After 41 weeks of depravity; no sushi, deli meats, coffee, alcohol, or a laundry list of other things, I was surprised that after the delivery of my son that the only thing I wanted in the entire world was my mom’s Arroz con Pollo. So it was that late at night, upon being checked out of the hospital, I sent my mom, a newly minted grandmother, to the store to make it so.
And it was soooo worth it.
I didn’t even feel guilty because it was everything I’ve ever needed. Rich and full of vitamins, flavorful and warm, I had forgotten what it was like to need my mommy, and my mommy delivered.
A couple of weeks later when I was back on my feet I realized that every version I have made has been a poor comparison to my mother’s version. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but I knew that I had to learn how to make arroz con pollo like her because someday it would nurse my family back to health. It would cure booboos, mend broken hearts, and say, ‘I love you,’ without saying a word.
So, naturally, I asked my mom for her recipe. I got this fantastic text in response:
Great. Generations of perfecting the best arroz con pollo in the world, and it all boils down to a couple lines of text. Sigh… It’s partly my fault, I should haven’t asked via text, but still…
But then an amazing thing happened, I did exactly what the text said, and it WORKED!
Sometimes we over think things. We over complicate. We use fancy tools. We add excess. When really, sometimes the simplest answer is best.
The simplicity is why this dish works, and I recommend you share this with your family.
Arroz Con Pollo
- 1 whole Chicken, uncooked
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 cloves minced Garlic, or to taste
- 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp Oregano, or to taste
- 1 tbsp Parsley, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Spanish Rice (recipe here)
- Skin the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
- Sauté the chicken in the pot with the garlic and onions until the chicken is browned on top and bottom.
- Generously season the chicken with salt, pepper, oregano and parsley. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Partially cover with a lid and reduce heat to maintain a low boil. Cook until the chicken falls off the bone, flipping once, about 30 – 45 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, make the spanish rice.
- Once both are finished, add a large spoonful of rice to a bowl. Add a piece of the chicken (leg, thigh, breast, etc) to the bowl and cover generously with broth. Serve hot, with tortillas if desired.
- You could use Italian Seasoning in addition to or instead of Oregano or Parsley
- You could use chicken stock instead of water
- You could add chicken bouillon to the water for extra flavor
- You could add chopped carrots at the same time as the onions for a more American flavor
- You could remove the chicken from the pot once it is finished and debone it, then add it back to the pot. This is what I typically do.
- Store the soup and rice separately.
I have three go to recipes for picnic potlucks. Deviled Eggs. Funfetti Cookies. And these sandwiches.
When you bring these sandwiches anywhere, you’re a hero. The men come flocking and the women rave. Everyone wants the recipe. It’s the first thing you run out of. And the best part? You don’t even break a sweat making them. Or the bank. Seriously. You can’t loose.
I like to serve these with the smaller , 4″ hamburger buns, rather than the larger 6″ buns as you get more servings and it keeps the sandwich from falling apart from too much goodness. Also you can greatly personalize this dish by adding your favorite seasonings to the slow cooker. Onions, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin, tomato paste, vinegar all make excellent options. I would recommend trying a simple version of the recipe first, then adding to it in subsequent trials.
Picnic Potluck BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Serves 15 – 20
- 3 – 4 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder, fat trimmed
- 8 – 16 oz carbonated beverage of your choice:
- Dr Pepper
- Root Beer
- If sweetened like the above, Salt
- If unsweetened like the above, Brown Sugar
- 1 bottle BBQ Sauce of your choice
- Hamburger Buns
- Shredded Purple Cabbage
- Toss the pork in your slow cooker with your beverage of choice. If the beverage is highly sweetened (like soda), sprinkle with generously with salt. If the beverage is not heavily sweetened (like beer), sprinkle with browne sugar. Set your slow cooker for 8 hours on low, or until tender, rotating after 4 hours.
- Check the pork with a fork after 8 hours to see if it easily separates. If it does, move on to the next step. If not, continue cooking in the slow cooker in ½ hour increments until the pork falls apart easily with a fork.
