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Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

1 Jan

I am truly exited to be able to share this recipe with my readers and followers. As a kid I was sometimes involved in the making of hallacas during Christmas in Venezuela, but with very little responsibility; something like handing over a piece of yarn, or a spoon. Finally, eleven years after moving to the US, I can say that I have truly been involved in, and enjoyed the hallaca making experience. If you haven’t read my previous post regarding Venezuelan Christmas traditions, you can take a look here, to understand the full scope of a traditional Venezuelan Christmas Dinner, celebrations, traditions and dishes, but for this post I am going to limit myself to only explaining the hallacas.
This past year (2014), my paternal grandparents came to spend Christmas here in Florida with the rest of my paternal family, which they usually do every year. However, this year was extra special because they didn’t come alone, they invited my great-grandmother (my paternal grandfather’s mother) to join us. My great-grandmother, la señora Nery Ruso (98), is my true role model and a great inspiration as a woman. From a very young age she was dedicated to working, studying, raising her children, and it paid off in a life filled with accolades, awards, medals, and the highest honors as an entrepreneur, writer, business owner, a true influential character in the Venezuelan society. Writing for the most important newspapers in the country, socializing with several presidents and their wives, marrying internationally recognized painters, founding recognized magazines and pageants. A true inspirational woman who worked hard to position herself into spots once only held by highly educated men.
As I was sitting there ready to learn how to make the traditional hallacas from my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my aunt, I asked my great-grandma, who we all call Bila (A nickname my dad gave her when he was a kid), if she knew where and how did the hallacas come from. Bila said the story she knows is the one I wrote on my previous post about Venezuelan Christmas. But the way she described it to me was even better. She said a long time ago there were the very rich families with European descendants and they used to have these giant parties with all kinds of dishes that their maids would prepare for them. At the end of the parties, the maids would clean up the tables and think what a waste to throw away such expensive ingredients like olives, capers, steaks, pork, chicken, and raisins. So the maids would chop up all the ingredients and make them into a stew, and since the corn dough was cheap they used that to make the outer envelope for the stew. She said eventually the rich people would come to try these inventions and they became what we know today as the hallaca.
The hallaca/hayaca (pronounced Ah-jac-kah) is an original traditional Venezuelan dish that we only consume during the month of December and during Christmas and it is the number one most important component for a true Venezuelan Christmas Dinner. The hallaca brings our families together even for the preparation, which can take up to 3 days and at the very least two people to make at least 50 Hallacas. The preparation itself is a reason to come together and celebrate, and create an assembly line with positions assigned, like the chopper, the cook, the dough kneader, the wrapper, and the knot maker. This year I was very fortunate to have these three women teach my sister and me how to make the hallacas. We made them over two days in the afternoons (because of my busy work schedule), at my aunt’s house, in the middle of her moving overseas. It was definitely a crazy experience, but all the fun we had and all the tips I learned were worth it. I felt blessed that there were three generations of experts each giving me their own tips and advice, at the end I was very tired, but the experience couldn’t have been any better and definitely worth it. Each person has their own way of making hallacas, each family has their own secret ingredient or traditions passed down from generation to generation, and techniques that are also improved upon generation to generation. For example, the flattening of the dough was and still is usually done by hand pressing with your fingers, but my aunt has a beautiful tortilla press (tortillera), which she bought in Mexico that she uses for hallaca making, and it makes it a lot faster and easier. Even tying the yarn can be a subject of debate. The funny part is my great-grandmother would want to teach me how to do it her way, my grandmother would want to teach me how to do it her way, and my aunt had her own way of doing it, which was different that both their ways. After taking in all that knowledge from those three generations I think I am confident in making hallacas on my own next year and sharing all this knowledge with you so you can also make them at home this year, or next year.  Each family and each region in the country has their own recipe and their own way of making the hallacas, but the process is basically the same.

A Few Tips Before We Begin
This is basically a summary of all I learned while making hallacas with my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my aunt.
a) The entire process is time consuming and it takes a toll on you physically. Be sure to set aside at least two entire days for making hallacas, and enlist the help of a couple of friends or family members. However, as my great-grandmother said… “Muchas manos en la olla ponen el caldo morado” – Too many hands on the pot, make the broth turn purple.
b) You will need a large area for the ‘assembly line’. You can use your dining table if you have a large enough one, but be sure to cover it either with newspaper, a tablecloth you don’t care about damaging, a plastic table cloth, or some other protective surface. Be sure you don’t have a carpet or rug you don’t wish to damage or stain either.
c) On that note, come prepared with a change of clothes that you don’t mind staining, or aprons…and some hairnets, or if you want to be cute and fancy like us, you can wear bandanas. You just want to make sure that hair doesn’t become an ingredient.
d) Be sure one of your helpers is the person in charge of cleaning up. You don’t want to wait until the end of the night when you are tired and have a mountain of dishes to wash. Be sure your helper is washing everything as you go, because sometimes you might need to use the same tool twice.
e) Be sure to gather all the tools and ingredients necessary at least a day before you begin, so you don’t have to send someone out to get them and loose a pair of helping hands. Also be sure the tools are nice and clean and ready to be used.
f) Be sure to empty out your fridge because you will need a lot of space to store the hallacas when ready. And also be sure you don’t make the hallacas way to far in advanced, otherwise you will have to freeze them, and they are better when they are not frozen. The weekend before Christmas is good enough.
g) Kitchen Tools. There are a few kitchen tools that would make your job a lot easier. You don’t have to buy the expensive brands, and you may even be able to borrow some of these from someone else. A tortilla press or tortillera is not something you would probably have in your home, but there are a few cheap wooden ones you can get online, like the ones from the IMUSA brand. They have a round cast iron one for $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I am not sure if those are large enough. You are better off with a large rectangular one, which you can buy online from a Mexican store, on etsy or ebay. You could also make your own as shown here… or you could just use your hands or a rolling pin, or even a large heavy Pyrex baking pan. You will also need several cutting boards, sharp knives and keep your knife sharpener handy, several bowls and Tupperware containers to keep all the ingredients you have to chop beforehand, large stew pots and large pans, several clean wash cloths and scissors, extra large bowls for mixing the dough and keeping the stew, strainers, latex gloves, measuring cups, and measuring spoons.

