Cinco de Mayo: Tacos y Tortillas

Cinco de Mayo is a fun day to be living in LA. A lot of people go out to celebrate, making the bar and restaurant scene really crazy. I sometimes think that Cinco in LA is similar to being in Boston for St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, this Mexican holiday has also turned into a just another day to go out drinking, and few people know what the holiday actually means.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone refer to Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican Independence, which is just silly! When Kaia and I set out to make dinner celebrating Cinco, I wanted to make sure she knew why we would celebrate. The day is a celebration of the Mexico winning the Franco/Mexican Battle at Puebla. The biggest celebrations occur in Puebla Mexico (where the battle took place). It is NOT to celebrate Mexican Independence – Mexico had already won their independence from Spain.

Kaia and I have plans to travel – we want to further explore the relationships between family and food in other parts of the world. I want to share other food experiences with Kaia and let begin to understand how other cultures pair family and food. Unless someone out there wants to start sending us on new journeys, we will have to do it from afar and stick to our local  adventures.

Okay, let’s get down to cooking. I don’t want to brag (I’m going to anyhow), but Kaia is an amazing tortilla maker! Sure, we could buy tortillas already made at the store, but I thought it would be really fun if we could make them together and talk about what Cinco really means.

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We don’t have a tortilla press, but that’s okay! One of our mantras is to use what we have and see if we can make it work, and work it did! To replace the tortillas press, Kaia used the bottom of one of our Calphalon pans.

Because the battle happened in Puebla and now the biggest celebrations in Mexico happen in Puebla, we wanted to make something that was relative to the food you might eat in Puebla.

Puebla-style food traditionally uses a lot of mole sauces. Mole, when made correctly, is really labor intensive and the process has a lot of steps. I love enchiladas with mole, but Kaia and I didn’t have the time to make a traditional mole. Plus Kaia has recently developed this weird complex about enchiladas. This is the only time I have ever questioned whether or not she is my child. And what’s more, there’s absolutely no reason she doesn’t like them… She just doesn’t. And so enchiladas were out.

Mexico, with its rich history, may very well be the first place that street food was offered. The pre-Colombian era in Mexico saw food vendors outside of the pyramids serving up some tacos. I love street food, from anywhere in the world, but there is something really special and absolutely delicious about street tacos. And Kaia doesn’t currently have a weird complex about street tacos so we decided to make homemade tortillas and carnitas tacos!

I scooped Kaia from school yesterday and we headed over to Ralphs Grocery Store. Here is what we picked up:

  • 5lbs. Bone-in Pork shoulder – This was on sale at 50% off – $11.08
  • 2 Jalapeno’s – 1 of these was quartered and added to the meat for a little zip, the other is for some added zip to the salsa – $0.32
  • 3lb. bag of Maza Harina – This was also on sale for $2.99
  • 6 Tomatillo Chiles – To be used for a traditional green salsa – $1.67
  • 1 White onion – For the salsa – $2.15

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I haven’t made homemade tortillas in a long time so it’s was kind of a crapshoot how they would turn out. I’m trying to teach Kaia that the more we try new things, the better we will get (if not the first time we try something, we can only stand to improve on that experience, right?). I realize that’s a DUH sort of statement, but it couldn’t be more true. Spending this time teaching, working and learning with my daughter is the best thing I think I can do with my time.

We strive to share these moments with you. Our hope is that you take and share similar experiences with your loved ones.

When we got home, we each had some work to do. Kaia had her actual homework and I got to work on breaking down the protein. I also had her do some additional homework to learn more about Cinco de Mayo. It’s really important to me that she continue to be hungry for information and continues to educated herself.

I’m trying to show her that fact checking is important. Not everything you are told or read is wrong, but being sure that it’s right is always a good idea. You don’t want to be the person that has to backtrack on something you said. Just ask anyone that knows me, I’ve never been wrong. ; )

I know this blog is going to post on Cinco, but today is actually the 4th (Cuatro) de Mayo and we are prepping our food for tomorrow. You will be reading this on the 5th…Oh boy, now I’m confused! Let’s just go with it. You try to keep up and so will I.