- As best as you can, remove the pork shoulder (and pieces) to a cutting board, leaving the juices behind. With two forks or large BBQ tongs, shred the pork into smaller pieces. Transfer shredded pork to a large mixing bowl.
- Add a good ½ cup or so of BBQ sauce to the pork, and stir. You want the pork to be just moistened by the sauce. For this I recommend a mild or original flavored sauce. You can top your sandwich with a spicier or more interesting sauce, but a simple sauce works best for just keeping the pork moistened.
- Pack the warm pork, buns, cabbage and sauce for your event. To assemble, from top to bottom: bun, pork, sauce, cabbage, bun, happiness.
I love enchiladas, but I never order them at restaurants. Of the many varieties I have witnessed, none ever compare to my grandmother’s. Soggy, drowned in sauce from a can, flour tortillas, filled with god-knows-what monstrosities, where only forks separate them from a burrito? No thank you.
I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with the more popular versions of enchiladas, they are just never what I am looking for. You can’t get the sauce out of a can, you can’t cover up a bad sauce with cheese, and you certainly can’t expect me to be happy with an enchilada in a flour tortilla.
I’m not saying there isn’t a gem out there on occasion, it’s just never worth the risk. The problem is that at it’s heart, enchiladas are an incredibly simple dish. There are less than a dozen ingredients, and while the process can be messy, the entire meal should be able to be made for less than $10 in under an hour, and should feed many.
This recipe was difficult to piece together because it didn’t come with any measurements. The language is a combination of my mother’s and grandmother’s with some heavy editing. I have made and remade this recipe often, recording my own measurements, but much of this is ‘to taste.’ It also took a while to figure out how to scale it down. I can’t remember a time we ever made enchiladas in a pan smaller than your standard Pyrex Baking Dish, and often we made two.
One important note, even if you don’t like olives, do not substitute or skimp on the olive juice. It is the essence of the flavor. You don’t have to add chopped olives to the final product, but the sauce will not even slightly resemble its true origins without olive juice.
We have always used lard, but I made a batch for my sister-in-law who was vegetarian with vegetable oil, and the results were fabulous and highly similar.
Also, my mom notes that you can add shredded chicken or beef, but we have never preferred this in our family, and when she was a kid they could never afford it. So, below is the cheese only version.
Finally, as my mom likes to remind me, always top the enchiladas with the ingredients, so people know what is inside. In this case, top with olives, onions & cheese. No one likes an olive surprise.
Grandma’s Cheese Enchiladas
makes 15 – 20 Enchiladas
- 15 – 20 Corn tortillas (one package)
- Oil or Lard
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 1 tbsp Chile Powder
- ¾ – 1 cup Water
- 1 can Black Olives, pitted & diced, save juice
- ½ lb Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, shredded
- 1 bunch Green Onions, diced
- Preheat oven to 400
- Prepare Tortillas: Add enough oil or lard to a large sauté or frying pan to generously cover the bottom (about 1 cup), and heat until hot, not burning (about medium heat). Once the oil/lard is hot, place one tortilla in and count to 4, flip, count to 4 then remove to a cookie rack over a paper bag to drain. Do not overcook tortillas, they simply need to be pliable. Continue until all tortillas are cooked. Turn off the burner.
- Make the Sauce: After frying pan cools a little remove all but approximately 2 tablespoons of oil, but don’t throw out the excess until you’ve finished making the sauce. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of flour and stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of chili powder and stir until smooth. Add approximately ¾ cup of water and stir until smooth. Turn burner on to medium. Whisk in about ¼ cup of the olive juice. Whisk constantly to keep the sauce smooth as it thickens. Continue stirring and adding chili powder, olive juice and salt to taste. Add only a little at a time. You may need to add more water. Once you have the right taste and consistency continue cooking until the sauce is bubbling, this will thicken the sauce. Turn off the burner and remove from heat.
- Assemble Enchiladas: Place approximately ¼ cup of sauce on the bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Spread around. Dip a fried tortilla into the sauce. Make sure it’s coated on both sides, scrapping any extra if there is too much. Place on baking dish. Sprinkle cheese the length of the tortilla in the middle. Sprinkle a few diced olives and diced onions. Do not overfill. Fold tortilla over then roll. Move to the side of the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas. Feel free to crowd the pan, this will help the enchiladas keep from being too flat. When done, pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese, olives, and onions.
- Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Looking back, I don’t have a ton of memories of when my mom and stepdad got married just over 25 years ago, but some things stand out more than the rest.
The ceremony was on a Friday in our living room, I was 9 years old and thrilled to be the maid of honor. My mom wore a royal blue suit with a white blouse, and the 9 of us; me, my two brothers, 3 soon-to-be stepbrothers, the Justice of the Peace, and the bride and groom barely fit in the room.
The next day, Saturday (and my birthday!) we all headed to the reception hosted at the community center at my new aunt’s apartment complex to dance and celebrate all night long. We hung those crepe paper wedding bells from the ceiling, and for weeks we had spent hours recording music off the radio to cassette tapes to serve as a DJ. My cousin locked my brother out of the bathroom. My grandmother feared a fish allergy. Everyone was invited.
But mostly, I vividly remember the food.
Weeks before, concerned about costs, my mom was searching for ways to feed lots of people without spending too much money. Her good friend and co-worker Tess came to her rescue.
Tess knew just the food, and shared her family recipe for Filipino style Shanghai Lumpias. My mom took notes on lined binder paper, even drawing out the steps on how to roll a lumpia, and a family tradition began.
We made around 300 lumpias for my parents’ wedding, and probably over 3,000 in the 25 years since. It’s a family affair, with the entire family pitching in; separating wrappers, grating carrots, chopping onions, rolling the lumpias, and of course, taste testing. Hard to get people to stop taste testing, really.
Timmy rolls his lumpias short and thick. Sahara makes them long and skinny. My sister Olympia will steal the meat filling if you’re not paying attention, and sometimes even when you are. My dad’s barely stay together and sometimes have holes in them. Over the years, new boyfriends and girlfriends are brought to the table to help almost as a test, and eventually, a right of passage.
Finally the rolls are fried up, and disappear nearly as quickly as they are made. It was almost impossible to get a picture of a platter of lumpias, because my family has never been required to wait long enough for the platter to fill up. Some words may have…ehem…been exchanged (sorry Roly Poly).
We now make lumpias for all manner of occasion; graduations, holidays, birthdays, kids coming home from university, sports events, BBQs, Sunday nights, and as in this case, going away parties. We’ll often freeze a couple to save for later, to pull out on a lazy Wednesday, or a stressful Monday. They bring comfort, taste like heaven, and feel like home.
And that’s the story of how a blended black, Mexican, white family came to make a family tradition of making and eating lumpias.
Tess’ Shanghai Lumpias
recipe received with loving gratitude from Teresita Cabello, may she rest in peace
- 1 pkg Filipino Lumpia Wrappers
- 1 lb Ground Pork
- 1 tbsp Garlic, minced
- 1 c Cabbage, shredded
- ½ c Carrots, shredded
- 1 small can Water Chestnuts, diced
- 4 Green Onions, diced
- ¼ Oyster Sauce, to taste
- 2 tbsp Soy Sauce, to taste
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 Egg White
- 1 tbsp Corn Starch
- Frying oil
- Fry the pork in a large frying pan over medium-low heat until meat is uniformly brown. Remove from heat. Drain fat. Stir in minced garlic. Lightly salt the pork.
- Meanwhile chop, shred and prepare the vegetables. Combine in a very large mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, begin separating the lumpia wrappers. It helps to keep a damp paper towel at the bottom and top of the stacks to prevent the wrappers from drying out.
- Once the meat has cooled, add to the large mixing bowl with the veggies and toss.
- Start adding the Oyster and Soy sauces, mixing, then tasting after each addition. Continue to adjust the amounts until the flavors are balanced. If necessary, add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be nicely juicy and coated.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with the corn starch until frothy.
- Assembly: To roll the wrappers, position the wrapper so that it is a diamond in front of you (not a square), and add a large spoonful of filling to the bottom corner of the wrapper. Fold the bottom corner up, roll halfway up towards the top corner. Fold the side corners in, and then roll to the top. To seal, slightly dampen the top corner of the wrapper with a small dab of the egg whit mixture. Press gently the corner to the roll gently to seal. Or follow my mom’s drawing. Or follow the instructions on the lumpia package.