What you need for 50 Hallacas:
Guiso | Stew (Filling):
– 5.5 lbs. Sirloin Tip Roast
– 3.5 lbs. Chicken Breast With Rib (No Skin)
– 2.5 lbs. Rib End Boneless Pork Roast
– 1 lb. Bacon
– 5 Lemons Cut In Half
– 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
– 6 Cups Chopped Onions
– 4 Cups Chopped Leeks
– 2 Cups Chopped Green Onions
– 3¼ Cups Minced Garlic
– ½ Cup Capers in ½ Cup Chicken Broth
– 2.5 lbs Red Bell Pepper, Grated without skin or seeds
– 5 Cups grated Tomatoes (No Skin or Seeds)
– 4 Chopped Sweet Peppers (Ají Dulce)
– 1 Cup White Wine
– ½ lb. Papelón Rallado (Grated shredded sugar cane blocks available in Latin stores)
– 1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
– 2 Teaspoons Paprika
– 5 Tablespoons Salt
– ½ Teaspoon Mustard
– 2 Cups Chicken Broth
Masa | Dough:
– 9 lbs. Harina P.A.N.
– 4½ Cups Chicken Broth
– 17 Cups Water
– 5 Cups Oil
– 6 Tablespoons Annatto Seeds
Adornos | Garnish:
– 1 lb. Bacon (Same one that was cooked with the pork cut in long slices)
– 2 lb. Red Bell Peppers (Cut in long slices without skin or seeds)
– ½ lb. Sliced Almonds
– 1 lb. Medium Onions, cut in long rings or long slices
– ½ lb. Small Drained Capers
– 1 lb. Medium Pitted Green Olives, Drained
– ½ lb. Raisins
Envoltura | Wrapping:
– 10 lbs. Plaintain Leaves (about 10 bags)
– 2 rolls of Pabilo (Cotton Yarn, Butcher’s String, Kitchen Twine, etc)

Preparation:
DAY ONE
1. The first thing you want to do is prep and clean all the plantain leaves, cut them and separate them by size. As I mentioned before, this recipe can take up to three days in the making and you want all your assembling parts to be ready on the final day. Therefore, you can begin by prepping the plantain leaves on day one. You can even do it before day one, or you can do it while the stew is on the stove. Either way you should do it before you are ready to assemble the hallacas.  Here in the US, it is fairly easy to find plantain leaves. There are a couple of brands that sell plantain leaves in a bag, in the frozen section. They sell them as Hojas de plátano or Banana Leaves, although the real translation should be plantain leaves. They have Goya, La Fe, La Nuestra, El Sembrador, etc. You can buy either one. My aunt bought El Sembrador and La Fe brands. The plantain leaves are really large and they come all folded together inside the bag, and they are pretty cold when you handle them because they are frozen. Its best if you leave them out to thaw a bit before you begin this process, because they will be easier to handle.

Hojas de Platanos | Plantain Leaves | Banana Leaves

Hojas de Plátanos | Plantain Leaves | Banana Leaves

If you look at the leaf, you can tell it has a main vein or central nerve, which is where it is attached to the tree, then a lot of little lines perpendicular to the vein/nerve that go from the nerve to the edge of the leave, lets call them little veins or little nerves. When you are working with the leaf, whether it is cleaning it or cutting it, you should always keep the side where these little veins or little nerves are most visible protruding, side up. And also lay them with those lines going away from you (you would see them vertically) and the line where the main nerve is, or used to be closest to you. Don’t worry I will illustrate all of these complicated terms below for you.

Plantain Leaf Parts

Plantain Leaf Parts

2. First you should open the bags and lay them all opened and flat on a large table. They are supposedly already cleaned, but you should clean them anyways with a wet kitchen towel or cloth. They are easily broken and torn in half so it is better to clean them all first and then proceed to cut the veins and cut them into all the different sizes you will need. Clean the leaves with a wet cloth and then dry them with a dry cloth.
3. Once you have cleaned them and dried them all, you can proceed to cut the vein or central nerve if you will. If you lay the long plantain leaf vertically in front of you, you will notice one side has a thick vein (the side that is most straight). You can proceed to cut the whole vain, which is only about half an inch from the edge.

Cuttin the veins of the plantain leaves

Cutting the veins of the plantain leaves

4. Once you cut all the veins from all the leaves, you can proceed to classify and cut them into all the different shapes and sizes you will need. You can also proceed to tear apart the pieces, which are already torn, because if they already have a tear, they will eventually tear all the way.
5. The different pieces you will need are:
– La camisa | The Shirt: This is the main piece which is used to directly place the dough on. They can be roughly about 15” x 10” rectangles. You want to pick the best pieces for this category. You want them to be flexible and without any torn edges. These will also be used as the second piece, which goes on top of the shirt to prevent much water to getting into the shirt, which holds the hallacas itself. But this second piece will not be directly in touch with the dough, its just a second cover (I guess we can call it the jacket, lol… just kidding, that is not the official name)
– La Tapa | The Cover: These leaves are a bit smaller than the shirts, they are usually about 8” x 10” rectangles. They are used are a cover or top for the main ones. The more you cover up your hallacas, the less water will get into them.
– The faja | The Belt: These leaves are 3” to 5” wide times whatever width of the original plantain leave. They are used, as their name describes it, simple to hold in the hallacas and all those previous leaves together right before it is ties up with the thread.
*From one good entire plantain leaf you can probably get one or two shirts, a cover and a couple of belts.
*Someone asked me if they could make Venezuelan Hallacas without using the plantain leaves, the answer is no.  As you will understand by the end of this post, the plantain leaves are essential to the making of Venezuelan Hallacas, and they even give the that distinctive smell and taste.
DAY ONE (Continued) OR DAY TWO
Guiso | Stew (Filling):
1. Clean the pork and the chicken rubbing them with the lemon halves and then rinsing thoroughly with enough water.
2. In a large enough stewing pot with hot boiling water, cook the pork and the bacon on medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain the meats (you can get rid of this liquid). Set the pork aside to cool down so it can be cut into small square pieces of about ½ an inch to ¾ of an inch. Cut the bacon in long strips and reserve it for the adornos | garnish.
3. In the meantime you can begin to chop up, de-skin, de-seed, and grate all the rest of the ingredients for the stew (filling), like the onions, leeks, green onions, garlic (mince it), red bell peppers (grate), tomatoes (grate), sweet peppers, sugar cane (grate), all in small little pieces.

Chopped Onions

Chopped Onions

Chopped Green Onions

Chopped Green Onions

Chopped Ají Dulce | Sweet Peppers

Chopped Ají Dulce | Sweet Peppers

3. In a different pot with enough water, cook the chicken at medium heat until it is thoroughly cooked, but not too long. Remove the chicken from the broth, and drain the broth and let it cool (we will be using it later). Take ½ Cup of this broth and put all the capers in it, save the rest of the broth. Let the chicken cool down and once it is manageable, shred only half of it into long strings of about 2 to 3 inches long.

