May 21, 2008

Mojo Picón

As you can imagine, the Canary Islands are a magical place. We went to visit our good friends Brian Sol White (who is the inspiration for much of my cooking and eating out happiness) and Kique last November. I brought back with me some very special memories and excellent recipes; among them, mojo picón. There are a few standard deviations of this recipe, but my favorite is of the red variety. This is a great dish to make if you want to make something with an international flavor - especially for people who claim to not like international foods.

Brian, who is a master at enjoying delicious food both in and out of his home, took Joseph and I out to a lovely little restaurant in Tenerife. We (he) ordered abundantly for everyone, as is usual when dining with Spaniards. The mojo picón came out and lasted no more than 7 minutes, and we were trying to eat slowly! A deep, rustic red salsa, mojo picón has an earthy, spicy flavor that melts in your mouth. I have made it a couple times since then and have played around with ingredients. I find that I prefer to add less oil to it. I've given the original recipe here so that you can also start with a base and adjust to your preferences as well. Mojo Picón is traditionally eaten with cheese, potatoes, or bread. I like it with grilled vegetables.

2 dried Palmero red peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika or cayenne pepper
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 large bread roll

  1. In a large bowl, soak peppers in warm water until softened. Remove and reserve water. Meanwhile, slice the roll thinly and toast in the oven until golden, about 5 minutes. Process into breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  2. De-seed and stem the peppers. Mash peppers and garlic well with mortar and pestle or process in food processor. Add reserved pepper water as needed. Transfer to large bowl.
  3. Add cumin, salt, paprika/cayenne, and vinegar one by one, mixing as you go. Add breadcrumbs and combine well. Stir in half the olive oil. By now, the mixture should be paste like.
  4. Put mixture into jar with tight-fitting lid. Top with reaming olive oil and ½ cup of reserved pepper water.
  5. Leave overnight. The mixture should separate creating layers of solids, oils, and water. This is a good thing. Adjust to taste, usually with salt and vinegar.
  6. Before serving, stir gently. Serve over toasted bread slices, with grilled cheese, or as a glaze or dipping sauce for grilled vegetables.

To serve with cheese

In a frying pan, heat up 1/3 cup Picón on medium high. Place 1/8 inch slices of cheese on top of the Picón for two minutes or until softening. Do not allow to melt. Flip and grill opposite side for one minute. Serve immediately with additional Picón on top.

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