Sunday, June 26, 2011

Before it's too late . . .

Yep . . . I know my last post was a little bit over four months ago, but I went through a lot of issues during this time, including knee surgery, and kinda lost my "mojo".  I was finally able to come out of my "black cloud" and decided that it was about time to start writing again!  :)

During these months, however, I thought of different things I wanted to write about.  There was this one article, though, that I read in the March issue of "Bon Appétit" and that got stuck in my headSave Your Recipes Before It's Too Late, by Monica Bhide.

I always tell everyone how I got my inspiration for cooking from my mom (Mami Amparo) and my paternal grandmother (Mama Sultana).  Reading this article brought back memories of the times when, as a kid, I watched my mom cooking, or when, later on, we used to cook together, or of those times when I would call her long distance (after I moved to the States) to ask her about a certain recipe.  I still keep some old note pads in my mom's handwriting with recipes she wrote down while watching cooking tv shows (there weren't that many back then) or notes from a cooking class she attended.  Unfortunately, I don't have any of her own recipes written anywhere!  I wish I would have thought of doing this while she was still around!  She was such a good cook and could whip up a delicious meal in no time at all!

Mama Sultana, curiously enough, didn't know how to read or write, but she would bake the most amazing things!  I clearly remember (when I was in my teens) one Saturday she was staying home with us and I asked her if she would share some of her recipes with me.  Armed with pen and paper, I sat down by her side on the couch in the living room and, listening to all her fascinating stories, I started writing down all of her detailed explanations.  Later, I gathered all my recipes and put them together in a plastic folder.  That same year, on the last day of school, I had the most unfortunate idea:  I took my plastic folder with me to school to show it to some of my classmates.  One girl asked to borrow it and promised to return it soon.  Hesitantly, I agreed.  To make a long story short, that was the last time I saw this girl and my folder with my treasured recipes!  :(

I know that if I read certain cookbooks or look into other people's cooking sites on the Internet, I would probably be able to recreate some of Mami Amparo's or Mama Sultana's recipes . . . but it's never going to be the same!  So, if you happen to read this posting and you are lucky enough to have your mom or your grandmother alive and enjoy their food, do yourself a huge favor:  ask for the recipes and save them before it's too late!

This is exactly one of the reasons why I started my blog:  to preserve memories.  So, I decided to post a very old but simple recipe that I used to prepare at home whenever there was a birthday party or any other gathering and we had guests.  I think I have kept this recipe for some 30 years now!  :)

Jamón del Diablo (Deviled Ham Spread)

Odd enough, this recipe doesn't have any ham or hot sauce in its ingredients!  Also, back in the day, I would prepare it in a blender, but you may use a food processor, as well.

  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small chunks (reserve the stock* resulting from cooking the chicken)
  • 4 hot dogs, boiled and cut into slices (any kind you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • few drops of red food coloring
  • 1/2 Knorr chicken bouillon cube
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients (start with a little amount of the chicken stock) in a blender or food processor and blend/process until smooth.  Add more chicken stock, if needed, to bind ingredients.  Pour mixture in a mold and refrigerate for, at least, three hours or over night, until it sets.  Unmold and serve with crackers, bread or toasts.

*  Cook the chicken breast with bone and skin in enough water to cover it.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Also, if you want, you can add vegetables and herbs to the stock to make it more flavorful (carrots, onion, celery, parsley, bay leaf, etc.).  Once the chicken is cooked (it takes anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes), strain the stock and discard solids.  Also, discard bone and skin before cutting chicken breast into chunks.