While Kaia studied, I removed the bone from the pork shoulder (if you ever hear it called pork butt, it is the same thing. “Pork Butt” from the proper name “Boston Butt” is cut from the shoulder). I was technically butchering, but this word usually scares people off. It’s not scary at all, it only took about 30 seconds to get the bone out. Then I cut the meat into roughly 2-inch cubes.

  1. Get your tools setup: you’ll need a pan with a rack. (to make clean-up easier, line the pan with aluminum foil).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper
  4. Cut a quarter of the white onion into long strips
  5. Quarter one of the jalapenos. If you want spicier, keep the seeds. Less spicy, cut the seeds out.
  6. Place the pork onto the rack and top with onion and jalapeno
  7. Add about a cup of water to the pan below the rack (if you have some liquid smoke I would add some as well. It is not necessary, but it adds a nice element to the meat.)
  8. Cover the whole pan with aluminum foil and place into the oven for 2 hours
  9. Remove the foil cover and take the rack out of the pan, leaving the meat by itself in its own juices with the onion and jalapeno
  10. Raise the temperature in the oven to 400 and place the pan back in there for an hour
  11. Once finished, pull the pork apart (it should just come apart) and put into a bowl to refrigerate until tomorrow… you can do this and eat the same day.

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Kaia packed her homemade tortillas and carnitas to take for lunch today. I plan to make mine for lunch right after I send out this blog post.

We hope you enjoy your Cinco celebration as much as we’ll be enjoying our carnitas tacos and homemade tortillas today!

Squid Salad

Let us begin by saying that WE love, love, love, squid and octopus, oysters, mussels and clams alike. That’s right folks, Kaia loves her seafood too…

We knew we were in for a treat when we added some squid and romanesco broccoli to a salad. From the lack of response on our last shopping list post I’m guessing that SQUID is not a fav amongst many of you. We are sorry you feel that way.

Each week you should expect something different from Daddy Daughter Cooking. We are going to continue challenging ourselves, while purchasing on a budget. We will continue to put our own twist on already existing recipes. Fact is, we are going to get to the same place; it’s now about how we get there.

This week, this is how we got there:

We started by slicing our squid into halves. I handled the slicing, and then Kaia rinsed and dried the squid. In our video (watch it here) you may notice I get a little upset with the way Kaia was initially drying the squid.

I wanted to blame my irritability on my ankle/foot injury. And I could blame it on my injury, but making excuses for losing my cool with Kaia does not make it any less confusing for my lil munchkin. I am not a perfect dad or person for that matter, but I do my best to teach her, coach her and will ALWAYS let her know that I love her unconditionally.

In reality, what I should have done was explain what I expected of her. Then had her express what and how she intended on handling her tasks. I am constantly learning to be a better dad and person, because of my child.

Showing the importance of communication between parent(s) and child(ren) is one of the reasons we started Daddy Daughter Cooking and we want to continue to encourage learning from one another through communication. In this situation, I should have taken a moment, and maybe rested a bit before getting into our cooking.  

On a happy note we did accomplish making quite a delicious salad.

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Tools/Utensils:

  • 1 large pot – the pot is going to be filled with about a half inch of water
  • 1 large strainer – the strainer has double-duty; first to be used to rinse and dry the squid, secondly to be placed in the pot with the squid still in it.  This will be what we steam the squid in
  • Whisk – to whisk the salad dressing
  • 1 large plastic or metal bowl – to chill all the ingredients for about an hour before serving
  • Kitchen knife
  • Cutting Board

We tend to get creative with both our food and what tools we need to make what we want to eat. More often than not, we don’t have all the necessary tools in our kitchen. So we put on our MacGyver hats and figure out a way to make things happen.

In this instance, we had to create a steamer for the squid. We used a pot large enough to accommodate our strainer.  

Kaia filled the pot with about a ½ inch of water and cranked the heat up so we can get to a boil as quickly as possible. I placed the strainer into the pot. When I refer to a strainer, I’m talking the biggest one you can find.

