Sancocho de Gallina and Tamales de Pipían

As I mentioned before, I had wanted to cook for Caro when she was in town but was unable to do so but thankfully her mother and sister still live in Austin so I was able to cook for them. When meal planning, I asked Caro for input because I couldn’t really find much information on how meals are set up in Colombia. Like, do they do appetizers? How many sides do they typically have? What are the make up of the sides? Are they primarily vegetables or protein? Caro, can I rename you Google??? And as usual, she answered in her calm and honest way “Meli, we eat everything. Don’t stress out.” I still stressed out. She then suggested sancocho (chicken stew), tamales, and empanadas. Since empanadas usually take a lot of work, I settled on the sancocho and tamales. I know what you’re thinking, tamales take a lot of time to make BUT Caro did mention that Colombian tamales are much bigger than Mexican tamales so I thought that would cut my work time down significantly.

Hint: it did not.

I started prepping early in the day to reduce running around like a crazy person. I boiled the potatoes for the pipían, washed the banana leaves for the tamales, washed and peeled the potatoes and yucca for the sancocho, I was on it! Caro’s mother and sister, Patricia and Vane, were set to arrive at seven so I really started working on the meal at 5:30. I thought the sanchocho de gallina, a chicken stew, would be easy enough because it involved chopping up a chicken and veggies and throwing them in a pot. And since I’ve finally learned how to break down a full chicken in about five minutes, I didn’t worry about that. Same with the tamales. I didn’t have to pre-cook the meat like you do with Mexican tamales and I knew the masa would not take very long to mix so I kinda just took my time with everything.

What I did not plan on were the sauces. I had to make ají de maní (spicy peanut sauce) for the tamales, hogao for the masa (tomato based creole sauce), and aliño (a dressing) to put into everything. Those three took up an hour, not even kidding. It was a lot of chopping and blending and boiling and I was not a happy camper. Next thing I knew it was 6:30 and I hadn’t even made the tamales. I then ordered James into the kitchen and we created a mini assembly line. He filled the tamales, I folded and tied them with string. I had also wanted to make some arepas (kinda like a cheese pupusa) and patacones (fried plantain) but there was no time.

Thankfully Vane showed up with patacones of her own, and some extra hogao, and Patricia showed up with pandebono, which is another cheese bread. It was like they read my mind!

Everything turned out amazing, maybe my stress enhanced the flavor. All of the chicken sank to the bottom of the pot but I think that helped with its tenderness. It literally fell apart in my bowl and it was juicy and amazing. Patricia said that my seasoning of the sancocho was perfect and even though I didn’t have much to do with it (thankyou Goya!) I still accepted the compliment. The plantains held together very well and I think that’s because they were super green. I had expected them to turn into mush from being boiled for over an hour but they kept shape.

The tamales, though, oh man. I think pipían tamales have replaced pork tamales as my favorite. Unlike Mexican masa, this masa was not only flavored with spices but with actual veggies in the form of the aliño, which is a paste made up of red and green bell peppers and onions. It was so much richer than the masa I’m used to. The pipían itself, which itself was made of peanuts, potato, and the hogao, was indescribable. It was just fantastic! Vane said the tamales were kinda bigger than normal and I told her Caro had said Colombian tamales are but she clarified that Colombian tamales typically are bigger than Mexican tamales except for the ones made of pipían. I just fell in love with them and I couldn’t have been happier with the meal.

For dessert I made coconut flan. I’d never had homemade flan, it’s always been the instant stuff, so I obviously thought it was gross, but all the Colombian desserts I found were kinda complex so I sucked it up and made the flan. I am SO happy I made the flan! It was so much more amazing than I could have ever expected! It was rich and sweet and OMG I NEED TO EAT THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! It wasn’t hard to make so I really might make this on a weekly basis.

I’m gonna get so fat. And it will.be.worth.it.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

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Pupusa de Queso, Curtido, and Yucca Frita con Chicharron

I mentioned in my last post that everything I found regarding El Salvadorean cuisine mentioned pupusas. Pupusas were the first item on every single list of best El Salvadorean foods. I’ve never had pupusas but I’ve had my fair share of its cousin, the gordita. Actually, they’re more half-siblings than cousins because they’re basically made the same way but just have a couple of extra ingredients; and maybe look a little different. Yeah, that’s how I would describe my half-brother and sister.

Anyway, both are made with masa harina, both look like fat tortillas, and both have fillings. That’s where the similarities end. With pupusas, the filling in incorporated into the dough. You flatten the dough to about palm size, put whatever filling you want (cheese, meat, veggies, a combo of all three), and then fold the dough over the filling. With gorditas, you lightly fry the dough after flattening it, slice it open, and put your filling in there. The filling is typically meat and salad, at least the ones I’ve always eaten are. So yes, very similar but not the same. I love gorditas. I spent many a Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis fiestas at the gordita stand, stuffing my face full of tripa gorditas and then walking over to the raspa stand and eating/drinking strawberry raspas. Wow, reading over that sentence, I’m wondering how I wasn’t an obese child. All I did was eat fried shit and sugar and I was NOT active. Luck I guess.

