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Recipe: Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

4 Oct Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

It is custom in our culture that women are the ones in charge of cooking within the family unit. However, there are two specialties that my dad was always in charge of preparing. At least once Sunday every month, he would be in charge of making Parrillas at my grandparents’ house, and a different Sunday he would be in charge of making Arroz con Pollo at our house. He has been perfecting his Arroz con Pollo recipe all these years and still to this day, he makes it at least once a month for himself. Arroz con pollo, previously known as pollo en arroz (chicken in rice), is a main dish in which the rice leaves its usual spot as a side and becomes the main event. The rice absorbs all the flavors and colors of the chicken and other ingredients.

Recently my dad traveled to the US to visit, it was a big surprise for us because we had no idea he was coming. He stayed over for a month, and we begged him to make his famous arroz con pollo for us one day. I had been trying to recreate his arroz con pollo for years so I could include it on this blog, and I had no luck. From being unable to find the perfect rice, to not knowing the amount for each ingredient, to overcooking the rice and ending up with arroz-con-pollo pâté… finally, I was able to learn from the pro, how to make the perfect arroz con pollo. As my dad was cooking, we would remember all those Sundays he used to prepare it at home, and he would explain all the tips and tricks to make it perfect. He even said his arroz con pollo is like a Venezuelan Paella with chicken instead of seafood, for those of us who don’t like seafood (my dad is not a big fan of seafood, unlike my mom who eats almost everything from the sea). He also mentioned I would have to put this disclaimer out there: “this is merely ONE way of making Venezuelan Arroz con Pollo… my way”.

Arroz Con Pollo Ingredients

Arroz Con Pollo Ingredients

What you need:
– 2 Chicken Breasts
– 2 Medium Potatoes
– 2 Carrot Sticks
– 1 Bell Pepper
– 1 Large Onion
– 2 Chorizos
– 3 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
– 2 Cups of Yellow Rice
– 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil

Arroz Con Pollo Ingredients

Arroz Con Pollo Ingredients

– ½ Tablespoon Garlic Powder
– ½ Tablespoon Adobo
– Salt to taste
– Pepper to taste
– 1 Small Can of Sweet Peas
– 1 Small Can of Whole Kernel Corn
– Parmesan Cheese to taste
– Limes (Lime Juice) to taste
– Olive Oil to taste

Preparation:
1. In a large enough pot (like a 3 Qt. Saucepan), bring about 1.5 to 2 Qt. water to a boil, on high temperature.

Boil Water

Boil Water

2. Add the 2 chicken breasts to the boiling water, and lower the temperature to medium.

Add Chicken Breasts

Add Chicken Breasts

3. Peel, wash, and cut the potatoes. Then add to the pot.

Potatoes

Potatoes

4. Peel, wash, and cut the carrots. Then add to the pot.

Carrots

Carrots

5. Wash and cut in small cubes ¾ of the bell pepper and add to the pot. Leave the other ¼ of the pepper cut in thin slices, and set aside (we will use it to garnish the plate afterward).

Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers

6. Chop the onion and add it to the pot.

Onion

Onion

7. Add 2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 1 packet) to the pot.

Chicken Bouillon

Chicken Bouillon

8. Take the chorizo out of the freezer and slice it. It is better to cut it while it’s still frozen than when it has been thawed, since it will become a mess. Set aside.

Cut the Chorizo

Cut the Chorizo

9. Taste the chicken broth from the pot, and if needed, add another chicken bouillon cube (or half a packet). Set the temperature to high again and cook for another 15 minutes.

Chicken Broth

Chicken Broth

10. After everything has been cooking for about 45 minutes (since you first added the chicken breasts in the pot), take the chicken breasts out of the pot, cut them in small cubes, and then return it to the pot. Bring the temperature back to medium.

Remove Chicken and Cut

Remove Chicken and Cut

11. After 10 minutes. Drain all of the liquid out of the pot, keep all ingredients and also keep the broth in a separate container. We will use the broth later to cook the rice in it, so don’t throw it away.

Drain The Ingredients, Keep The Broth

Drain The Ingredients, Keep The Broth

12. In a large enough saucepan add a little bit of olive oil and turn up the heat to medium. Add all of the drained ingredients from the pot to the pan.

Sauteé Ingredients

Sauté Ingredients

13. In the large pot you were using before, add a little bit of olive oil, add the 2 cups of Yellow Rice and sauté it a little bit. I have to say, my dad and I bought the Iberia brand of yellow rice and we were fooled. The package is transparent so you can see the rice, and the rice looks yellow because the package is yellow, not the rice. It says yellow rice because it brings that yellow powder in it which turns the rice yellow when you cook it, but the rice is not yellow straight from the package. There are other brands that have the yellow rice already pre-stained yellow, and you should get that one instead. I saw that the Conchita brand has a clear container, and you can see that the rice is already yellow.

2 Cups of Rice

2 Cups of Rice

Sauté The Rice

Sauté The Rice

Actual Yellow Rice

Actual Yellow Rice

14. In the meantime, sauté the other ingredients in the other pan.
15. Once you sauté the rice just a little bit, add 4 cups of the chicken broth to the rice. Cook as directed in the rice package. Usually, turn the heat to high, bring to a boil. Then, lower the temperature and cover.

4 Cups of Rice

4 Cups of Rice

16. Add the adobo, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the other ingredients in the other pan, then stir.

Add Seasoning

Add Seasoning

17. Add the chorizo to the ingredients in the pan, mix well.

Add Chorizo

Add Chorizo

Mix And Continue Cooking

Mix And Continue Cooking

18. Meanwhile, drain the cans of peas and corn.
19. Add all the ingredients from the pan to the pot with the rice. Stir thoroughly so that the rice mixes well with everything else.

Combine All Ingredients

Combine All Ingredients

20. Add the cans of peas and corn and mix well together.

Add Corn

Add Corn

Add Peas

Add Peas

21. Take the temperature to low and cover, then cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the rice is thoroughly cooked.
22. Serve hot with optional toppings: olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and lime juice. Use the rest of the bell pepper to decorate.

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Optional Toppings

Optional Toppings

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Arroz con Pollo | Venezuelan Rice And Chicken

Note: This recipe usually includes Venezuelan Ají Dulce, but we were unable to find any. Most recipes don’t add the corn, but I thought my dad’s addition of the corn was delicious.

¡Buen Provecho!

¡Gracias Pa!
This is another very special post, and I dedicate it to my dad
Alejandro R. Ojeda

Recipe: Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

4 Jan Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

By now you must know how much I love soups and creams. I have given you the Apio Soup and the chicken soup recipes so far, but there are plenty more Venezuelan soup and cream recipes to come. Today I want to share with you another very popular Venezuelan creamy soup, the Crema de Auyama. The Auyama, pronounced awˈʝa.ma, is technically a fruit because it contains the seeds of the plant inside. However, most people consider it a vegetable. It most resembles the squash and pumpkin types. In Venezuela it is used in most soup preparations like Sancochos and it is also used on its own to create this cream. However, it is also used to create sweet recipes such as bread and cakes.