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The pot should create enough steam to soften the squid. Steam for 2 to 4 minutes, but no longer. Squid can quickly overcook. They can turn into something similar to those bouncy balls you buy from 25 cent machines (like old-school gumball machines at the grocery store). Side note: I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those machines out here in LA LA Land.

Back to the squid… Once steamed, run cold water over the squid to stop the cooking and set aside.

Next I cut the smallest dice of tomato possible. I am usually the one that handles it because tomatoes are slippery and it’s still a little dangerous for Kaia to cut them. I would prefer to be the one that ends up with an unintentional slice into my index finger; it’s also great practice for the parents if you don’t often make small knife cuts.

You will want to do the same with red onion (Fun Fact: red onion helps with circulation). Small little squares. The idea is to keep the size of veggies as close to one another as possible.

Capers are these delightful little salty, tasty green morsels. They can be found at almost any grocer. You can purchase them in the canned goods section of the grocery or in the preserved pickle aisle in the store (pickles are generally in 2 places: 1) near the hot dogs or 2) near the mustard and ketchup). They are awesome with fish, fried or raw. For this dish we drained the water from the jar, and added them to the mix dried and raw. You want to avoid adding any of the juice, so that you do not over salt the entire dish. The capers were not on our shopping list, but we had some at home and thought they would be a nice touch.

You will need about 1/3 cups of olive oil to be whisked with 2 tbsp’s of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Break down the Romanesco Broccoli into smaller pieces. Just like you would a cauliflower or broccoli head. They are pretty tough so Kaia and I went to town on tearing the head apart.

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Once you have everything whisked and mixed together, chill it in for about an hour. You should cover it, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Especially if you are like us and can’t find all the lids to all of our bowls. Our lids seem to run to same place as that one sock per laundry load goes… who the heck knows where, but I hope they’re having a nice time together!

Near the end of the salad’s hour of chilling in the fridge, we pulled out our fresh, spicy arugula. Kaia pulled our plates from the cabinet and we began to do just that, “Plate.” Plating is a term used in kitchens. It’s the act of placing the food, very pretty-like, onto the plate. 😉 Anyhow, once the arugula is on the plate, awaiting all the other delicious salad fixins, give one last whisk to the mix in the bowl. Use a large spoon to add the mix on top of the arugula.

Finally we crushed up some cashews to add more texture to our plate. A little crunch goes a long way. All in all, Squid Salad was a major success. As gross as squid looks when you buy it at the store, it is delicious!

Please continue to follow us on our journey. Thanks and we’ll see you all again next week!

Seafood Salad: A Hobbled Story!

Squid might not be the first item on your shopping list, I can promise that if you give it a shot you won’t be disappointed!

On a weekly basis Kaia and I attempt creating new things based on already existing dishes, while putting our own twist on things.

The idea for our seafood salad came from, get ready for it: a squid salad recipe.

We wanted something light, still carrying some protein. We thought fish or seafood would be a great protein to incorporate. I felt our diet had been lacking greens, so we went in the direction of a seafood salad.

Kaia and I headed out to our relatively local Whole Foods. As you know we’ve shopped on a budget, but if you’re smart in your purchases Whole Foods can be budget friendly. Recently I injured my foot and ankle, and it was throbbing inside my walking cast on the way to the store.

Kaia suggested some oysters to add to our seafood shopping list. She wanted to practice her shucking skills, and boy does she have talent as an oyster shucker! In culinary school my Chef Instructor suggested singing some Barry White while shucking (think South Park, and you’ll get in a good laugh). Trying to explain Barry White to a 10-year-old is just not going to happen for 2 reasons: 1. Barry is bedroom music, and 2. Kaia is fricken’ 10!

My foot was in trouble (because it’s injured, and also) due to my unwillingness to accept that I am aging. Plus, we are livin’ la vida loca! Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with the punches, or in my case torn ligaments. Either way, I was in pain as we walked (no dancing today) through the Whole Foods. As a parent, it’s not always easy to “keep your cool,” but I try my best when it comes to Kaia.

