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.