The Auyama is easy to cultivate and therefore it is sold in large quantities and at a cheaper price than other vegetables. It is rich in potassium, calcium, vitamin A, and fiber. It is also low in calories because it is mostly made out of water, but it is very tasty. It is believed that because it was easily cultivated, Europeans used it as fodder to feed their animals. Each plant can bear up to 8 fruits and it only takes 140 days to harvest. In Venezuela it is available all year long. However, the Auyama harvested in summer has a sandy-textured pulp and it works best for pasta fillings or cakes. On the other hand, the Auyama harvested in winter is the one that is best for creams and soups, because the pulp is more fibrous and pale, and it has more water content.

Here in the US, the type of pumpkin or squash that I believe to be the closest to the authentic Venezuelan Auyama is sold as Squash Calabaza. I have bought it at Publix and Sedano’s in big chunks (they cut it and sell each individual piece in cling wrap), I have also bought one at Wal-Mart sold as a whole (the whole Calabaza), but I think the ones that come cut in chunks are the ones that most resemble the Auyama taste. The Venezuelan Auyama belongs to the Curcubitaceae family, and the curcubita genre, in the varieties called máxima, moschata, mixta and pepo. Its size is large and it comes in different shapes and sizes, with skin that varies from green to yellow to orange, it can be either smooth or corrugated, and the pulp varies from pale yellow to bright yellow-orange. The taste also varies from very sweet to not so sweet. This is probably why it has been hard for me to find one that truly matches the Venezuelan Auyama taste.

This particular recipe is my sister’s very own recipe, so it is not a traditional recipe, but it is very close to it. My sister, Mariale Ojeda, a.k.a. The Soup Queen as we call her around here, is an expert at making delicious soups for me, the soup lover. This post was created by her, the recipe, the cooking and the photos are all hers. I have to say special thanks to her for all the soups she has been cooking for us lately and for this amazing recipe and post she created as a featured writer of Venezuelan Cooking.

Ingredients for Crema De Auyama

Ingredients for Crema De Auyama

What you need:
– 4 lbs. Auyama (Squash Calabaza)
– 6½ Cups Chicken Broth or Chicken Bouillon (enough to cover all the Auyama)
– 5 to 8 Stems of Cilantro
– 1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
– ½ Chopped Onion
– 1/3 Sliced Bell Pepper
– ½ Stem Sliced Leek

Preparation:
1. Peel the Auyama and remove the seeds. Cut it in big chunks.

Cut The Auyama In Big Chunks

Cut The Auyama In Big Chunks

2. Place the chunks of Auyama in a large enough pot. Cover entirely with the chicken broth or chicken bouillon (1 bouillon cube per cup of water).

Cover With Chicken Broth

Cover With Chicken Broth\

3. Boil the Auyama at medium to high heat for about 13 minutes.
4. Add the cilantro and continue to boil for another 7 minutes.

Add Cilantro

Add Cilantro

5. Stir occasionally and remove accumulated foam from the top.
6. Meanwhile, cut the rest of the vegetables and heat up a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
7. Toss the veggies in the pan and sauté until brown, then set aside.

Sauté Veggies. Set Aside.

Sauté Veggies. Set Aside.

8. After about 20 minutes of boiling, test the Auyama by taking out a large piece and try to mash it with a fork, as if making mashed potatoes. If you can do this easily, then it’s done.

Test if the auyama is done

Test if the auyama is done

9. Add the sautéed vegetables to the Auyama pot, stir and remove pot from the heat. Let it cool down.

Add veggies to auyama

Add veggies to auyama

10. Once it has cooled down, grab all the solid pieces and place them in a blender or food processor.

Blend

Blend

11. Blend together and gradually add as much of the liquid remaining on the pot as necessary, to reach the right creamy consistency. What you are looking for is a creamy soup consistency.

Creamy consistency

Creamy consistency

12. Serve hot with your favorite garnish and topping, like my sister and I do. Some of our favorite toppings include Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, avocado, rice, croutons and cassava bread.

Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

Crema de Auyama | Venezuelan Cream of Squash Calabaza (Soup)

Note: You can make a big batch of this Squash Calabaza creamy soup and store it in the fridge for a couple of days, or you can store it in the freezer for up to a month. Reheat on the stove and not on the microwave for better results.

¡Buen Provecho!

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.

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

14 Dec Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

“Pollito chicken, gallina hen
lápiz pencil y pluma pen”

This is a short verse of a popular Spanish children’s song that helped us learn English when we were kids.  It was the first thing I thought of when researching today’s recipe and the history behind it.  The literal translation for this recipe is actually hen salad, not chicken salad.  The original recipe from the early 1940’s included hen, specifically.  However, as time passed and availability of chicken versus hen specifically became larger and more cost effective, the chicken replaced the hen in this traditional recipe.  Probably, due to hen being smaller and having less meat content and their meat also requires more time to cook thoroughly.  The difference between chicken and hen, if you don’t know, is that chicken refers to both the male and female versions, while hen refers only to the female chicken.  Nevertheless, the name of the recipe retained its original denomination: Ensalada de Gallina, Hen Salad.
The chicken salad is another important component in the Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate.  However, unlike the hallacas and the pan de jamón, the chicken salad is not exclusive to Christmas.  The chicken salad is prepared all year long, and it is quite versatile, taking the stage as a main dish, but also as a side, as a cracker topper or dip, and even as a filling inside arepas.  The chicken salad is also very popular in any birthday party or any other celebration or family gathering in Venezuela.  The best part of this recipe is that it is the easiest one to prepare out of all the Venezuelan Christmas recipes.  This is probably why it is usually prepared last, even on the same day of the Christmas dinner, which we usually celebrate on Christmas Eve.  It must be refrigerated, but it is best when consumed the same day or the day after, but not longer than that, since it can become bitter very quickly.
It is believed that this recipe originated in the most humble stoves in Caracas’ shacks.  When the leftovers of chicken stews such as the chicken, potatoes and carrots where mixed together with mayo to create this cold salad.  When the dish found its way to the wealthier parts of town, they gave it the name of Russian Salad in order for it to sound more sophisticated and fancy than hen salad.  They picked the name Russian Salad, because in fact our Venezuelan Hen / Chicken salad is very similar to the Russian Salad.  The Russian Salad was created around 1860 by an Italian chef in Moscow, and it originally contained deer meat.  With time, the original recipe was changed, but it had already crossed over to other countries, such as Ukraine, where green peas and chicken were cheaper and thus added on to the original recipe.

 Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

What you need:
For Cooking The Chicken
– 1½ lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
– 1 Lemon (Juice)
– Enough Water to Boil Chicken Breasts
– ¼ Onion
– 1Cilantro Stems
– 1 Green Onion Stems
– 1 Celery Stick
– 1 Chopped Garlic Clove
– 1 Leek Stick
– 1 Ají Dulce Venezolano (without seeds or veins)
– 1 Tablespoon Salt
For the Salad
– 2 Small To Medium Potatoes
– 2 Medium To Large Carrot Sticks
– 1 Red, Green or Yellow Apple (Peeled)
– ¼ Cup Canned Green/Sweet Peas (No Salt Added)
– ½ Onion (Optional)
– 1 Red Bell Pepper (Optional)
– 2 Celery Sticks (Optional)
– 2 Cilantro Stems
For The Sauce
– 1 Cup Mayo
– 2 Tablespoons Mustard
– 3 Tablespoons White Vinegar
– ½ Tablespoon White Pepper
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– ½ Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)
Preparation:
1. Clean the chicken breasts using the juice of one lemon and rinse thoroughly with water.

Rinse thoroughly with water

Rinse thoroughly with water

2. In a large enough pot, add the chicken, onion, cilantro, green onion, celery, leek, ají dulce Venezolano, and the salt.  You don’t have to worry about chopping these ingredients, they are being used to add flavor to the chicken.  Use enough water to cover all the ingredients and cook everything at medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
3. Remove the chicken from the pot, drain and set aside to cool down.

Set aside to cool down

Set aside to cool down

4. Wash and peel the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes with enough water and a little bit of salt.  Boil for about 10 minutes.  You want them to be done, but still firm so they don’t get mushy while making the salad.

Cook the potatoes

Cook the potatoes

5. Wash and peel the carrots.  Cook the carrots separately with enough water and a little bit of salt. Boil for about 20 minutes.

Cook the carrots separately

Cook the carrots separately

6. Once the potatoes and carrots are done, cool them down in a big bowl with some cold water and ice.

Cool down the potatoes and carrots

Cool down the potatoes and carrots

7. Your chicken should be cooled down by now.  Shred the chicken breasts using your hands or two forks.

Shred the chicken breasts

Shred the chicken breasts

Shredded chicken breasts

Shredded chicken breasts

8. Begin to cut the potatoes, carrots, apple, celery, and bell pepper in small cubes. Finely chop the onion using a food processor.  Chop the cilantro as well.

Cut the potatoes in small cubes

Cut the potatoes in small cubes

Cut the carrots in small cubes

Cut the carrots in small cubes

Cut the apple in small cubes

Cut the apple in small cubes

Cut the celery in small cubes

Cut the celery in small cubes

Cut the red bell pepper in small cubes

Cut the red bell pepper in small cubes

Chop the cilantro

Chop the cilantro

Finely chop the onion

Finely chop the onion

9. In a large enough bowl, combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion.  Then add this to all the other ingredients chopped and cubed in the previous step, plus the green peas.

Combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion

Combine the chicken with the finely chopped onion

Combine

Combine

10. Add the mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix all the ingredients together.  Adjust the salt and mayo if necessary to taste.

Add the sauce ingredients

Add the sauce ingredients

Mix well, but carefully

Mix well, but carefully

11. Decorate as you wish. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating.  Serve cold.

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

Recipe: Ensalada de Gallina | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Chicken Salad

¡Buen Provecho!

International Recipe Day: Risotto ai Funghi | Risotto con Champiñones

30 Nov

Welcome to a new section in this Venezuelan Cooking blog. I introduce International Recipe Day to you. As I have mentioned before, Venezuela is a big melting pot of a lot of different cultures and influences. Some of our traditional family recipes include recipes that come from our ancestors, who came from other countries to Venezuela a long time ago. One example, which I posted a while back, is the Tortilla Española. In my family, we have a lot of these recipes and one of them is the Risotto with Mushrooms. I used to not care for Risotto, but once I tried my grandma Ana’s Risotto, I changed my mind.

Recently my grandma Ana came to visit from Venezuela, as she usually does every year, and I wanted to cook something with her again like we did with the Tequeños and the Pollo a la Ana. She suggested we tried the Risotto because it was a simple recipe, so I invited her over to our new apartment to cook some Risotto together, and it was delicious.

The Risotto is a traditional Italian recipe. It is believed that the Arabs were the first to introduce rice to Italy and Spain during the Middle Ages. Like most other foods, rice was initially only consumed by wealthy people until it became widely spread and was no longer a delicacy. Much like the evolution of Spain’s Paella, the Risotto evolved from a cooking technique that was becoming very popular around that era; slow cooking.

The best thing about Risotto is that it can be served as the main dish, which is what they do in Italy, but it can also be served as a complementary dish to another dish, like the Ossobuco. Risotto can also be enhanced with many other complementary ingredients such as mushrooms, asparagus, shrimp, lobster, scallops, sausage, pumpkin, etc. It is truly a versatile dish that you can make your own, just like my grandma did.

Ingredients for Risotto Ai Funghi

Ingredients for Risotto Ai Funghi

What you need:
– 3 Cups Arborio Rice
– 2 Boxes White Mushrooms
– 1 Box Shitake Mushrooms
– 1½ Large Onion
– 2 Cups White Wine
– 1 Cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese
– 1 Stick of Butter
– 1 48oz. Carton of Beef or Chicken Broth
– ¼ Cup Cooking Oil
– 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
– 1 Tablespoon Salt

Preparation:
1. Cut the onion in small cubes. In the meantime, in a big enough pot, begin to heat up the oil at medium heat.

Cut the onion in small cubes

Cut the onion in small cubes

2. Add the onions to the pot and cook at medium heat until golden brown.
3. Wash the mushrooms if necessary, but don’t over soak them, because they will get too mushy.
4. Add the olive oil to the pot.
5. On a separate smaller saucepan, add about half of the chicken broth and maintain it hot but not boiling, at medium heat.

Maintain the chicken broth hot at a medium temperature

Maintain the chicken broth hot at a medium temperature

6. Add the mushrooms to the pot with the onions, along with the wine. Continue to cook and stir for about 7 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and wine

Add the mushrooms and wine

7. Once the mix begins to dry a bit, add the rice to the big pot with the onions and mushrooms.
8. Begin adding the hot broth bit by bit with a ladle, while you stir it in to the rice, cooking at low heat.
9. Continue adding the broth and cooking at low heat until you have added all the broth or until the rice is cooked throughly. Add the salt.
10. Be sure that you add the broth very slowly over time, so as to not make the rice and mixture too mushy.
11. Once the rice is almost done, add the butter and the Parmesan cheese to the mixture and cook until done.