Whole Foods, as you might have experienced, tends to be a little on the higher cost side of grocery shopping. We have learned that if we price compare, it ends up costing about as much as Ralphs and is usually the best quality.

On this excursion, rather than buying a $35/pound Chilean Sea Bass, we sauntered down the seafood aisle (rather, I hobbled). We happened upon octopus and squid. We had cooked octopus before (more than a couple times), and as far as we were concerned Daddy Daughter Cooking had already been there and done that. We decided to move on further down that aisle.

When we saw it, we knew we had to have it. That is to say, we were grabbed by the tentacles… squid tentacles! Kaia walked up to the counter, and said, “just the tentacles please!” I can only imagine what she must look and sound like to the person behind the counter. She can’t even see over the counter. In fact she needs to take a few steps back just so they can see her. She’s so cute… She loves talking to all the fun people that help us in the store. These shopping adventures are made fun by the kiddo’s interaction with others, especially those folks in the know. 

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One of the greatest things Daddy Daughter Cooking wants to highlight and encourage is learning by tracking down these different ingredients. Kaia and I spend a lot of time talking to people that work and sell specialty (and normal) food products in the grocery store, farmers market, and anywhere else we can find food. This is how we learn about how to buy food items. Truth be told, I have even learned a few new tricks for cooking things differently (that I didn’t learn in culinary school). This practice of asking questions and learning has become an integral part of what we do. We genuinely hope you follow suit. There is empowerment in understanding.

Back to the shopping. Once we had the tentacles and oysters in hand, we stopped by the veggie aisle. We didn’t start in this section today, because we needed to know what our protein would be for the salad before we picked out veggies. We decided romanesco broccoli, tomato, red onion and a lemon would compliment the little danglies.

Here’s the final list:

1 head of Romanesco Broccoli – this product is so cool, its color is that of a sun-faded broccoli combined with some cauliflower. It’s surprisingly versatile. You can sauté, blanch, boil, or bake them – $3.67

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6 Roma Tomatoes – we love these and use them all the time – $1.77
1 Red Onion – these gems are great for circulation and amazing on salads and a staple in Greek cooking – $0.92
1 Lemon – another extraordinarily versatile item.  In this case we intend on using it for our vinaigrette – $0.69
1 lb. Squid (Tentacles Only) – boys love gross looking things and girls have stronger stomachs… Adults hide your fears, and try to remain strong! – $8.99

Check back with us later in the week to see what we came up with…  Thanks!

Chopping on the Cheap, with a Little Help from Friends

Our initial shopping day was Monday last week, and we needed to make dinner…  After returning home from the grocery store, we dove right into cooking. We had worked up quite the appetite after our dance through Ralphs.

As soon as we cascaded through our front door I asked Kaia to turn on the oven. I grabbed the Vitamix – this is an incredible machine. It’s like a bullet blender, but a thousand times better.

We have an electric stove and oven that, for some reason, doesn’t hold the temp or remain consistent throughout cooking. I think it has less to do with the oven, and possibly more to do with Kaia opening the oven door every 30 seconds while something is cooking. I’m guessing your kids have that same heightened anticipation while waiting for the object in the oven to become edible! I almost didn’t sign our lease due to the electric oven/stove conundrum, but alas here we were, and I had asked Kaia to turn the oven to a higher temp than necessary so it would cook properly.

I was thinking chips and salsa, some rice and our tri-tip on the fly! As I mentioned, we were so hungry by the time we started cooking. Kaia and I talked it over and she concurred. This would be the fastest way we could feed our hungry faces.

With the oven heating and the Vitamix out, we grabbed our ingredients…

  • Tri-tip roast: seasoned with our home mixed dry rub and some liquid smoke, we wrapped it in tinfoil and tossed in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 mins
  • 5 roma tomatoes: combined these in the Vitamix with some shallots, garden fresh cilantro, jalapeno, fresh garlic and salt

**The above are things we purchased this week, the below are items we already had at home…  Remember we try to always work with what we’ve got!