Chicken Broth & Chicken

Chicken Broth & Chicken

Shredding the Chicken

Shredding the Chicken

4. In yet another large pot, add the oil and stir-fry at high heat the onions, leeks and green onions for about 5 minutes or until they brown. Add the garlic and the capers along with the chicken broth they have been soaking in, and cook at medium heat for about 15 minutes or until it begins to boil.

Frying the Ingredients

Frying the Ingredients

5. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes and sweet peppers and let it cook for 10 more minutes at medium heat.
6. Add the wine, sugar cane, pepper, paprika, salt, mustard, 2 cups of the chicken broth we saved earlier, and cook at medium heat for 15 minutes or until it begins to boil.

Adding the liquids

Adding the liquids

7. Add the beef and the pork we cooked earlier, cover, and continue to cook at medium heat for 40 minutes.

Adding the Beef

Adding the Beef

8. Add the half of the chicken you didn’t shred before and continue to cook for 15 more minutes making sure the meats are not disintegrating and they are still in small pieces.
9. Taste the stew and add more salt if necessary.

Add Salt To Taste

Add Salt To Taste

10. Remove from the heat and let it cool down. If your stew if too liquid, you can thicken it by adding one tablespoon of Harina P.A.N. dissolved in water. Add as many as necessary to get the right consistency.

The Stew Is Ready

The Stew Is Ready

11. You can cut and prep all the garnishes while you are cooking the stew so you have them ready before you begin with the next step.

Garnish : Red Bell Peppers

Garnish : Red Bell Peppers

Garnish : Shredded Chicken

Garnish : Shredded Chicken

Garnish: Almonds

Garnish: Almonds

Garnish: Olives

Garnish: Olives

Garnish: Onions

Garnish: Onions

Garnish: Raisins

Garnish: Raisins

DAY TWO OR THREE
Masa | Dough:
1. In a large pan, heat up the oil and the annatto seeds at low heat. This step is the process by which we are tinting the oil to the necessary color we need to give the hallacas its famous color. The annatto seeds are the ones that give this reddish caramel color to the oil, and the oil then turns the dough its bright orange/yellow color. Once the oil is tinted it can be placed in a measuring cup, making sure to drain all the annatto seeds from it first. Let it cool.

Making Annatto Oil

Making Annatto Oil

Annatto Oil

Annatto Oil

2. In a very large bowl, like extra extra large mixing bowl, add the Harina P.A.N. and add one cup of oil and two cups of the colored/tinted annatto oil we just made. Add the chicken broth that we saved, and add the salt and water, and mix in together with both hands until you have a fine and soft dough, that is easily manageable. It is a bit softer than your usual Harina P.A.N. mix for arepas, because it has oil in it.

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

3. You can add more Harina P.A.N. more salt, or more annatto oil to make it just the right consistency or the right color. You can also divide all the ingredients in half and make two batches at a time instead of the whole batch at once.
4. Divide the dough into small little balls the size of a small orange, or two to three inches in diameter.

The Set Up:
1. Now that you have everything you need ready, you need to set up your assembly line in a large enough table. What you will need (in this order) is:
– Plantain Leaves: The Shirts
– The rest of your annatto oil (you should have some left over, but if you don’t you can make some more, following the steps above, it’s pretty easy)
– The dough
– The Stew
– All the garnishes ready in different little bowls
– Plantain Leaves: The covers and The Belts
– The Thread

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Envoltura | Wrapping (The fun part):
1. Now that everything is set up and ready to go, we can begin assembling each hallaca. The first step is to grab one plantain leave (the shirt) and lay it flat in front of you. Be sure to place the leaf with the lines going vertically from side to side in front of you, and the protruding and most visible parts of the little veins or little nerves side up.

Start with an empty shirt

Start with an empty shirt

2. With a small clean kitchen rag or towel (I used my hands because I was wearing gloves, remember I told you, you will need gloves for all this), grab some annatto oil and spread it in a circular motion on top of the leave.

Add Annatto Oil

Add Annatto Oil

3.  Grab one of the balls of dough and place it in the middle of the leaf. If you have an awesome tortilla press like my aunt has, just press it and voila! If not you have to press the dough lightly with your fingers until its flat. You can also use a heavy plate or any other way you can come up with to flatten the dough faster and easily. Use another shirt on top of that one covered with annatto oil if you use any other method other than the manual method to flatten the dough. The flat dough should be about 4 millimeters thick and be flattened in a circular shape.

Set a ball of dough in the center

Set a ball of dough in the center

Cover with another plantain leave with annatto oil on it

Cover with another plantain leave with annatto oil on it

Close the press

Close the press

Press down a bit

Press down a bit

Press down fully, but not too much

Press down fully, but not too much

Open the Press and Remove the top leaf

Open the Press and Remove the top leaf

Easy as Pie

Easy as Pie

Voila!

Voila!

Beautifully pressed hallaca dough

Beautifully pressed hallaca dough

4. With a large spoon that measures out about half a cup (or 8 tablespoons), pour some of the stew in the center of your flattened dough.

Add the stew

Add the stew

5. Add all the garnishes as follows for each hallaca: 2 strips of bacon, 2 strips of red bell pepper, 2 sliced almonds, 2 strips of onions or one onion ring, 2 green olives, 4 capers, and 6 raisins.

Add garnishes

Add garnishes

6. Proceed to close the hallaca by folding in the top and bottom of the leaf towards the center, once the leaves meet in the center on top of the hallaca dough, fold that piece a couple times (the extra leaf), and lay it flat then fold the sides in.

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother's method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother's method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother's method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother's method)

Closing an hallaca (my great-grandmother’s method)

7. Cover it again with another leaf (the shirt) if necessary. Then wrap it again with a cover and finally add the belt to it.

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapped Hallacas Ready To Be Tied Up

Wrapped Hallacas Ready To Be Tied Up

8. Tie up as you would a gift (as shown in the photo) and tie up with a knot.

Tie them up

Tie them up

Even the little ones can help

Even the little ones can help

9. Set aside one next to another, preferably not one top of another. If you run out of space you can do up to two layers, but not more than that.

Hallacas

Hallacas

10.  Continue until you run out of ingredients. You should end up with about 50 hallacas in total.

Cooking:
1. In a large enough pot heat up enough water (about half the size of the pot). Add a bit of salt. Cook at high heat until the water boils. Add as many hallacas as you can fit, they must all be completely submerged in the water. You can do it in batches as they become ready from the assembly line. You can also add some of the left over plantain leaves on top to help keep them submerged and also add aroma to them. Cover and let them cook for about 1 hour. You might want to have several pots and timers on your stove to keep track of you different batches.
2. Once cooked, remove them from the pot and let them drain. The easiest way is to drain them on a clean sink, and stand them up one next to the other so they can drain the water inside them a lot faster.

