recipe is based on this recipe from Food & Wine. What's the difference? Seafood stock instead of chicken stock, and an amazing shrimp addition.

Looking at this recipe once might be intimidating because of the various steps. You can make everything, except for the shrimp, ahead of time, so why don't you start a day or 2 early? Each "step" shows how long it will keep refrigerated and/or frozen, and honestly, it is all worth it in the end. This dressing is unbelievable, and no one will ever know it's gluten-free.

Step 1: Make the cornbread 

2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups butter milk (1 1/2 cups of whole milk, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar, mixed well)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-13 baking dish and put it in the oven.

Mix 1 1/3 cups of cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl.

Pour  the remaining 2/3 cup of cornmeal and boiling water in a medium heatproof bowl, and stir well. Stir in the buttermilk and eggs. Then, add the dry ingredients and melted butter. Mix until it is blended. Pour the batter into the hot baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let the cornbread cool and keep it at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen up to a month.

Step 2: Make the Tortilla Broth

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Two 6-inch tortillas, chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 can tomatoes, pureed
5 cups seafood stock
1 tablespoon paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Over moderately high heat, add the chopped tortillas and garlic and cook, until the tortillas are crisp and the garlic is browned. About 3 minutes. Add the onion and tomato puree and bring to a boil. Pour in the stock, paprika, bay leaf, and cumin and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. The Tortilla Broth should be about one quart. Remove the bay leaf.

Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender. Add a pinch of  cayenne, and season with salt.

You can store the Tortilla Broth for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, or up to a month in the freezer!

Step 3: Put it all together! Woop!

Vegetable oil, for frying 14 6-inch corn tortillas, halved and cut into 1/4-inch strips.
6 cups crumbled corn bread, or one 9 X 13 pan of the cornbread recipe above, crumbled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
1 large onion, cute into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped time
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 quart Tortilla Broth

In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Working in batches, fry the tortilla strips over moderately high heat, until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes. Transfer the strips to paper towels to drain. Put them in a large bowl and add the cornbread.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and celery and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cilantro, sage, thyme, and chili powder. Cook until the chili powder is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the Tortilla Broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Pour the mixture over the tortilla strips and corn bread, season with salt, and toss gently. Let it stand until the broth is absorbed, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish. Transfer the stuffing to the dish and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until heated through. Uncover and bake for about 15 more minutes, until the top begins to brown. Put that foil back on to keep it warm, and jump to the shrimp step.

You can make the unbaked stuffing ahead of time for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Step 4: Make the Shrimp:
Taken from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

This is also a great tapas recipe! It goes great with bread, with pasta, or in tacos. Super versatile. 

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 big cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
About 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, 20-30 per pound, peeled, rinsed, and dried
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

First, warm the olive oil over low heat in a large, ovenproof skillet or baking pan (I used a 9x13 baking dish). There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic until it turns golden, which should be 2-3 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, salt and pepper, the cumin and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice. Cook until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5-10 minutes.

Spoon them on top of your baked casserole for a beautiful finished product!

You made it! Enjoy! Serves 8-10.

a buen tiempo!