So considering my love for gorditas, I figured I would love pupusas just as much. I won’t keep you waiting for the answer: I totally loved pupusas! Mine came out thinner than they should have because I wanted to make more than the four the recipe said it would make. Mine also weren’t as smooth as they should have been because my dough was a little dry. I had the little one in the kitchen with me and she kept trying to stick her hand in the dough so I kinda rushed it, instead of adding in the additional water to make it more moist and pliable. Cooking the pupusas was probably the most fun part. Because I’m an experience tortilla warmer, cooking the pupusas was easy. I just heated up my skillet, threw the pupusa on there, and flipped with MY BARE FINGERS every couple of minutes. My fingers are so callused from heating up tortillas on the comal, it was no thang. That’s not true, after flipping ten very hot pupusas, the tips of three of my fingers were red and sensitive for the rest of the night. That still didn’t stop me from making up a song to the tune of Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.” My version went “Started with tortillas now I’m here/Started with tortillas now the whole team here” It’s going to be a big hit, y’all.

I also made some curtido and fried yucca with chicharron. This yucca recipe is basically like the Brazilian yucca recipe except it added some annatto and paprika. It gave them some added color but didn’t really affect the flavor too much. I hadn’t ever made chicharrones before because I like to be in denial when it comes to fried foods. Like, I know how they’re made and how bad they are but when you actually see them being cooked and see all that oil get sucked in, it’s depressing. We ate a lot of chicharrones back home, it was one of my dad’s favorite things to eat. The chicharrones I’m used to are big, fat, thick pieces of pig skin with a layer of actual fat that is fried. It sounds gross, I know, but they are so good! You have to cut the fat off because who wants to eat that? But once you do, throw some salt on it, a little chile, and you’re good. The chicharrones I made were just skin, no fat, and very, very thin. They curled up very quickly but were really crispy and almost broke a couple of teeth. I am not selling this very well…

Aside from not being the healthiest meal we’ve had in a while, I loved every single bit of it! It took me back to my childhood and made me miss my hometown. I never miss my hometown but when I do, it’s because of the food. Uvalde is a total shitshow but there’s some good Mexican food there. I will never stop missing that.

I’m taking tonight and tomorrow off from cooking but we have friends coming over for brunch on Saturday and I’m making carne deshilada, shredded beef. Hopefully it comes out better than the Cuban version.

Steak with Mustard Onion Sauce and Yucca Fries

First things first: that picture doesn’t do this meal justice. I know, I need better picture taking skills. I was talking to a friend who is friends with a local food blogger, a very successful food blogger, and my friend said I need to up my picture taking game. This topic has come up before and it’s one I wrestle with often. Here’s the thing, taking curated pictures is only not “my thing” but it’s also hard with what I do.

Most food bloggers test out their recipes before they publish. This means they make it a few times before they post about it because they have to make sure the ingredients work well, that measurements are accurate, and that it doesn’t suck. Because of this, they have ample opportunities to take good pictures. Yes editing plays a huge part in picture taking but so does the set up. I’d say the set up is just as important as a filter and I bet many photographers agree with me. It’s an art form for a reason!

I don’t have that luxury. For me, these meals are a one and done. I’m not creating these recipes, I’m merely following them, so the luxury I do have is not having to test them out. But since I make them once and feed my family directly from them, I don’t have time to take a lot of pretty pics. Even when I’m actually cooking, it’s hard to take a minute out and set up a shot. I’ve tried, with both my phone and an actual camera, and it’s not easy. I’m messy when I cook and my kitchen has crap lighting so taking a good pic involves cleaning up a bit and then standing on a step stool and come on, when I’m working on a sauce or something attention consuming, every minute is precious. I literally don’t have time for that.

And then I have hungry kids and a husband. And myself. I get hungry too. When I finish cooking, I want to eat. I don’t want to place my food on the table and then haphazardly throw a napkin to the side to make it look super casual and take a pic; the food will get cold and my kids will annoy me even more because they won’t stop asking for Goldfish crackers.

But if people think that’s what will make this more appealing, maybe I should do this. Maybe I should make the time, somehow. Once again, input from my five readers is most appreciated.

But this meal, even though the pics don’t show it, it was guuuuhd. Not just good, GUUUUUUHD. The steak was crispy on the outside and medium rare on the inside. The sauce, oooh, I can eat that sauce all day, e’eryday. It was a little tangy and salty but creamy and buttery. I ate two pieces and didn’t even care. The fries were spectacular! The three year old couldn’t stop eating them. She really liked smothering them in the sauce and kept stealing mine. They were lighter than potato fries and not as starchy. I will make these again for sure.

So make this one meal, if you can. It’s easy, yummy, EASY. Also let me know about pics. I’m conflicted.

Recipe, Recipe

Olla de Carne

Olla de Carne translates to “pot of meat” but I feel like there wasn’t a lot of actual meat in this recipe. The recipe called for two pounds of beef and roughly four and a half pounds of vegetables. It reminded me of Caldo de Res, which is Mexican beef stew, but with more root veggies.

This was by far the easiest meal I’ve prepared so far. It was also one of the most boring.

costarica.com. I’m pretty sure that’s legit.

Maybe I should have thrown in some cilantro…

Recipe