Boiling Hallacas

Boiling Hallacas

The Hallacas Are Ready

The Hallacas Are Ready

Serving:
1. Let it cool for a minute, but not too long, you don’t want it to get cold.
2. Lay them flat on a large enough serving plate that will serve as the ‘opening plate’. Cut the thread and carefully open each layer of plantain leave until you get to the hallaca. Use the last plantain leave to lift up the hallaca and carefully slide it on to the plate where it will actually be served.
3. Just to clarify… you do not eat the plantain leaf.

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

 

Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate

Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate

Storing:
1. After you make your entire batch of 50 hallacas and you wish to store them, you can let them all cool down and then keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
2. If you are planning on freezing your hallacas its better to freeze them before they are cooked so that the dough maintains itself better. In this case, you can take them straight from the freezer and then boil them as described above.
3. If you do freeze them after they have already been cooked, you should thaw them to room temperature before you boil them again.

Re-heating:
1. To reheat your hallacas, take them out of the fridge and boil them in enough water to cover all the ones you wish to serve at the moment. Add a little bit of salt to the water. Boil them for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them at the half point.

Bollos de Hallaca:
1. If you run out of some ingredients, or if you already have the number of hallacas you wish to make and still have some leftovers of the ingredients, you can make bollos de hallaca.
2. To do so, simply add all the leftover dough, stew, and garnishes and mix them all together to form the compact dough.
3. You wrap them the same way you did with the hallacas, but add a distinction, like a little bow made of a string of plantain leaf, or a different tying method, or just something distinctive to set them apart from the hallacas. It is basically the same thing, except the bollos are all mixed in together in a uniform mass, and the hallaca has all the stew and ingredients inside and the dough outside serving as a pocket or container.

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

¡Buen Provecho!

¡Gracias A Todos!

This post is very special to me and I will never forget the two days I spend making hallacas with my family, and I dedicate it to everyone involved in making hallacas possible for Christmas 2014:
Nery Russo, Felípe Ramón Ojeda Russo, Ana C. Sandoval de Ojeda, María Gabriela Ojeda de Sucre, Fernando Sucre, Marialejandra Ojeda, Raymond Wolowicz, and even little miss Andrea Sucre.
You were all involved in a small or big way, you all taught me something and you all sacrificed your time and busy schedule so we could all make hallacas together! I love you all!

*This post was supposed to be out by December 24th, but you guys know (by reading this post) how Venezuelan Christmases can be, so it is a little bit late.

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Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

7 Dec Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. One thing I didn’t have in this blog is Venezuelan Christmas Recipes… until now. I have a very informative post about Venezuelan Christmas celebrations, traditions, dinner and gifts, but I did not have any actual Christmas recipes until now. I wanted to wait until I had a couple of them, so the recipes I will post this month will be all part of the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Recipe collection, but I have been working on them since 2012. It was hard for me to cook all the recipes at once by myself, so I had to wait for guests like my sister who visited from Venezuela back in 2012, and my grandmother and even my great grandmother to help create and compile all the recipes.
This recipe is for the #2 most important Venezuelan Christmas Dinner component; Pan de Jamón. The first component is obviously the Hallaca, I am hoping to be able to cook some hallacas with the help of the rest of the family this year to be able to add a recipe for them to this collection. It is believed that the production of pan de jamón began in the 1900’s, and has gradually been incorporated in to the Christmas dinner traditions ever since. It is said that it was originally created in a Panadería (a Venezuelan Bakery/Deli/Café) in the capital city, Caracas. First, it was only made with ham filling, then some other fillings where added including walnuts, almonds and even capers, until it became the version that we know today.
The pan de jamón is usually bought at the panadería, however, there are some families who make them at home. So now I am sharing this recipe with you, so you can make it at home yourself, like I did with my sister. I would like to give her a special thank you for her help with this recipe and blog post back in Christmas 2012.

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

What you need:
For the Dough
– 2 Cups Milk (Room Temperature)
– 1 Teaspoon Sugar
– 1½ Tablespoon Yeast
– 8 Cups of All Purpose Flour
– 1 Stick of Butter (Soft but not melted)
– 1 Tablespoon Salt
– 3 Tablespoons Sugar
– 3 Eggs
For the Filling
– 2.2 lbs. of Boiled Ham (Sliced)
– ¼ Cup Raisins
– ½ Cup Pitted Green Olives
For the Glaze
– 2 Egg Yolks
– 2 Tablespoons Water
– 1 Teaspoon Salt

Preparation:
1. In a large enough mixing bowl, add the milk. Then, dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the milk and then add the yeast but don’t stir it in. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes in an area with little to no airflow.

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

2. After the 20 minutes, add only 4 cups of the flour and mix it very well using your fingers.
3. Make a ball with the dough and leave it in the bowl, cover it with cling wrap and put a kitchen towel on top. Let it sit in an area with no airflow for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Knead dough and cover

Knead dough and cover

4. After 2 hours, add the rest of the flour and continue to mix it in very well with your fingers, kneading the dough with both hands.

Kneading

Kneading

5. If your dough is dry, you can add two tablespoons of cold milk and knead it in. If on the contrary, your dough is too wet, you can sprinkle more dough on top and continue to knead the dough until it is uniform and consistent.
6. Cover again, as before, and let it sit for another 4 hours.
7. Take the dough out of the fridge and sprinkle some more flour on your working table. Add the soft butter, the salt, the rest of the sugar and the eggs (one by one). Knead the dough with all the ingredients very well. Until you have a very well worked dough that is uniform and without clumps. At the end you can lift it up from the table as high as you can, and let it fall on the table repeatedly until the dough easily lifts of the table and doesn’t stick to your hands.

The dough is ready

The dough is ready

8. Divide the ball of dough in three equal parts. You can cut one small piece and set aside for decorations if you wish. Grab one part and extend it as a rectangle over your working table (be sure to sprinkle your working surface with more flour). Extend the dough using a rolling pin until the dough is about ¼ to ½ an inch.

Divide in 3 equal portions

Divide in 3 equal portions

One portion

One portion

Extend dough with rolling pin

Extend dough with rolling pin

9. Now its time to add the fillings. Begin with a layer of the ham. Add the raisins and olives. Make sure that they are well distributed. Remember to divide the olives and raisins in three equal parts for each bread. Be sure to leave an empty space of about ½ and inch border from the edge of your rectangle without any filling.