Add butter and Parmesan cheese

Add butter and Parmesan cheese

12. Serve with fresh Parmesan cheese on top.

International Recipe Day: Risotto ai Funghi | Risotto con Champiñones

International Recipe Day: Risotto ai Funghi | Risotto con Champiñones

¡Gracias Tabue!
This is another very special post, and I dedicate it to my grandmother
Ana C. Sandoval de Ojeda.

Note: I have to apologize for being so hungry and exited to try my grandma’s risotto the day we cooked it, that I didn’t remember to take the final plated photo.  So what you see here is a stock photo. I owe you one.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Pollo A La Ana | Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

18 Mar Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

This recipe is one of my favorites. Not only because it is delicious, but because it was one of the very first recipes I learned how to prepare by heart. The name is in honor of my grandmother Ana Cecilia Sandoval de Ojeda. Even though she claims that we have all taken the recipe and changed it and improved up on it in our own way, she is still the main inspirational source for the original recipe, and many other recipes featured in my blog. This isn’t really a traditional Venezuelan recipe that everyone knows about, but it is definitely a big part of my life and memories of my childhood in Venezuela.

I first tried this delicious creamy chicken recipe when I was a kid and I used to visit my grandparents’ home almost every weekend. Sometimes I was dropped off at their house after school, too. And when I was lucky, I would eat my grandma’s creamy chicken for lunch. She would usually serve it with rice, some vegetables and baked plantains on the side. But the plate wasn’t ready until she poured some of the creamy sauce on top of my rice.

When I moved from Venezuela to the US, I sure missed my family and all the Venezuelan food I was so used to eating. I moved in with my aunt and my cousin. Life in the US was very different and we were always in a hurry, working and going to school at the same time. No one really had time to cook. However, we decided we needed to start cooking and eating home-cooked meals. My cousin and I, college students and part time employees, didn’t really know our way around the kitchen. We could make arepas, sandwiches, salads, eggs, and… that was pretty much it. One day we decided we needed to learn how to cook more complicated dishes and we both remembered our favorite creamy chicken, and we decided to give it a shot. We called grandma and our aunt for their recipes, but they gave us the basic steps and no measurements to go by, assuming these grown women should already know their way around the kitchen. After a couple of attempts and tweaks, and even after one time Whooper (my cousin’s dog) stole one of our chicken breasts, we finally nailed and perfected our own version of the creamy chicken. We served it with rice, plantains, and my now famous (don’t really know why) broccoli and cauliflower au-gratin. After a couple of times, our dish became popular in the family and we would be requested to prepare it at least once a month. We also prepared it when we had our boyfriends (at the time) come over for dinner, bragging about our cooking skills, as if we knew how to prepare any other complicated dishes. We even prepared it once for my (now) husband, and he loved it, even though he doesn’t care for chicken and he doesn’t like mushrooms.

Last time my grandmother came to the US, I invited her over to our place for a day of cooking. That day she taught me how to prepare the best tequeños ever, and I also asked her to show me how SHE makes the original version of this creamy chicken. She made it and showed me, but she wanted to include the changes and additions all of us in the family had made to the recipe, and it came out to be the best version of the creamy chicken I have ever had.

A couple of weeks ago, she was in a rush, and she didn’t have time to go through all her recipes, so she decided to just call me and ask me for the recipe. This particular moment in time, when my grandmother, my inspiration in the kitchen, my mentor, had called ME for a recipe, was the moment I felt like a real woman.

Therefore, I dedicate this one to my grandmother, Ana Cecilia Sandoval de Ojeda, with all my love.

What you need:

– 4 Chicken Breasts
– 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (Extra Virgin if preferred)
– 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
– ½ Teaspoon Soy Sauce
– 1 Teaspoon Adobo Seasoning (without Pepper)
– ¼ Onion (chopped in small pieces)
– 1 or 2 Garlic Cloves
– ½ Cup Sliced Mushrooms
– ½ to 1 Cup White Wine
– 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
– 3 to 4 Shallots (optional)*
– 2 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro (optional)*
– 1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg (optional)*
– ¼ Cup Sliced Almonds (optional)*

Preparation:

1. First wash the chicken breasts and dry them thoroughly. You can filet them in half (my grandma prefers it this way), you can cook them whole, or you can make your life easier and buy the thin ones instead (just buy double the amount – so 8 thin ones instead of 4 whole ones).

Filete Breasts

Filete Breasts

2. Season the chicken breasts with the olive oil, Worcestershire, soy sauce and adobo. Make sure to get it on both sides. It’s easier if you use a bowl for this step.
3. Leave the chicken breast to soak in all those flavors, and in the meantime cut the shallots and the onions, and begin to sauté them along with the minced garlic on a pan.

Chop Onions and Shallots

Chop Onions and Shallots

4. Add the chicken to the pan and begin to sauté them as well, because they will take a bit to cook thoroughly.
5. After the chicken is partially cooked, add the mushrooms and cilantro, and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.

Slice Mushrooms

Slice Mushrooms

6. Add the wine to the pan and let it cook at medium heat.
7. When the chicken breasts and the mushrooms start to brown and there is little wine left, you can add the heavy whipping cream and let it cook for a while to mix all the flavors together. NOTE: Don’t let it cook for too long, or the sauce will start to become too thick.

Cook At Medium Heat

Cook At Medium Heat

8. At this point, you can add salt and pepper to taste (if needed), along with the ground nutmeg and almonds.
9. Serve hot with rice, vegetables and plantains.

Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

*All the optional ingredients are the result of all of us changing and trying to make the recipe our own.  No matter which one you decide to include or leave out, this creamy chicken will surely be a favorite in your home.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Crema de Apio Venezolano | Venezuelan “Celery Root” Soup

