Friday, June 19, 2009

Cuban Congri (Arroz Moro) Recipe – Cuban Style Black Beans and White Rice

Congri Collage

We are back again for with some specialties passed down for generations from Cuba. My Mom is from Santiago de Cuba were this special black beans and rice dish is known as Congri. I believe in Havana it’s known as Arroz Morro; in fact my Mom had never heard it termed Arroz Morro until she arrived in the states.

First off, there are three essential requirements to any Cuban dish, plenty of garlic, loud Cuban/Puerto Rican music in the background, and the cook’s favorite pot/pan. The pot Mom uses is very special in the fact that she purchased it in Cuba back in 1962. Mom has used the the pot for the past 47 years exclusively for Congri. The only thing Mom has changed is she now cooks the beans in a pressure cooker to save time.

With Moms special pan, plenty of garlic, and Hector Lavoes “Abuelita” playing in the background we were ready to go.

Serves 8

1 Cup Black Beans
2 Cups White Rice
5 Cups Water
1 lb of Salt Pork
1/2 Orange Pepper
1/2 Yellow Pepper
1/2 Green Pepper
9 Garlic Cloves crushed
1 Onion
2 tbsp Cumin
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Cook black beans in water (we used 5 cups of water in a pressure cooker, with dry beans it took approximately 20 min).

Roughly chop the peppers and onions. Crush the garlic cloves. Note: The salt pork was purchased already cut.

Ingredients for Cuban Congri

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to pan and cook salt pork in saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pork is golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes.

Sauteed Salt Pork for Cuban Congri Recipe

Add onions, bay leaves, bell peppers, garlic and cumin sauté over medium-high heat 3-4 minutes or until onion is tender.

Sauteed Cuban Congri Ingredients

Add rice and stir in.

Adding Rice for Cuban Congri Recipe

Add the cooked beans along with the water used to cook them and let sit, do not cover or stir.

Adding cooked beans for Cuban Congri Recipe

Cuban Congri in the making

After water has absorbed (approx 10 min) reduce heat, stir, and cover the pot. Let simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Cuban Congri - Arroz Morro

Remove from heat and serve. Congri pairs well with pork dishes.

Cuban Congri

Cuban Congri - Arroz Morro

No salt was needed; enough salt was drawn from the salt pork. You will notice many different regional differences to Congri, some recipes I have seen use bacon instead of salt pork. I also have seen tomato and or vinegar used on some Congri recipes. The recipe we have shared has not been changed from the one my Mom learned as a child growing up in Santiago de Cuba, its different flavors and textures all combined make for a mouthwatering dish.


Cuban Congri

Ensenadas Coastal Oaxacan Restaurant Update

The Oaxacan restaurant at the Viento development has moved, the owners are now operating out of their beautiful coastal home not far from the old location. My family and I arrived their on a beautiful spring morning and the scenery was breathtaking. This is one of those places that has an immediate tranquil effect on me.


Along with the natural tranquility the hospitality of owners Laura and Chava is unmatched. The beautiful home is decorated with colorful Art collected through Lara and Chavas travels in Mexico.

Indoor Dining

Previously in the week I had contacted Laura and requested the Mole Negro Tamales we had enjoyed on a prior visit. You can read about the food in my previous post here

Tamal Oaxacan

We also had some simple quesadillas with Oaxacan cheese and epazote.

Epazote Quesadilla

Baby masa loves the chorizo here so we ordered a plate for her, and of course we had a to have a few samplings of it.


All and all a great experience, you really can’t beat the setting here, whether its enjoying breakfast with family or on an intimate dinner date. The house is located near the L.A Cetto Boutique off Ensenada Scenic Toll-Highway. If you would like the exact location Laura or Chava would be glad to help you, you may contact them at
(646)1747140 cell (646)1516364 Nextel 152*14*1374.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fresh Baja Lobster, Clams, and more - La Cocedora De Langosta Ensenada

La Cocedora De Langosta Collage

Not quite ready to go home after a few wonderful days in Ensenada, the family and I decided to make one last stop at La Cocedora de Langosta. La Cocedora de Langosta had come highly recommended by Chef Benito Molina. The owners of La Cocedora are involved in the local fishing industry and many top restaurants rely on them for top quality lobster, clams, and more.

As I stepped foot inside La Cocedora the first thing that caught my eye, was the amazing geoduck. They have several tanks with live geoduck clams, abalone, and of course lobster.

Geoduck La Cocedora De Langosta

They also have a selection of various local wines and artisanal products out of the Valle De Guadalupe. A variety of fresh fish is available for purchase in their storefront market.