Adding the ham

Adding the ham

10. Grab one end of your dough rectangle and begin to roll the entire thing from one end to the other.

Rolling the bread

Rolling the bread

11. Close the ends with your fingertips. At this point you can use that little bit of dough for any decorations.

Close off the ends

Close off the ends

12. Grease a baking sheet with butter and place the bread on the sheet. Cover the bread with a kitchen towel and let it sit for another hour.
13. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
14. Place the bread in the oven (one at a time) for 30 minutes.
15. Take the bread out of the oven and using a brush, cover the top of the bread with the glaze mixture (mix all the glaze ingredients in a bowl).

Glaze

Glaze

16. Place the bread back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

15 Sep Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

There are a lot of great memories I have from my childhood in Venezuela.  Most of those come from the various family celebrations held at my grandparent’s house.  Birthday parties, graduation parties, mother’s day parties, anniversary parties, farewell parties, welcome parties, wedding parties and just-because parties.  Back then most of my family still lived in Venezuela, and those get-togethers could become quite packed.  First cousins, second cousins, third cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, parents, godparents, friends, friends-of-friends, family dentist, even our piano teacher was invited.  Back when things didn’t cost so much, too.  My grandparents went all out to celebrate each and every one of these special occasions.  I remember they even used to hire waiters, tables, tents, caterers, cooks, and even a band sometimes.  Back then, most parties were like that, even if it was just a birthday party, it could look like what now is only done for weddings.  And just like in all well organized and catered parties, they always served hors d’oeuvres, or as we call them in Venezuela; “pasapalos”.  This word is actually quite funny, at least to me.  It is actually two words in one, “pasa” and “palos”.  The literal translations are “pasa” = pass, and “palos” = sticks.  What they mean in Venezuelan slang is “pasa” = to pass, and “palos” = drinks (the alcoholic kind).  Therefore pasapalos is something to pass drinks, in this case, an appetizer or small hors d’oeuvre.

One thing is certain though; a true Venezuelan party is not complete without the star “pasapalo”.  And that, of course, is the Tequeño. (Pronounced te-ke-nyos)

According to an article printed in a Venezuelan newspaper (sorry, the clipping I received didn’t have the paper’s name on it), the creation of Tequeños is attributed to Josefina Báez.  Josefina was a young entrepreneurial Venezuelan woman who, at the age of 15, created the now famous Tequeños.  Josefina owned a catering business of sorts, where she would make and sell other delicious Venezuelan pastries to local ‘bodegas’ (small grocery stores).  Josefina would also prepare pastries to entertain guests, such as her older sisters’ boyfriends.  Josefina one day decided to use some leftover dough from her pastry-making of the day and rolled up some cheese inside of it, and then she fried it and served it to their guest as simple “cheese wraps”.  Sooner than later, her cheese wraps became famous around the small city where she lived.  The city’s name is “Los Teques”, which doesn’t have any real translation, since it is a proper noun.  Usually people native from Los Teques are called “Tequeños”.  Therefore, once the cheese wraps were famous in this small city, another pastry maker from Los Teques, Luisa Casado, decided to sell Josefina’s cheese wraps to clients in other cities, eventually making it to Caracas, the capital city.  Once the cheese wraps were known in Caracas, they became even more popular.  They started ordering them and serving them as hors d’oeuvres in all kinds events such as baptisms and weddings, and people would begin to call these cheese wraps by the name of the people who would bring them to the city; the “Tequeños”.

You may notice that I did not call this post “cheese sticks”, because these are NOT your regular cheese sticks, they are way better.  However, the key to making real Venezuelan Tequeños, and not some other plain boring “cheese stick”, is the cheese.  You must have authentic Venezuelan Queso Blanco.  And trust me, if you do not live near an authentic Venezuelan market, you may not find the right cheese, but you could try to sample different cheeses at a Latin market near you and try to find a similar cheese.  Basically, the cheese has to be white, not too salty, and it has to melt easily, but does not become completely liquified, and it is also not watery inside its package.  Whatever you do, do not make Tequeños with Mozzarella.  You will have a very bland and boring ‘cheese stick’.

Ingredients for Venezuelan Tequeños

Ingredients for Venezuelan Tequeños

What you need:
– 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
– 1 Egg
– 4-5 Tablespoons Cold Water
– 2 Teaspoons Salt
– 5 Tablespoons Butter
(Cold, Straight From The Fridge)
– 2 Tablespoons Sugar
(or more if you like the dough to be sweeter)
– 500 Grams of Queso Blanco Venezolano (There is a round Mexican one called Gallo Blanco that could work, and I found one called El Latino that was very good)
– Vegetable Oil (for frying)
– Paper Towels

Preparation:
1.  Cut the cheese in strips of about 2-3″ long and ½” thick. Save inside Tupperware in fridge for later.

Cut the cheese in strips

Cut the cheese in strips

Queso Blanco El Latino

Queso Blanco El Latino

2. In a big mixing bowl, add the flour, the sugar, and the salt.  Mix well.
3. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut in little pieces.  Then add the butter to the mix and begin to mix it using the tip of your fingers to mash the butter together with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well until the mixture is as fine as possible.  It will probably feel like little grains of rice.

Cut the butter

Cut the butter

Mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients using your fingertips

Mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients using your fingertips

4.  Add the egg and begin to mix with a wooden spoon.

Add egg and mix well

Add egg and mix well

5. Add the water and continue mixing, until all ingredients are well blended together.
6.  Once you have more uniform dough, take it out of the bowl and begin to knead it over a flat surface (use flour on the surface).  Knead for at least 5 minutes, as you would bread dough.

Knead dough

Knead dough

7.  Once you have a soft and uniform dough, cover it with clear wrap paper and let it sit for about ½ and hour or more.

Let dough rest for half an hour or more

Let dough rest for half an hour or more

8.  Place some flour on a clean flat and hard surface, like your countertop or cutting board.  Spread the flour evenly over the entire working surface (so the dough won’t stick to it).
9.  Using a rolling pin, begin to flatten the dough.  It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick.  Perhaps just a bit thinner than a ¼ of an inch.

Flatten dough with rolling pin

Flatten dough with rolling pin

10. Once flattened, cut strips from the dough of about ½ an inch thick by 10 inches long.

Cut dough in strips

Cut dough in strips

11.  Roll the sticks of cheese with the strips of dough by placing one end of the cheese stick at an angle on one end of the dough, then closing the tip and rolling until the cheese is covered.  Making sure the cheese is fully covered and the ends are sealed (you can dab your finger tips in water to help you seal the dough).