28 Mar

In order for me to tell you about “Apio”, pronounced (ä’ pē-ō), I must tell you about my long journey to find it.  This post is 5-6 years in the making, and one of the reasons I started this blog!
When I was a kid, I used to eat Apio in various different Venezuelan dishes.  At my grandmother’s house they usually served a little bit of Apio Cream (just a thicker creamier soup), as an appetizer before lunch.  My mom sometimes served Apio Creamy Soup as a light dinner.  Apio could be found in big pieces, like you would find carrots or potatoes in a light chicken soup preparation.  My other grandmother used it in her preparation of Sancocho de Pescado (like a fish stew of some sort), in big chunks.  We also ate it in Chupe de Gallina, another chicken soup, but very hearty. I also recall it served as a pure (like mashed potatoes, but of Apio), in some fancy restaurants.  So it’s safe to say, I loved Apio!
Fast-forward a few years… and all of a sudden… I forgot about Apio! I moved to the US, where nobody knows about Apio, and I guess it just slipped my mind. Until, I had a crazy craving for some delicious Apio Soup. So I ask myself, what is apio in English? What does Apio translate to? I “Googled it”. As it turns out, apio means celery. Simple enough. All I have to find is Creamy Celery Soup. Guess what? Campbell’s makes Cream of Celery, so I should probably just go buy one at the store. So I did. I came home with my can of soup, and I cooked it on the stove, and was a bit puzzled about the green color, but hey, the can says Cream of Celery, so it must be right… I try it… YUCK!!!! This isn’t APIO!!!! Of course NOT! Dummy!!!
I go back to the drawing board… Google, that is.  Oh, of course! Apio IS celery, yes, but that is what we in Venezuela call “Apio españa”, Spanish (from Spain) Apio. Ok, my bad! Now I realize I am looking for something else. I call my mom, my aunt, my cousin, my sister, my grandma, my other grandma, and pretty much everyone I know to ask about Apio. I had never seen the raw product, I only saw the cooked product, and so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like. The general description was “It looks like a potato, but more like a stick of carrot, and with weird limbs coming out of it, like ginger, but it is yellow on the inside”. WHAT? So I begin my search for this Apio. I bought something that sort of matched the description of what they told me, which was called Parsnip. I went home and cooked it. It wasn’t it. I bought Turnip. That wasn’t it either. Finally, after researching all over the Internet, I find out what it was. It is called Celery Root here in America. But guess what? They don’t sell it anywhere. So I asked around all the markets I could find, until I finally found “Celery Root” at a new organic market that had opened up. YES! Finally I get to make my Apio Soup. I buy it, I send pictures to everyone to make sure it is the right one, and they said it was. I make the soup, IT’S NOT IT!!! At least it didn’t taste like it to me, and it wasn’t really yellow, it was more like beige.
I came down to South Florida to visit my family and I asked for my cousin to cook me some Apio. We went to the local Hispanic Super Market, where they sold Celery Root, BUT it was labeled “Celery Root: Apio Venezolano”. So I knew it HAD to be the right thing. And of course, my cousin cooked it for me, and it WAS the right kind of Apio. But then I knew I could only find it either in South Florida or in Venezuela.
Now here I am, after 5 years, back in Florida.  Of course, my first post HAS to be about Apio, because I went to the Hispanic Market called Sedano’s and I found my “Apio Venezolano”.  I bought it, I brought it home, I peeled it (it was yellow, how it’s supposed to be), then I cooked it, it smelled like apio, then I tasted it, and… IT WAS APIO!!!
So, I know only a few of you, those lucky enough to find the real Apio Venezolano, are going to be able to make this recipe. However, I must say the Parsnip version was pretty close to it.  Also, this recipe is good for any kind of tuber vegetable or almost any vegetable for that matter.

Celery Root: Apio Venezolano

Celery Root: Apio Venezolano

What you need:
– 500 grams of Apio Venezolano (about 2 to 3 big pieces)
– 4 ¼ cups of Chicken Broth
– Salt
Optional:
– Queso Blanco (Yet another hard to find ingredient)
– 2 tbsp. butter
– ¼ Onion
– Cilantro
– Basil
– Leeks
– Cream Cheese
Preparation:
1. Peel the Apio. Use a knife first for the tougher parts, and then you can use a regular potato peeler for the rest.

Peel the Apio Carefully

Peel the Apio Carefully

2. Cut the Apio in half, so that it fits in the pot and the water covers it. This step is optional.
3. Cook the Apio and the Chicken Broth in high heat for about 25 minutes, or until the Apio is soft. Just like you would if you where boiling potatoes.

Cook the Apio

Cook the Apio

4. At this point you can add the optional ingredients for extra flavor, such as the onion (in big pieces so its easy to remove later), the cilantro, the basil and the leeks.

Optional: Cilantro

Optional: Cilantro

5. Once the Apio is done, remove the optional ingredients (or you can leave them if you wish), and remove the Apio from the broth.

Remove Apio from Broth

Remove Apio from Broth

6. Puree the Apio using a food processor (and optional ingredients if you wish), and then slowly add the stock little by little until you reach the desired consistency. This is supposed to be a “cream of apio” soup, but if you puree the apio first, and then add the broth bit by bit, mixing well, you can stop adding broth when you have reached the desired consistency, so you don’t have a soup that is too thick or too thin. You can also add the optional butter here to help it reach the desired consistency.

Puree the Apio

Puree the Apio

7. Return the mixture to the pot and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or so. You can add the remaining broth if it starts to thicken too much.

Pureed Apio

Pureed Apio

8. Serve with optional cubes of Queso Blanco, or toast, or Cream Cheese, or all three. I myself like to have the cream cheese on the table and just scoop some into my soup and eat a little piece with each spoonful. Delicious!

Optional: Queso Blanco

Optional: Queso Blanco

Crema de Apio Venezolano

Crema de Apio Venezolano

Venezuelan Cream of Celery Root

Venezuelan Cream of Celery Root

¡Buen Provecho!

Just for reference of what apio ISN’T, here are the pictures of the first attempt of Celery Root bought at a local organic market. NOT Venezuelan Apio for sure!

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

Celery Root, but NOT Apio Venezolano

More on Apio
Other names I have found for Venezuelan Apio include Celeriac and Arracacha, but I haven’t confirmed these myself.
Also, Apio could be a good substitute for Potatoes in all kinds of preparations, because it has less calories (nutritional facts coming soon).

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: Croquetas de Atún (Tuna Croquettes)

21 Dec
Ingredients for Tuna Croquettes

Ingredients for Tuna Croquettes

What you need:

– 12 oz. Tuna (1 large can, drained)
– 1 Tomato
– 1 Onion, medium or small
– 1 Garlic Clove, thinly chopped
– 1 Potato, medium to large
– 2 Eggs
– 1 Cup Bread Crumbs
– 2 to 4 Sprigs Cilantro or Parsley, thinly chopped
– 1 Tablespoon Adobo Seasoning
– 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
– 2 Cups Oil, for frying

Preparation:

1. Since the potato will take a bit to cook, start with the potato.   Peel the potato and rinse it, place in a large enough pot, cover it by one inch with enough water and boil until fork tender.   You can cut in smaller pieces to make this process go faster.

Boil the Potato

Boil the Potato

2. Now you are going to work on a “Sofrito”, or a combination of ingredients and condiments cut into very small pieces and sautéed together.   For this you are going to use the tomato, the onion, the cilantro (or parsley), and the garlic.   You can cut them all as small as possible, or you can even use a processor to chop them up for you.   Sauté all these ingredients in a large enough pan for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown.

Prepare the Sofrito by Processing or Chopping the Ingredients

Prepare the Sofrito by Processing or Chopping the Ingredients

Then Stir-fry Them

Then Stir-fry Them

3. Drain the tuna and add it to the sofrito in the pan along with the adobo and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to sauté, until the tuna is browned and has mixed with all the other ingredients and all the flavors are absorbed.