La Cocedora De Langosta Wine

La Cocedora De Langosta Chalkboard

The restaurant is in a nice quaint setting and the partially open kitchen allows you to watch the chef in action. Fabio, the main chef, has worked with both Benito Molina at Manzanilla and Jair Tellez at Laja.

La Cocedora Chef Favio

We were seated quickly by the friendly staff and immediately enjoyed the house salsas. Be careful with the habanero salsa its muy picante. The Menu has an assortment of fresh local seafood prepared in a variety of ways at very reasonable prices.

From the cold menu
Ceviches - Almeja Generosa (Geoduck), Shrimp, Fish, Pismo Clam and Mixed.
Cocktails - Octopus, Shrimp, Almeja Generosa, and Mixed.
Aguachiles - Tuna, Scallops, Shrimp, and Almeja Generosa.
En Su Concha (In their shells) - Pismo Clam, Chocolate Clam, Oysters, and Pata de Mula.
Del Compadre (prepared with red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and grape seed oil) - Almeja Generosa, Shrimp, Fish, Pismo Clam and Mixed.

Hot Menu
Au gratin style Pismo or Chocolate Clam
Oysters Rockefeller
Steamed Mussels

I decided on the Almeja from the hot menu (Au gratin style Pismo clams) and the wife went with a shrimp cocktail. The baked clams were amazing and one of the stars of the weekend. The wife and I almost had a scuffle over them.

La Cocedora De Langosta Pismo Clams

La Cocedora De Langosta Pismo Clam

My wife enjoyed the cocktail and stated the shrimp was delicious and extremely fresh.

Small shrimp cocktail La Cocedora De Langosta

I was going to stop their but did not want to leave without trying something fresh out of the tank. I decided on the Lobster Al Gusto. The lobster comes in several styles; you can order burritos, Puerto Nuevo Style (fried), or Al Gusto (your liking). My Lobster was broiled and topped with some special ingredients. The Lobster was very fresh, juicy, meaty, and accompanied by tortillas, rice, and clam salad. The rice was incredibly delicious and tasted homemade.

La Cocedora De Langosta Lobster Al Gusto

La Cocedora De Langosta Lobster Al Gusto

La Cocedora is great place for lunch open Tuesday - Sunday 12pm - 5Pm. The fish market portion is opened from 700am - 5pm. The address is Blvd. Teniente Azueta No 187-D Recinto Portuario, Ensenada, B.C., Mexico. Its Located directly across from the fish taco stands that line the Mercado Negro fish market.
Phone (646)178 37 42

La Cocedora De Langosta

Plenty of paid parking is available directly behind La Cocedora, just enter at the lighthouse.

Parking Area La Cocedora De Langosta


Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Wine and Culinary Experience in Ensenada Baja California

I just returned from a great weekend in Ensenada which was highlighted by tasting artisan wine created by a charming and diverse group of up and coming local wine producers. I was fortunate enough to attend at this year’s Guateque wine festival held at the sprawling vineyards of Liceaga in San Antonio de las Minas Ensenada Baja California Mexico.

2009 Guateque Poster

Vinos Liceaga,

It was very exciting to sample so many new quality wines by Cruz, Tres Mujures, Enigma, VI, Agosto, and so much more. I was not taking notes but I do remember some of my stand out favorites. One of the stand outs for me was Palabra by Adrian Gonzalez.
Adrian Garcia Vino Palabra Producer

Adrian works at Vinos La Contra (Restaurante Del Parque) and has helped me with wine recommendations before, I was not aware Adrian was producing his own wine. It’s very funny because when I ran into Adrian at Guateque I asked him for some recommendations. Adrian threw out a few names and then in a very humble tone asked me if I had tried his wine. It turns out Adrian has produced a fabulous young Zinfandel. I ended up purchasing a bottle of Palabra that I plan on pairing with cochinita pibil. Palabra is available at Vinos La Contra.

Vino Palabra

Baja wine authority Steve Dryden, who was also in attendance, seemed to be fond of Adrians wine as well. Steve recommended a Tempranillo by Encino that I really enjoyed. I look forward to Steves commentary on this years Guateque event, he did a nice piece on last years. A number of winemakers are also producing beer, which I found interesting. One beer I particularly appreciated was the handcrafted La Nina En Malta Amber by El Parral.

La Nina En Malta Amber by El Parral.

A nice selection of cheese, olive oil, and much more was available for tasting. After grabbing an Ice cold amber beer from El Parral, I hooked up with Javier Martinez from Restaurante Manzanilla; Javier was representing Manzanilla with some delicious handmade sausage on the grill. The natural hog casings were provided by Jay from the Linkery. Thanks Jay!

Handmade sausage Manzanilla Guateque 2009

Grupo Manzanilla also had some very cool shirts available for purchase.