Roll the cheese with the strips of dough

Roll the cheese with the strips of dough

Roll all the way to the end

Roll all the way to the end

Be careful at the end

Be careful at the end

The perfect Venezuelan Tequeño (Rolled by my Grandma, Ana)

The perfect Venezuelan Tequeño (Rolled by my Grandma, Ana)

A little tip from Grandma: Tap the tips against your working surface to flatten them and to help seal them. Cover with flour.

A little tip from Grandma: Tap the tips against your working surface to flatten them and to help seal them. Cover with flour.

12. You can place the tequeños on a baking sheet or Tupperware and also spread some dough on the bottom and top of each row of tequeños.

This recipe was supposed to yield for 50 Tequeños, but I don't know what happened to us.  Let me know if you make it, how many did you get. We got 30 Tequeños.

This recipe was supposed to yield for 50 Tequeños, but I don’t know what happened to us. Let me know if you make it, how many did you get. We got 30 Tequeños.

13. Cover them with plastic wrapping paper, or Tupperware cover and keep in the freezer until ready to fry.
14.  When ready to fry and serve your tequeños, make sure you have enough vegetable oil and that the oil is not too hot.  Then you fry them straight from the freezer and do so slowly until they are golden brown.  Don’t fry them for too long or the cheese will begin to melt its way out of the dough, and you don’t want that to happen.

Fry the Tequeños straight from the freezer.

Fry the Tequeños straight from the freezer.

15. Place the tequeños on paper towels to remove the excess oil and serve while still hot.

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

Recipe: Venezuelan Tequeños | Venezuelan Cheese Wrapped in Dough (Appetizers)

¡Gracias Tabue!
This post is very special to me, and I dedicate it to my grandmother
Ana C. Sandoval de Ojeda.
She makes THE BEST Tequeños EVER, and I thank her for coming to my house, and teaching me how to make them.  I owe this blog a photo of the both of us in my kitchen. Love you!

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Lasagna

18 Jan

One of my favorite dishes is Pasticho Venezolano. The beef, the pasta, and the cheese… what’s not to like?  Venezuelan Pasticho is a little different than your regular lasagna.  The main difference is that Venezuelan Pasticho doesn’t include ricotta cheese, and to me that is PERFECT, because I don’t care for ricotta.  Our Pasticho is plain and simple, but that is what I love about it, you can appreciate all the flavor of the seasoned ground beef, the mozzarella and the pasta without any one of them overpowering the other, like ricotta does.  We do make it creamier and more interesting by adding layers of béchamel sauce. YUM!

What you need:
– 1 or 2 boxes of lasagna pasta
– Grated Parmesan Cheese
– Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
Beef Filling
– 1 lb. Ground Beef
– ½ Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
– ½ Tablespoon Soy Sauce
– ½ Tablespoon Adobo
– 1 Tablespoon Butter
– 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
– 1 Onion
– 1 Garlic Clove
– 1 28 oz can of cut tomatoes, peeled
– 2 Tablespoons Red or White Wine
– 1 Teaspoon Salt
– ½ Teaspoon Pepper
– 1 Teaspoon Oregano
– 1 Tablespoon Cilantro
– 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
– 1 Teaspoon Basil
Béchamel Sauce
– 2 Tablespoon Butter
– 2 Tablespoon Flour
– 1 1/3 Cup Milk, hot
– 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
– 1/8 Teaspoon Pepper

Preparation:
Beef Filling
1.  Spice up the ground beef with the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and adobo.  Set aside.

Add Condiments to Ground Beef

Add Condiments to Ground Beef

2.  Add the butter and olive oil in a pan and heat it up just a bit until butter is melted.  Then add the onion and garlic, finely chopped, and cook until golden brown.  About 4 minutes.

Heat up Butter and Olive Oil

Heat up Butter and Olive Oil

Add Finely Chopped Onion

Add Finely Chopped Onion

Add Garlic

Add Garlic

3.  On a separate pan begin to brown the ground beef.  Remember to drain the excess oil when done.

Brown Ground Beef

Brown Ground Beef

4.  Blend the tomatoes using a blender or food processor.
5. Add the tomatoes, wine, salt, pepper, oregano, and finely chopped cilantro to the onions and garlic.
6.  Combine the meat with the tomato mixture.

Combine Beef With Tomato Mix

Combine Beef With Tomato Mix

7.  Add the tomato paste (diluted in water as directed on the can), and then add the basil as well.
8.  Continue to cook at low heat, covered, for a while until the sauce reduces and thickens.  If it is too dry, you can add more tomato paste, but don’t add water or the sauce will bee too thin.

Cook at Low Heat

Cook at Low Heat

Béchamel Sauce
9.  In a small pot, heat up the butter.
10.  Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Lower the heat.
11.  Beating with a whisk, begin to slowly add the hot milk.
12.  Add salt and pepper, and a touch of nutmeg if you wish.
13.  Cook until it thickens and set aside.

Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce

Cooking the Pasta
14.  Follow the instructions on the box of the pasta.
15.  Some pasta boxes state that you can cook them directly in the oven.  I prefer to boil the pasta first, even if the box says you do not need to do so.  Boil the pasta as you would any other pasta.  Boil enough water, add a bit of salt and olive oil, then add the pasta into the pot and cook until tender.  You can leave the pasta “al dente” so that they can finish cooking up in the oven.
16.  Lay the pasta flat on a baking sheet, separated so they wont stick to one another.

Lay Pasta Flat

Lay Pasta Flat

Making the Pasticho
17.  Preheat the oven at 350º.
18.  Grease a 19” x 13” Pyrex with butter.

