Friday, January 8, 2010

He Cooks! Grilled Cuban Mojo Seafood

I was glad to arrive in St. Louis to find out that my son has a well stocked kitchen, and he cooks daily. He has figured out it is more economical to eat at home, and not eat fast food as he did a few years earlier. Local friends tell me he eats 'healthy'. St. Louis boy works out, rides his bike to work, and he has even chosen to refrain from eating fats like cheese.

He also was born with a lactose intolerance like me and my father. Most people do not realize it contains yeast (Candida). Yeast is the true culprit (There are probiotics in pill form, or super foods you eat that can help with intestinal health), but that is another post. A blog I met in Ohio and I discussed this very same thing a few nights ago.

Our menu for the next three days-

Grilled Cuban Mojo Shrimp & Sole, Asparagus
Crock Pot Chuck Roast
Lemon Grass Spinach-Corn Soup

I will assist, and probably be the chief bottle washer.

Otherwise we are hanging out, bowling, working on Spanish for his college studies; do thrift store cruising, and talking about food related subjects. The plan is to teach him about food and recipes he has yet to try. Like make fudge. A recipe I saw over at Onlinepastrychef's site last week. This was something my mom made that I have yet to attempt.

When I arrived at his job we discussed what to cook, and he had a chuck roast in mind. I said lets do some seafood recipes and soup in the mix. 

Recipe #1- Cuban Mojo Marinade

My St. Louis boy had no idea what it was, but he was game.

The authentic Mojo is made with juice from sour oranges. It still has that little orangy taste, but its very acid and tart. You can come close by mixing equal amounts of freshly squeezed orange juice with lime juice. If you live in areas with large concentration of Latinos you will probably find bottled Mojo (Goya brand makes one) or their produce department might have the slightly bumpy, thick skinned sour oranges. This recipe makes one cup.

1/3 cup olive oil
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced- you can use 1/2 t powder
Equal portions orange juice and lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 t finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly toasted. Don't let it brown or it will be acrid tasting, just about 30 seconds should do it.

Add the sour orange juice, cumin and salt and pepper. STAND BACK; the sauce may sputter. Bring to a rolling boil. Taste and correct seasoning, if needed

Cool before serving. Mojo is best when served within a couple of hours of making, but it will keep for several days, well capped in a jar or bottle, in the refrigerator.

TIP: Be careful not to leave the seafood in the Mojo Marinade for too long, or the citric acids from the juice will begin to break down the shrimp, too tough, and sole, making it mushy. 

Pieces of raw fish are left in lemon and lime juice- Both heat and citric acid are agents of a chemical process called denaturation. In this process, the heat or citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process of denaturation turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.

But how long do you need to marinate fish in citrus juices before denaturation takes place? Well, it depends on the type of fish and how you like it “cooked.” After soaking in citrus juices for just a few minutes, fish develops a firm, opaque exterior but maintains a raw, sashimi like interior.

If you marinate the fish too long, it may seem tough and “overcooked”—and the citrus juices can overpower the flavor of the fish. Since sole is a thin fillet you might find it breaks down and will fall apart, thus only sauteing is suitable.

For ceviche- whatever type of fish you’re using, it’s important to cut it up into bite-size strips, because the increased surface area will make it easier for the citric acid to do its work. A flakier fillet, like flounder, snapper, or sole, or tender shellfish like scallops may only need to marinate for about 15 minutes. Quarter-inch strips of mahi mahi, a hearty and dense fish, could take closer to 50 minutes or an hour to “cook.”

After 20 minutes in the marinade we chose to grill our shrimp, sole, and asparagus; giving it an added dimension in its flavor profile. All three ingredients had a slight smoky flavor from grilling, and the added bite of the Mojo marinade made it so tasty!