  • Corn tortillas: we brought a pan of oil up to about 450 degrees and fried the tortillas
  • Basmati Rice: not really a traditional rice to go with a beef roast, salsa and tortilla chips; but we added some of our fresh cilantro and shallots to rice and allowed them to work their flavors in.

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Fast-forward to Wednesday and three meals were already consumed. Kaia and I made our way across town to her Godfather’s place. His name is Miki (pronounced like Mickey Mouse) and coincidentally he is also my bestie. He’s an amazing guy with an incredible family of his own. He has 2 kids under the age of 2, and a very patient fiancé. His brother, whom is also one of my dear friends, happened to be babysitting a 6 year-old named Max.

So our count was a little higher than usual…. we were up to 4 adults, 1 pre-teen, 1 first grader, 1 toddler, and an infant… by my count that’s a 7.5-er on the food-consumption-o-meter. Our group epitomizes the modern families that we see grace the small screen today. Every one of our stories is different, but those differences are what make us all alike. Miki is a camera operator and photographer. We had set up this date to shoot some food photos.

As our time together sometimes does, our evening turned into a family dinner for everyone. Kaia and I still had a number of our veggies from the initial purchase this week. Those coupled with some other things around our house from weeks prior made for a great shoot (for this blog!). After we talked about what Kaia and I could bring, Kila, Miki’s brother, decided to pick up some protein. A whole chicken and 2 extra chicken breasts were bought and paid for and BOOM! We had a well-rounded dinner planned and ready to be enjoyed by our families.

First shots were of some very pretty veggies:

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Generally with these impromptu family dinners we fly by the seat of our pants; spontaneity sprinkled with love become our main ingredients. Kaia and I took a look at what we had.

Red Potatoes
Green Onions
Red Onions
Shallots
Sweet Peppers
Kale
Roma Tomatoes
Jalapeno

We knew that the kale needed to be eaten, as well as some of the potatoes. Both Kaia and I said HASH! …slow down pot-heads, we are talking potato hash! We used a cast- iron skillet to cook the diced potatoes and small chopped kale. The first thing we did was use olive oil on a paper towel to grease the pan. We added some brunoised shallots to sweat in the pan. Then we added our potatoes, followed later by the kale. The kids kept asking for more. They ate all of it!

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As parents, we know how difficult the “eat your veggies” conversation can sometimes be. If you are looking for something delicious to feed the kiddos, this potato hash is your jam!

Next we utilized the dehydrated spring mushrooms by adding about 2 cup of veggie stock to a small pot with the mushrooms. These would become the base for a mushroom cream sauce. We let these rehydrate while we broke down the whole chicken.

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Finally we got to the chicken in its now broken down state. The smaller pieces make it easier (and quicker) to cook: 8 pieces, plus the 2 additional breasts Kila brought along with the whole chicken. We preheated the oven to 400 degrees (not our oven, so this is the real cooking temp). The potato hash was removed from the cast-iron. This not only gave us a pan to cook on, but one that already had some great flavor already on it. That’s what we call a win-win!

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Our goal was to blacken the chicken with the skin still on. Kaia used a mortar (grinder) to create a powerful rub. After searing the chicken skin down for about 5 minutes we placed the skillets in the already pre-heated oven. Toss some of the green onions on the top of the chicken before putting them in the oven for added plate filler and flavor. 20 minutes in the oven is ample time for the chicken to cook through.

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It sometimes seems that the importance previously placed on family meals and time spent together has almost completely disappeared. At least that’s how it feels these days – insert sad face.

Daddy Daughter Cooking wants to help remind everyone about the importance of family socials. The cooking bonds that were once forged by trips to Grandma’s or by going to Mom and Dad’s for Sunday dinner is seemingly a lost art. We need these interactions. For Kaia and I this time spent together and memories that we continue to make are shaping our future.

Thanks to all for sticking around and following us on our journey. We hope that these recipes strike a chord with you!

Watch our video here!