Greasy Pyrex with Butter

Greasy Pyrex with Butter

19.  Begin by making a layer of pasta so that there are no spaces left between them at the bottom of the Pyrex.

Begin with a layer of pasta

Begin with a layer of pasta

20.  Add Béchamel sauce on top of the pasta.

Béchamel Sauce goes on top of pasta

Béchamel Sauce goes on top of pasta

21.  Add a layer of the beef filling.
22.  Add a layer of Parmesan cheese.  You can add a layer of ham if you wish.

Layer of Beef, and then Layer of Parmesan Cheese

Layer of Beef, and then Layer of Parmesan Cheese

23.  Repeat: Layer of pasta, layer of béchamel sauce, layer of beef filling, but now add a layer of Mozzarella.

Repeat: Pasta, Béchamel Sauce, Beef, but now add Mozzarella

Repeat: Pasta, Béchamel Sauce, Beef, but now add Mozzarella24. Repeat until you have used all the beef filling. 25. The last layer would be one layer of pasta, béchamel sauce and Parmesan cheese. You can also add bits of butter here and there, about a tablespoon all over. 26. Place in the oven until the top layers are golden. Make sure you check it so it does not burn. Since we boiled the pasta, it is already cooked. What you are looking for is for all the layers of cheese to melt and for it to all be compacted together. So it could be done in 10 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.Bake until cheese is melted and top layer is golden

27.  Serve with tostones, garlic breadsticks and salad (Great Salad recipe coming up next week).

Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Pasticho

Pasticho Venezolano | Venezuelan Pasticho

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

28 Dec Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

One of the most delicious side dishes in Venezuela are hallaquitas, or bollitos.  The name is still debatable.  Some people call them hallaquitas and some call them bollitos.  Either way they are delicious.  We usually serve them as a side dish, much like you would a baked potato, and then add some butter on top, or Guasacaca and enjoy.  This is a very common side dish to have with a good Parrilla Venezolana (Venezuelan Grilled Steak, much like your BBQs, but without BBQ sauce).  Another great dish to have hallaquitas with is rotisserie chicken.  Since we also accompany these dishes with Guasacaca, hallaquitas are the perfect side dish for those occasions.  They are also great if you incorporate other ingredients such as pork rind, chorizo or cheese inside them.  But the plain ones are great with some butter, Guasacaca, mojo isleño, mojo de cilantro, or chimichurri on top.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you need:
– 8 to 10 Dried Corn Husks
– 1 Cup Harina P.A.N.
– ¾ Cup Water (for mixture)
– 1 Tablespoon Butter
– 1Teaspoon Salt
– ¼ Cup or 250 g. Chorizo, one link (optional)
– 5 Cups Water (for boiling)

Preparation:

1. Separate and clean the corn husks, then soak them in water for about 1 hour so they can be bent without breaking.  If you don’t have one hour to spare, you can just pre-boil them for about 5 minutes so they can be bent easily.

Separate and clean the corn husks

Separate and clean the corn husks

Soak for 1 hour

Soak for 1 hour

Or boil for 5 minutes

Or boil for 5 minutes

2. In a bowl mix in the Harina P.A.N., the ¾ Cup of water, the salt and the butter (softened or melted).

Prepare dough

Prepare dough

3. Once you have kneaded the mixture and it becomes homogeneous you can begin forming the hallaquitas.

Form Hallaquitas

Form Hallaquitas

4. Grab a handful of the dough (or separate in 4 equal parts), and roll it in your hands to form a cylindrical shape. (Here is where you can add chopped chorizo, cheese, pork rind, etc.).

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

5. Wrap each hallaquita with 2 or 3 corn husks so that the dough is well covered.  You can accomplish this by wrapping them on the widest side of the corn husk, and then folding down the rest of the corn husk on top of the hallaquita and tie it down either with another piece of corn husk, or with a rubber band right down the middle, and if you need to, you can add another rubber band or tie at the end.

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Fold top

Fold top

Fold bottom

Fold bottom

Tie around center with rubber band

Tie around center with rubber band

Use two rubber bands if needed

Use two rubber bands if needed

6. Begin to boil enough water, and when it starts to boil add the hallaquitas.  Cook for 40 minutes on high heat.  You are supposed to know they are ready when they start to float, however mine floated as soon as I introduced them in the water.  So to be safe, just wait the 40 minutes.

Boil for 40 minutes

Boil for 40 minutes

7. Remove from pot and drain for about 3 minutes, and serve hot.  You can serve them with the corn husk, or without.

Drain and let cool

Drain and let cool

8. Serve as a side with butter, or chimichurri, or Guasacaca, or anything else you like.

Serve with husk

Serve with husk

Or without husk

Or without husk

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

*Makes about 4 to 5 hallaquitas.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Arepitas Dulces | Arepitas de Anís (Sweet Arepas)

2 Nov

Yes! that’s right… yet another post about Arepas.   By now you know why they are the most Venezuelan dish ever!   But these are different than the Arepas I have blogged about before.   These are sweet arepas… Sweet? You say… YES! Sweet.   They are delicious.   These were sort of a treat when I was growing up.   My mom only made them once in a while.   Of course regular arepas were made… regularly.   But these were special arepas!   She would make them for dinner and serve them with “Queso Blanco”, the same one I’ve been saying is good with Arepas, and Empanadas, and anything else you can think of.   These can be great for breakfast as well, or even as a snack, or pretty much whenever you feel like having one.   Like today, I just felt I had to try to make these myself, because I haven’t had them in years.

Key Ingredient

Key Ingredient

Now, most of the recipes you see out there for “Arepas Dulces” or “Arepas de Anís” have a very peculiar ingredient that is definitely hard to find.   I am talking about “Papelón”.   Papelón is also known as “Panela”, which is an unrefined whole cane sugar that comes in a solid block.   I didn’t even know what papelón was until I was trying to make these arepas, but since I couldn’t even find it; I called my mom and asked for her recipe, which doesn’t include this mysterious ingredient.   So here it is:

Ingredients for Arepitas Dulces

Ingredients for Arepitas Dulces


What you need:

– 1 Cup Harina PAN
– 1 Cup Water
– 1 ½ Tablespoon Sugar
– ½ Teaspoon Anise Seeds
– ¼ Teaspoon Salt
– Vegetable Oil (Enough for frying)

Preparation:

1. Add the Harina PAN into a bowl, add the anise seeds to the Harina PAN a mix with your hand so that the seeds are spread evenly throughout the mix.

Add Anise Seeds to Harina Pan

Add Anise Seeds to Harina Pan

2. Add the water, salt and sugar into a separate bowl, or measuring cup, and stir it, so that the salt and sugar dissolve in the water.   The water should taste sweet, but have sort of a salty kick to it.   I tried it; I just don’t know how to explain it in correct terms… sorry!

Add Sugar and Salt to Water

Add Sugar and Salt to Water

3. Add the water slowly to the mix and start kneading with your hands.

Add Water to Harina Pan

Add Water to Harina Pan

4. Once the dough is ready, let it sit for a minute, while you prepare for the next step.   The dough will be ready when it feels sort of like play dough, but it is firm and doesn’t crack.