Add Tuna

Add Tuna

4. At this point your potato should be done.   Remove the pot from the stove and drain the potato.   Add the potato into a mixing bowl and mash it.   Set aside for it to cool.

Mash the Potato

Mash the Potato

5. Now your tuna should be ready as well.   Remove from the stove, and add the tuna mixture to your mashed potato and mix well.   Set aside for it to cool down, because you will be handling this mixture with your hands and you don’t want it to be too hot.

Mix the Tuna with the Mashed Potato

Mix the Tuna with the Mashed Potato

6. Prepare an assembly line next to your stove and add the oil to a frying pan (or deep fryer if you have one), and begin to heat up the oil.

Prep Your Workspace

Prep Your Workspace

7. You should have the bowl with the mixture, a bowl filled with the eggs (scrambled), and a plate with the bread crumbs.
8. Grab some of the tuna/potato mix and roll it in your hands to form a croquette in the shape of a “smokie”, but don’t make them too thick or too thin.

Form Croquettes

Form Croquettes

9. Place the croquette in the egg bowl and coat with the eggs, then pass it through the bread crumbs and make sure to coat evenly.

Coat with Eggs

Coat with Eggs

Coat with Bread Crumbs

Coat with Bread Crumbs

10. Fry the croquettes until the outside is browned and crispy.   Set on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Fry Croquettes

Fry Croquettes

Remove Excess Oil

Remove Excess Oil

11. Serve as an appetizer with tartar sauce, mayo and/or limejuice.   Or serve as a main dish accompanied with rice and vegetables.

Serve with Lemon and Mayonaise

Serve with Lemon and Mayonaise

*Makes about 20 to 25 croquettes.

Croquetas de Atún | Venezuelan Tuna Croquettes

Croquetas de Atún | Venezuelan Tuna Croquettes

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Pabellón Criollo

14 Dec Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

The “Pabellón Criollo”, it the most traditional Venezuelan dish after the Arepas.  Pabellón is a word for “pavilion”, but it can also mean the national flag, an ensign, or even a tent.   The Pabellón Criollo, the traditional Venezuelan dish is made up of shredded (or pulled) beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains, as the most basic version of it.   Some people, depending on the part of the country, also add a plain arepa on the side, some avocadoes, some delicious grated white cheese and even a fried egg.  When fried plantains are added, it is known as the “Pabellón con Baranda”.

This dish is our national dish, but it originated in Caracas, the capital city.  People believe this dish is closely related to Venezuelan history and our miscegenation.  This is reflected on the colors of each main component in the dish, black beans, white rice and brown beef.  These three colors symbolize the union of the three races: African, European and indigenous.

We can find Pabellón Criollo in any part of the country, and we even use it to fill our empanadas and arepas.  But we only use the black beans, beef, and plantains to fill those.

Recipes for main components:

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)
Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)
Arroz Blanco (Venezuelan White Rice)
Tajadas (Venezuelan Fried Plantains)

Preparation:

1. Make sure you soak the black beans overnight!
2. Prepare the shredded/pulled beef first, as this will take the longest to cook (4 hours).
3. When the beef has been cooking for about 1½ to 2 hours already, begin to cook the black beans (this will take 2 hours).
4. Proceed to remove the beef from the boiling water.  Shred/pull the beef and continue cooking as directed on the recipe (adding the sofrito and stir frying it).
5. Proceed to finish the black beans recipe as well.
6. Set the beef and beans aside, and begin cooking the rice.
7. Make the plantains while the rice is cooking.
8. Finish the rice and the plantains.
9. Serve all together.

Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

Pabellón Criollo Venezolano

Pabellón con Baranda

Pabellón con Baranda

Tip

– For a fancier presentation of this delicious dish, you can create a Pabellón Criollo tower:

1. Place an oiled pastry ring in the middle of the plate.
2. Add a layer of rice, a layer of black beans, and a layer of beef in equal parts (about one third of the rings height).
3. Top with plantain circles, alternated with cheese or avocado.
4. Decorate with herbs.

Pabellón Criollo Tower

Pabellón Criollo Tower

Pabellón Criollo Fancy

Pabellón Criollo Fancy

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

7 Dec

Venezuelan Carne Mechada, Carne Esmechada, or Carne Desmechada, is what you know as shredded or pulled beef.   Some people call it “Ropa Vieja”, which literally translates to “Old Clothes”.   Some others call it “Vaca Frita”, which literally translates to “Fried Cow”.   But we simply call it Carne Mechada, which literally translates to Shredded or Pulled Beef.   This is the main component in the most traditional Venezuelan dish, the Pabellón Criollo.   However, Carne Mechada is also used to stuff arepas, empanadas, pastelitos, and even Cachapas.

What you need:

Ingredients to Boil the Steak

Ingredients to Boil the Steak

To boil the beef
– 2 lbs. Flank Steak
– 8 Cups of Water (or enough to cover the beef)
– Salt (to taste)
– 1 Stick Green Onion
– 1 Peppermint or Spearmint Leaf
– 1 or 2 Sprigs of Parsley
– 1 or 2 Sticks of Celery
– ½ Onion
– ½ Red Bell Pepper

Ingredients for the Sofrito

Ingredients for the Sofrito

Sofrito
– 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
– 1 ½ Onions
– 1 ½ Bell Peppers
– 1 Garlic Clove
– 3 ½ “Ajíes Dulces” (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chili Pepper)
– 2 Tomatoes
– ½ Teaspoon Pepper
– 1 or 2 Sprigs of Cilantro
– 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

Preparation:

1. Cut the Flank Steak in 2 or 4 pieces so they fit in your pot.

Flank Steak / Falda

Flank Steak / Falda

Cut Steak into 4 Parts

Cut Steak into 4 Parts

2. In a large enough pot, place the Flank Steak and cover with enough water.
3. Add the salt, green onion, peppermint, parsley, celery, onion and bell pepper.
4. Cover and cook for about 4 hours at medium heat until the steak softens.

Cook for About 4 Hours

Cook for About 4 Hours

5. Remove from heat, take the steak out of the pot, place in a baking sheet and let it cool for a little bit (You can use the remaining beef stock for other preparations).
6. Once the beef is cool enough to handle, start shredding or pulling it.   Be sure to pick out the fat and hard parts of the beef at this point.

Shred / Pull Beef

Shred / Pull Beef

7. In a large enough pot, add the oil, and sauté the rest of the onion, the bell pepper the garlic and ajíes cut in Juliennes, for about 5 minutes.