Manzanilla Shirt

My wife and I were very delighted to see Sabina of La Guerrense showcasing her amazing Mariscos.

Sabina La Guerrense

La Guerrerenses ceviche tostadas were a hot item, but I preferred some simple cuts of the tender and juicy pulpo (octopus). Sabina just cuts a few pieces and adds chili and lime and I’m set.

La Guerrerenses Octopus (Pulpo)

Another dish that seemed to be a hit was Caprichos paella, which looked very delicious.

Resturante Caprichos Paella at Guateque 2009

I could not pass up on the cachete (beef cheek) tacos provided by none other than the Plasencia group which runs Tijuanas Villa Saverios, Erizo Cebicheria, Guiseppis, Casa Plasencia and Caffe Saverios. Javier Plascensia will be opening Asador Campestre Saverios,his seasonal Ensenada restaurant, starting July 1st 2009 . Asador Campestre Saverios will is located on the beautiful grounds of Liceaga; I will provide more detail after opening.

Asador Campestre Saverios - Guateque 2009

I thought I was hallucinating when I heard Pink Floyds “Another Brick in the Wall” being played by the live Norteño band but it was true. I recorded it on video and I will post something up as soon as I fix my video computer. The band was very entertaining.

norteno copy

The grounds of Vina de Liceaga provided a perfect location for the festival. Beautiful large trees lined the festival area. All in all it was a great time with family and friends, and I hope I’m fortunate enough to attend next years Guateque wine festival. It’s an exciting time in Ensenada with more and more wine makers producing excellent wines.

2009 Guateque wine festival at Liceaga in San Antonio de las Minas Ensenada.

Ensenada Updates

I had a chance to visit Restaurante del Parque which recently changed hands from Jair Tellez to Hugo and Gloria D' Acosta . I will provide a full update soon but I’m pleased to say I had a great dinner on Saturday night. One of my favorite young chefs “Isemene” is still running the kitchen. Isemene whipped up an unforgettable rosemary and honey infused mousse that turned out to be one of the culinary highlights of the weekend. Isemene has worked under the tutelage of both Jair Tellez and Benito Molina.

Ismene - Chef Restaurante del Parque

Benito recommended I try a new restaurant near the Mercado Negro called La Cocedora de Langosta, I have never been disappointment in his recommendations, and I did not hesitate to check it out. It turns out another great young chef Fabio, who also worked with Jair and Benito, is running the kitchen. Fabio made a delicious baked clam I will not soon forget. A full report on La Cocedora de Langosta will be posted in a few days.

Favio - La Cocedora de Langosta Ensenada Baked Clams

The Oaxacan restaurant at Viento has moved. They are now operating out of their beautiful house with breathtaking coastal views. I had breakfast their on Saturday and I did not want to leave. This is another report that will be coming in the next week.

The view from Las Chapulinas Restaurant

As I stated before it’s a very exciting time in Baja it’s unfortunate the media in the U.S tends to focus on all the negative aspects. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in Baja.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mexican White Rice - Arroz Blanco Recipe

Arroz Blanco can be made in a variety of ways. Some recipes call for peas and carrots however I'm not the biggest fan of peas and carrots so they are not found in this version. I guess my lack of love for the peas stems from childhood. My dad was very firm during dinner time, and we most certainly would never leave the table without finishing our vegetables. Well needless to say we had a very fat cat named PJ who just happened to love peas.

This arroz blanco is very versatile and pairs well with almost any dish. We recently enjoyed this recipe with moms Cuban style lengua de res.

Arroz Blanco,

In our recipe green onions and bell peppers are used to bring a nice flavor element, however they are removed prior to serving. Some cooks prefer to chop white onions and blend into the rice.

Arroz Blanco

Ingredients (Makes 8 Servings)
2 Cups of Long Grain White Rice, washed
4 Cups of Water
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoon of Butter
2 Tablespoons Knorr Chicken Bouillon
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
5 Green Onions

Heat oil and butter in pan and stir in the white rice. Stir until the grains are evenly coated and continue to fry over medium heat (approx 5 minutes). Add the onion, crushed garlic, and red bell pepper. Continue frying until just before they turn golden, about 8-10 minutes.

Arroz Blanco

Add water

Arroz Blanco

Add Knoor chicken bouillon.
Bring to a boil; Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Arroz Blanco

Set rice aside and keep covered 10 Minutes.

Arroz Blanco

Remove the onions and bellpepper.

Note: The only reason we do not chop the onions and bell pepper finer is the kids prefer the rice plain. We still get the flavor of the onions and bellpeppers and the kids are happy. The onions and bell pepper in the first picture were used for garnish only. Enjoy!

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Mexican White Rice