Day 82: You’re welcome to steal my mojo

March 23, 2007


After a crazy day of juggling deadlines, traffic and a household struck down with various ailments and illnesses, we set about making Ropa Vieja Josés (Cuban Sloppy Joes) with Smashed Yucca, Sliced Tomatoes, Plantain Chips, and Mojo Sauce [recipe]. We swiftly discovered that I had eaten all the bread rolls this week in my bland white food fixation, so L went out to buy some more. (Is there anything more pathetic than a sick man going out on a Friday night to only buy bread rolls for a meal that you don’t really want to make?) Anyway, for the next 15 minutes, I set about attacking the yucca. I had no idea that a yucca root really is like a root; there was a small tree growing in the middle that was impossible to cut out, even with our one sharp monster knife. The yucca was eventually chopped then boiled in salted water for 20 minutes, then mashed with my mojo.

The mojo consisted of half an onion, 5 cloves of garlic, cumin, the zest and juice of half a lemon, a mountain of olive oil and some water blended in the food processor to make an oily garlicy paste. I may have rejigged the oil to water ratio as half a cup of olive oil in one meal for two people just seemed so very wrong. My mojo, unfortunately, tasted pretty vile. I wonder if that’s a personal thing.

Half of the mojo was put in a skillet and briefly cooked before the ground sirloin was added to the pan and browned. Pimiento olives, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, tomato sauce, grill seasoning and paprika were added to the mix and the whole lot simmered for a while. The meat mixture was served in our newly-acquired rolls, with sliced dill pickles. The mashed yucca was alongside with some sliced tomatoes. Unfortunately we couldn’t find plantain chips, so we substituted “exotic vegetable chips” instead. Neither of us could bring ourselves to drizzle my mojo over the chips as directed, I’m sorry to say. They’re just too nice without.

The sloppy Josés were pretty tasty. They were easy to make and we both enjoyed them far more than we anticipated. With the chips and the sliced tomatoes, this would have been a good, colourful, balanced meal. The mashed yucca seemed superfluous to begin with; this is already a pretty hefty meal. I have to say I sampled the yucca and couldn’t bring myself to eat anymore. It tasted like raw garlic in mashed turnip, something I just can’t do. L thought it was ok. The Danes eat a fair amount of root vegetables, so he was quite happy with the yucca. Unfortunately he thought that it was so bland that it was in danger of tasting like a Danish preparation of a root vegetable. Apparently this is not a compliment.

All in all, the Estefan family tribute today was far better than yesterday, but it still seemed a little too convoluted. Without the yucca, this would have been quick, easy and pretty satisfying. With the yucca (not yumm-a, despite what the book says), this tipped into the realm of too much work for the result. Interestingly, on the 30 Minute Meals episode, Havana Breeze, the sloppy Josés were served with Mojito Mashed Sweet Potatoes, rather than a garlicy old boot.

Tomorrow, we move away from Gloria Estefan and family, so perhaps I can finally get the lyrics to the two songs of hers that I know out of my head. Still, it could be worse, it could have been food for Celine Dion. I’ve been meaning to mention that I dream about this project most nights. Between the morning sickness and the getting up to eat and the getting up to attend to Baby A who is sick again, I have some pretty interrupted nights. Each time I get up it seems I’ve been having some sort of dream about what we cooked or what we have to cook. It’s like having work dreams, but weirder. This isn’t the sort of pregnancy dreams I was hoping for, I have to say. Anyway, moving on, tomorrow we make Ginger Vegetable Chicken Noodle Bowl. Back to the chicken grind- 4 out of the next 6 meals are chicken. Yumm-o.

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  • Reply Joannie March 24, 2007 at 8:14 am

    I think yucca is revolting. My mother is from South America and I’ve never had yucca in an appetizing way. She says it’s just like a potato but that’s a lie. I’m sorry you had to eat it.

    Ginger is very good for nausea so hopefully you’ll feel better. Get some ginger tea (decaf) and ginger snaps and it’ll help with the morning sickness and nausea. They also make chewy ginger candies that are good to keep in your purse. Also, peppermint gum will help with nausea.

  • Reply Doctor D March 24, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Hello HAL. I hope this finds you all well and healthier. This is my virgin BLOG experience, wow you guys are computer smart. I love the Mark of your project. Will you add two more ovals when the baby arrives? I have no great comment about the meal from last night except, complete admiration that you are actually doing this. It is an amazing amount of work. I will leave you with this image. . . PJ doing some sort of belly dance to Jason Mraz as AJ looks on clapping all the while T is slaving over a frozen DiGiorno pizza. Sorry guys, I had to rub it in. TTFN, D.

  • Reply Helen | One Year Project March 25, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Joannie, it’s somehow reassuring to know that someone who has tried yucca prepared in many ways still finds it revolting!
    Thanks for the nausea tips, I’m not a big fan of ginger ale/ tea or candies, but am steadily eating my way through a big box of ginger snaps we bought for an earlier recipe. I’m finding fruity sweets pretty helpful at the moment.

  • Reply Helen | One Year Project March 25, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Doctor D, Welcome! We’re so happy that you lost your blog virginity on our site, hope it was good for you, it will probably only get better from here. We are planning to add a tiny pair of ovals to the image soon- suppose it would make sense to wait till the baby (singular, yes!) is on the outside. Hope your pizza was good (mmm, pizza), the entertainment sounds hilarious.

  • Reply The Home Cook March 27, 2007 at 10:54 am

    I’m glad to hear you had more luck then I did with the Ropa Viega Joses. You deserve a decent meal after all the bad ones you’ve been eating lately.

  • Reply cubanita81 August 12, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Loving your project! When this is all over, you guys deserve a medal!
    Just an fyi-Rachael Ray’s concepts of Cuban cuisine are abominable at best. Being married to a cuban, we obviously eat a lot of cuban food and of all the mojos I’ve made and purchased, they never, ever contain cumin! If you ever want to try mojo again (it can actually be awesome) use onion, garlic, olive oil, a little salt, and cracked black peppercorns. The citrus contained in it is called naranja agria (bitter orange). It comes in a bottle (you can find it at most Latino markets–even in Memphis where we live), but if you can’t find it, you can fake it with 2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part lime juice. Also, use it as a marinade, my esposo and I don’t really care for it as a dipping sauce. Oh–and don’t blend it! Nobody does that, except of course, Ms. Ray.
    One last thing and I’ll end my rant. Ropa Vieja is not made with ground beef. That’s another dish entirely, called Picadillo. Ropa Vieja is made with shredded beef. Ropa Vieja means old clothes, so shredded beef is supposed to be rags I guess, but it’s my fave dish!
    Anyhoo, sorry to be so long winded, but keep up the good work! You guys are troopers!

  • Reply Figet December 18, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Nice blog!

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