Sauté Ingredients for the Sofrito

Sauté Ingredients for the Sofrito

8. Add the beef to this sauté mixture and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add the Beef to the Sofrito

Add the Beef to the Sofrito

9. Add the tomatoes, the pepper, the cilantro, and the soy sauce.
10. Taste everything to make sure you don’t need more salt or soy sauce.
11. Cook at low heat for about 15 minutes.   You may also add a bit of the beef stock and cook at medium heat until the liquid is reduced.

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded/Pulled Beef)

*Makes 4 servings.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Tortilla Española…Venezolana! (Venezuelan Spanish Tortilla)

9 Nov

As I have mentioned before, Venezuelan food is influenced by many other cuisines around the world.   One of the most noticeable influences is Spanish cuisine (from Spain).   Most Venezuelans can track their ancestors to Spain, and have adapted some Spanish dishes passed down generation to generation, to make them their own.   Some of my relatives who have close Spanish roots have introduced me to delicious Spanish dishes like the Spanish Tortilla.   But don’t be confused by the name, this is no regular tortilla.   When I told my husband I would make him this Spanish Tortilla, he imagined a Mexican Tortilla… but it is more like an omelet, a giant omelet.   I remember eating Spanish Tortilla when invited over to my second cousin’s house for sleepovers.   My cousin’s grandma is a true Spaniard, so they knew what they were doing over there.   My other aunt’s grandmother also made me delicious Spanish Tortilla every time I came to visit.   I think she must have had a secret ingredient (LOVE) when she made her Spanish Tortilla, because it tasted amazing.   She was sweetest little lady, may she rest in piece.   My mom made this dish sometimes as well, and she accompanied it with Salchichitas, or what my husband explained to me are called smokies here in America (Recipe next week).   So here is my version of the Spanish Tortilla, which I made a bit more interesting by adding some Chorizo in it.

Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients:

– 2 Potatoes (medium)
– ½ Onion (medium)
– 3 to 4 Eggs
– 90 gr. Chorizo (about two links)
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– ¼ Teaspoon Pepper
– Vegetable Oil (Enough for frying)

Preparation:

1. Peel the potatoes and then cut them in slices as thin as possible (as if you were going to make potato chips).   Cut the onions in the same manner, in strips, or simply Julienne the onion.

Cut the Potato in Thin Slices

Cut the Potato in Thin Slices

2. Place the potatoes and onions in a bowl, add the salt and mix together.

Mix Potatoes and Onions

Mix Potatoes and Onions

3. In the meantime, start heating up the oil in a large enough frying pan or wok.   Use enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan so that it just covers the potatoes and onions.
4. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and onions to the pan and begin to fry them.   The potatoes shouldn’t become golden brown, but it’s ok if they do just a bit.   You should move them around with a wooden spoon so that you don’t break them, but they get cooked evenly.   It takes about 10-12 minutes at medium heat for them to cook thoroughly.

Begin to Fry the Potatoes and Onions

Begin to Fry the Potatoes and Onions

5. In the meantime cut the chorizo in thin slices as well and set aside.

Cut the Chorizo

Cut the Chorizo

6. In a bowl, beat the eggs, only 3 at first.

Beat the Eggs

Beat the Eggs

7. When the potatoes and onions are done (potatoes should break in half easily when pinched with a fork), take them out and drain in a colander and let them cool down a bit.   Drain as much of the excess oil as possible.

Drain the Potatoes and Onions

Drain the Potatoes and Onions

8. Compare the size of the potatoes and onions mix to the beaten eggs, and then decide if you need to add the other egg.   There should be more potatoes and onions mix than eggs.   The size will depend on the size of your potatoes.
9. Add the potatoes and onions mix, as well as the chorizo slices and pepper to the beaten eggs.   Mix well and mash the potatoes just a bit, not too much.

Add Potatoes, Onions and Chorizo to Beaten Eggs

Add Potatoes, Onions and Chorizo to Beaten Eggs

10. Pre-heat the frying pan in which you will be cooking the tortilla.   It is better to have a smaller pan so that the tortilla will be thick, than to have a larger pan, because the tortilla will be too thin.   For this mixture I used a large frying pan to fry the potatoes and onions, and a smaller pan to cook the tortilla.   You should have a non-stick pan, but either way grease the pan with some oil or cooking spray before adding the mix to it.
11. Add the mixture to the frying pan and cook at medium/low heat.

Add Mixture to Frying Pan

Add Mixture to Frying Pan

12. When you can see that the bottom half is cooked thoroughly, by lifting one side carefully (or after about 8 minutes), you can proceed to the tricky part.   Grab a flat serving dish, larger than the circumference of the frying pan, pace it on top of the pan, and then carefully flip the tortilla on to the plate.   Clean the pan, and spray or coat with a bit more oil, then carefully slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side.   Make sure to tuck in the edges so you get a clean round edge.

The Tricky Step

The Tricky Step

Flip Onto Plate and Slide Back Into Pan

Flip Onto Plate and Slide Back Into Pan

13. When the other side is ready, simply serve by flipping it into a serving dish.

Ready !!!

Ready !!!

Cut and Serve with Ketchup

Cut and Serve with Ketchup

Tips
– This is great to serve with a bit of ketchup and Salchichitas Glaseadas, or smokies.

... and Smokies

... and Smokies

*Makes about 4 servings.

¡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!

Recipe: Venezuelan Taco Night

31 Aug

Now that you have the recipes for Guasacaca, Salsa Verde and Fresh Salsa; you can have yourself a Venezuelan Taco Night.   Tacos are CLEARLY not Venezuelan.   They are Mexican, in case you didn’t know.   However, we Venezuelans do like tacos.   Unfortunately, we do not have Taco Bell in Venezuela, so most families just make their own.   My mom made the best tacos ever, and it was a treat for us.   We helped her by chopping up all the ingredients and setting up the table while she cooked the meat and the Guasacaca.   Afterwards, we played Monopoly or Telefunken (Venezuelan Card Game).   Since I don’t live in Venezuela and I like to share my Venezuelan traditions with others, I have started my own Venezuelan Taco Night tradition.   I usually invite a couple of friends over and we have some Tacos and Board Games.   So, here is the recipe, preparations, menu and everything you need to have your own Venezuelan Taco Night.

Old El Paso Taco Shells and Tortillas

Old El Paso Taco Shells and Tortillas


What you need (for about 4 adults + leftovers)

– 1 Box of 6 soft and 6 hard tacos (Old El Paso)
– 1 or 2 Bags of Tortilla Chips
– ½ Romaine Lettuce Head, chopped
– 4 Tomatoes, chopped
– 1 Cup of Mexican Cheese Blend (I like the Sorrento Brand)
– 1 Cup Sour Cream

Ingredients for Taco Beef

Ingredients for Taco Beef

Taco Beef
– 2 lbs. Ground Beef
– 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
– 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
– 1 Tbsp. Adobo Seasoning
– 2 Baggies of Old el Paso Original Taco Seasoning

Guasacaca
Salsa Verde
Fresh Salsa

– Board Games

 

Preparation

1. Make sure you thaw the beef (I always seem to forget about this step).
2. You should condiment the beef with the soy sauce, the Worcestershire and the adobo seasoning. Mix well and let it sit.