- Meanwhile, begin heating your oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Do not add lumpias to cool/warm oil. Begin adding lumpias to the pan, they should be about 1/3 – 1/2deep in oil. Add 3 – 6 lumpias to the pan at a time, but do not crowd the pan. Allow the lumpias to brown on one side, and then turn (about 2 – 5 minutes depending on the heat). Once fully browned, remove from heat and place on a brown paper bag to drain.
- In documenting this recipe, we realized that in the original recipe my mom wrote down celery, though we have never used it to our recollection. We did try adding celery this time, and it was fine, but we didn’t prefer it. We have always used shredded cabbage, which isn’t listed here. We spent some time trying to remember what Tess had taught my mom, decided it must have been a transcription error, even though she wrote it twice. In the end it doesn’t matter because we’ll just do it our way.
- The written recipe also calls for Egg Roll Wrappers, which we suspect my mom approximated. We have been loyal to the Menlo brand wrappers for as long as I can remember
- To increase the volume, we generally find that 1 pound of pork = 1 package of wrappers. Also, all measurements are guidelines at this point, and everything in this recipe is to taste, especially the sauces. We just keep adding things until the general mix of veggies and meat has a balance of color and flavor. We have also never made less than 3 packages of wrappers at a time, and have made as much as six.
- You may freeze uncooked lumpias for up to six months. Do not defrost before frying.
I originally saw this recipe in a magazine at a hair salon. It looked fantastic, but I failed at remembering either the recipe or magazine name so I spent hours scouring the interwebs for it. I never found it.
The recipe below is based on a combination of many that I encountered. You can pretty much put anything in the packets, throw them on the grill or in the oven and they will come out perfectly. I have made this while camping with chicken and root veggies while camping for a heartier combo, with steak, mushrooms and onions for a manly meal, and here with salmon. You can cook on a grill, in a fire pit, in the oven or even on a grill pan on the stove top. Basically pick:
- 1 Protein
- 2 – 5 chopped Veggies
- 1 Seasoning Salt (those premixed seasonings at the grocery store like “Garlic & Herb” or “Southwest Blend”)
I have toyed with several combinations, but this might be my favorite. It is the perfect early summer meal, combining bright veggies and fresh flavors. The photos are from a baked version, though I do prefer to put these directly on coals.
The best part? Once everything is chopped the recipe take minutes to assemble, and can be on the table in under 30. Also, cleaning is a cinch! Just toss the foil and you’re done, no messy pots.
Lemon Pepper Salmon Packets
- 4 Salmon Fillets, 4 – 6 oz each
- 1 Yellow Pepper, sliced into rings
- 1 Red Pepper, sliced into rings
- 1 Yellow Onion, sliced into rings
- 1 Lemon, sliced into rings
- Lemon Pepper Seasoning
- Sea Salt
- Spray Oil (I used olive oil in a mister)
- Optional: Prepared Pasta, Rice, Potatoes or other starch
- If cooking on a charcoal grill, get the coals ready a bit in advance. If baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut 4 long pieces of foil, about one and a half times the width of the box.
- To assemble the packets layer the ingredients approximately as follows:
- Spray the foil with oil
- Sprinkle a little sea salt on the foil
- Place the salmon, skin side down on the foil
- Sprinkle the salmon generously with the lemon pepper seasoning and a little more sea salt
- Top with lemons, onions and peppers in order.
- Bring the edges to the center, and roll down to enclose.
- If grilling: Throw the packets directly onto the coals or on the grill. Cook for 5-20 minutes depending on the temperature of the coals until the salmon is just cooked through. Check the packets once or twice, and rotate if necessary.
- If baking: Place the foil packets on a large, heavy baking sheet. Bake in the center rack for 20 – 25 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through.
- To assemble plates, place selected carbohydrate on plates and arrange veggies and fish with tongs. Drizzle juices from the packets over the dish, especially if your starch is unseasoned.