Let the Dough Sit

Let the Dough Sit

5. On top of a cutting board, or simply your countertop, lay a large enough sheet of Cling Wrap, and have a bowl, round cookie cutter, or Tupperware of about a 3” diameter, as well as a large flat heavy plate set aside.
6. You are going to grab a handful of the dough, make a ball, set it in the middle of your cling wrap, cover it with the other half of the cling wrap or even grab another sheet of cling wrap if you wish.   Then press on it a bit with your hand, and then grab the large flat heavy plate and press on it until you flatten it to about ¼ of an inch thick.   Then with the cookie cutter or bowl cut out a 3” diameter circle from the dough.   Uncover the cling wrap and remove the circle and set aside (on top of another sheet of cling wrap) to fry them when they are all ready.   Remove the excess dough from the cling wrap and put back in your bowl of dough.   Continue to make these disks until you have no more dough left.

Ball of Dough

Ball of Dough

Flatten with Heavy Plate

Flatten with Heavy Plate

Disk of Dough

Disk of Dough

About 1/4 of an Inch Thick

About 1/4 of an Inch Thick

Cut Out Smaller Disk

Cut Out Smaller Disk

About 3" Diameter

About 3" Diameter

Remember They Should Be Thin

Remember They Should Be Thin

Cut Out As Many As You Can

Cut Out As Many As You Can

7. Heat up the frying oil and begin to fry your arepas.   Not too many at a time, just as many as fit in your frying pot, deep fryer, or Dutch oven, as you can without them touching each other.   But there should be enough oil to cover them completely.

Fry Until Golden Brown

Fry Until Golden Brown

8. As they fry, they will sit at the bottom, but quickly rise to the top.   They will also start to bubble, as in they will look like they are puffed up.   The skin should be crispy and separate from the dough inside.   When one side has done this, and started to brown, flip them.
9. They will be ready when they are brown/golden on both sides.
10. Lay on paper towels to remove the excess oil.
11. Serve hot with Queso Blanco (and a little butter if you wish).

Serve with Queso Blanco

Serve with Queso Blanco

12. To eat them, delicately using a knife, separate the skin on the side which is most puffed-up and stuff with cheese, add butter to the inside dough if you wish.

Venezuelan Arepitas Dulces / Arepitas de Anís

Venezuelan Arepitas Dulces / Arepitas de Anís

*Makes about 8 arepas of 3” diameter and ¼ of an inch thick (uncooked).

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Empanadas

19 Oct

Empanadas are like Venezuelan hot pockets or calzones.   We usually serve them as appetizers (small ones), or as a main dish with delicious fillings and dipping sauces.   Empanada fillings are as varied as Arepa fillings, and we use some of the same fillings that we use in Arepas as well.   The most common and easy to prepare are cheese empanadas, and they are the most popular amongst kids.   We also have exquisite ones like lobster, or Cazón (small shark), and common ones like ground beef, shredded chicken, shredded meat.   Then there are big ones like filled with Pabellón (Shredded beef, black beans and plantains), or combination ones like cheese and beef, or even ham and cheese.   One thing is for sure; you will like them no matter what is in them.   Another great thing about empanadas is that they are a great way to re-purpose your leftovers, and no one will complain about eating the same thing for lunch that they had the night before for dinner, because everyone loves empanadas.   So keep that in mind when you have leftovers, and you don’t want them to go to waste.

Ingredients for Venezuelan Empanadas

Ingredients for Venezuelan Empanadas

What You’ll Need:

– 1 Cup Harina PAN
– 1 ¼ Cup Water
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1/3 Teaspoon Sugar
– Vegetable Oil (enough to fry all the empanadas)
– Your Empanada Fillings (Cheese, beef, chicken, pork, etc.)
– Clear Plastic Wrap (Cling Wrap)
– Bowls

Preparation

1. Just like the Arepas: Add the Harina PAN into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and the sugar to the water and stir it.   Now little by little add the water and knead and mix the dough using your hands.   You must knead the dough until the mix is soft, firm and has a uniform consistency without any grains.

Knead the Dough

Knead the Dough

2. Once the dough is ready, make a big ball out of it, and then split into 4 equal parts.

Split Into Equal Parts

Split Into Equal Parts

3. Set up your cooking space as shown in the picture below in order to have:
a) Your Dough
b) Your Fillings (I have beef and shredded Queso Blanco cheese here)
c) A bowl with warm water with a little bit of oil in it.
d) A bowl to shape your empanadas with
e) A large enough piece of Cling Wrap

Set Up Your Cooking Space

Set Up Your Cooking Space

4. Grab one of your four sections of dough and form a ball.

Form A Ball

Form A Ball

5. Begin to flatten the ball into a disk shape using the entire length of your hands, also use the water with oil to moisten your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick to them.
6. Flatten the ball until it is less than 0.25” thick.

Flatten

Flatten

Flatten More

Flatten More

Done

Done

7. Place about two to three tablespoons of your filling right below the center of the circle.

Add Filling

Add Filling

Add Any Filling

Add Any Filling

8. With both hands grab the top of the Cling Wrap and carefully fold the circle in two, so that you have a semicircle.

Fold Circle Into Semicircle

Fold Circle Into Semicircle

9. Press the Cling Wrap with your fingers over the top dough towards the bottom dough, in order to close the empanada.

Semicircle

Semicircle

Press Edged to Close Empanada

Press Edged to Close Empanada

10. Now use the extra empty bowl as shown to cut the excess dough and make the famous empanada moon-shape.

Use Empty Bowl

Use Empty Bowl

Cut Out Empanada Shape

Cut Out Empanada Shape

11. Open the Cling Wrap and remove the excess dough, which you can add to the remaining dough to make the rest of the empanadas.

Empanada Shape

Empanada Shape

Open Cling Wrap

Open Cling Wrap

Remove Excess Dough

Remove Excess Dough

Empanada Shape Done

The Perfect Empanada Shape

12. Carefully remove the empanada from the Cling Wrap, so you can make the rest of them.

Carefully Remove from Cling Wrap

Carefully Remove from Cling Wrap

Set Aside

Set Aside

13. You can begin to fry them immediately if you have someone else to help keep an eye on the ones in the pan, so you can continue making the other ones and not burn them.

Fry Empanadas

Fry Empanadas

14. Also, it is a good idea to mark them so you know which ones have which filling. In case someone doesn’t want one of the fillings. I use one dot for cheese, two dots for beef, and three dots for beef and cheese.   But you can use whatever you want.

Mark Your Empanadas

Mark Your Empanadas

15. Once you have all your empanadas ready, it’s time to fry them.

Fried Empanada and Remove Excess Oil with Paper Towels

Fried Empanada and Remove Excess Oil with Paper Towels

16. Once they are golden, take them out and lay them on paper towels to remove the excess oil.
17. Serve and enjoy.   Be careful, they are hot!

Venezuelan Empanadas

Venezuelan Empanadas

¡Buen Provecho!

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