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

3. You can go ahead and make the Salsa Verde and the Fresh Salsa, then refrigerate until everything else is ready.
4. You can also go ahead and chop all the ingredients for inside the Tacos, like the lettuce and tomatoes and place them in a bowl and inside the fridge, along with the cheese and sour cream.
5. Now go ahead and start browning the ground beef. Once it’s almost done, drain the beef, to get rid of all the oils and juices from the beef.   Now go ahead and follow the instructions on the Taco Seasoning, and add it to the beef.
6. Prepare the Guasacaca.
7. Heat up the soft and hard tacos as instructed on the box.   I usually heat up the hard tacos in my toaster-oven and “hang” them upside-down from the rack inside the oven.   This will open them up a bit.   But be careful not to “toast” them or burn them, just turn the toaster-oven on at the lowest setting for 2 minutes.   The soft tacos you can heat up 1 minute each on a pan at low temperature.   Or you can do it the lazy way and stick them all in the microwave for a minute or two.
8. Serve everything on the table and enjoy.

Venezuelan Tacos

Venezuelan Tacos

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Arepas

13 Jul

Arepas are very easy to prepare.   First, you will need a few basic things.

– Mixing Bowl

Basic Ingredients and Utensils

Basic Ingredients and Utensils

– Measuring Spoons

– Measuring Cup

– 1 cup Harina PAN (Discussed here).

– 1 cup lukewarm water

– ½ teaspoon salt

Next, you will prepare the dough.

Add the Harina PAN and the salt into the mixing bowl and mix together using your hands.   Then, 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.

Add Water, Salt and Harina PAN

Add Water, Salt and Harina PAN

Another way if doing it is to first add the water and the salt into the mixing bowl and stir that together, and then proceed to add the Harina PAN little by little.

It is up to you to decide which method to use.   I usually had preferred to mix the water and the salt first, so to make the water salty and spread the saltiness evenly through the dough.   However, I found that using all the water first usually resulted in having to add more Harina PAN to the mix latter in order to get the right consistency.

Therefore I think the best way to go about it is to add the salt to the water in the measuring cup, and have the Harina PAN in the mixing bowl.   That way you add as much water as needed, but you also distribute the salt evenly and then proceed to knead.

Knead Dough

Knead Dough

Once the dough is ready you let it sit for 5 minutes.

Let it sit

Let it sit

Now you are ready to form the arepas.   You should grab a handful of the dough, and with both hands make a nice sized ball of about 2” to 2.5” in diameter.   Then you use one hand to hold the ball and the other to flatten it ever so slightly with your fingers, turning it around so you flatten it evenly.   The thickness is really up to you and up to the type of arepa you are going to prepare.   I usually flatten it to about 0.5” or 0.75” thick.   And if you are using a “Tostiarepa” you don’t event have to worry about flatting it, because it will do it for you.   Now that you have the basics, you can decide to cook your arepa in several different ways.

Make Balls

Make Balls

Flatten

Flatten

Arepas Asadas

This is probably the most common way to cook an arepa.   I believe the translation would be something like roasted or grilled Arepas.   The best way to do this is with what we call a “BUDARE”, which is basically a cast iron round griddle (think Lodge Logic).   You would first seal them at a higher temperature and then cook the inside at a medium temperature flipping them over constantly.

Arepas Asadas

Arepas Asadas

Arepas Fritas

These are probably the most delicious ones, because they are Fried arepas, and lets face it, anything fried tastes 10 times better.   You would simply heat up about 2 cups of oil at medium heat in a pan, or better yet, in a fryer or Dutch oven.   After the oil is hot enough you would fry the arepas for about 10 minutes or until they are golden on both sides.

If you wish to fry your arepas, I recommend that you flatten them further, to about 0.25” thick, and also its tradition to open a hole with your finger in the middle of the fried arepas (don’t ask me why).

Usually, in Venezuelan restaurants, instead of serving bread and butter while you wait for your food to arrive, we serve “arepitas con nata”.   These are small little about 1.5” in diameter (cooked) fried arepas served directly from the fryer with either butter or delicious “nata”, which is hard to explain, because I really never though of it.   It is sort of like a sour cream, but its cheesier and buttery, like cream cheesy but with a more liquid consistency.

Arepas Horneadas

These are baked arepas.   They usually have to be “sealed” using the Arepas Asadas technique on a cast iron round griddle for about 5 minutes on each side on high heat.   Then, they are baked in the oven at about 180º C until they start to puff a bit and the crust starts to come up a bit from the inside dough, which is usually about 20 to 30 minutes.

TostiArepa

The arepa toaster will basically toast the arepas in about 7 minutes.   All you have to do is place a large enough ball of dough on each of the compartments in the toaster and press the cover down.   You should open it back up and check that you had enough dough, or that you didn’t have too much dough.   If you had too much just remove the excess pressed out with your fingers.   If you had too little add more dough and reshape the ball.   You can also add a bit of butter to each compartment before you put the dough in.   I think the toaster is non-stick, but then the crust will taste like butter.

Tostiarepa: Make Balls

Tostiarepa: Make Balls

Flattened Arepa in the Tostiarepa

Flattened Arepa in the Tostiarepa

Now you are ready to enjoy your arepa with any filling you want.   I will cover fillings in the next post, but for now you can enjoy them with butter, your favorite type of cheese and any kind of sandwich meat.

Tips

Arepas become hardened in only a few hours, so you should cook them when you want to eat them.   Also, if they are already hardened, you can damp a paper towel or two in water, and cover the arepa and then stick it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so.   You can however prepare the dough and refrigerate it beforehand and then proceed to cook them when you are ready to eat them.   You can also refrigerate leftover dough for about 5 days, just make sure you cover it with a damp cloth and spray with water or even a little bit of oil.   You can also prepare baked arepas by sealing them using the griddle first, then freezing them, and simply baking them for 20 to 30 minutes when you are ready to eat them.

Some people add different things to their dough before they cook the arepa to add flavor to the dough.   I have heard and seen a lot of different additions including milk, oil, butter, cheese, eggs, and even honey.   They all have a different taste, but I have to say I have NEVER tried an Arepa I didn’t like and I have NEVER met anyone who didn’t like Arepas 🙂

Check out Arepas on Chef John’s Blog and Also on Bobby Flay Throwdown

¡Buen Provecho!

NEW!!! – Download the One-Page Recipe Printout [Recipe: Venezuelan Arepas PDF Printout

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