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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!

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

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

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

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

Ingredients for Pan de Jamón

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

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

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

Mix Milk, Sugar and Yeast

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

Knead dough and cover

Knead dough and cover

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

Kneading

Kneading

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

The dough is ready

The dough is ready

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

Divide in 3 equal portions

Divide in 3 equal portions

One portion

One portion

Extend dough with rolling pin

Extend dough with rolling pin

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

Adding the ham

Adding the ham

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

Rolling the bread

Rolling the bread

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

Close off the ends

Close off the ends

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

Glaze

Glaze

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

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

Recipe: Pan de Jamón | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Ham Bread

¡Buen Provecho!

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: Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

10 Sep Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

Soups are one of my favorite dishes. The Apio Soup is at the top of the list of course, but I generally like any type of soup. Growing up, it was a given that I would have at least one cup of soup before lunch every time I went to my paternal grandparents’ house after school. They always had apio soup, auyama soup, and I would even eat the spinach soup. Looking back I realize it was their way of feeding us our daily serving of veggies without dealing with us ‘picky-eaters’. However, when visiting my maternal grandparents, the tradition was to eat the soup as a main dish. This is because they would prepare sancochos or hervidos, either made from chicken base or fish base. My maternal family lives on the coast, so fish is the most common dish on the table. It was also a trick to get me to eat fish. And I would; I would eat all the veggies and all the fish, as long as it was in the soup.

All soups are not created equally, and they do not serve the same purpose. The soups I ate at my paternal grandparents’ house in the city were appetizers, a small serving before the main dish for lunch. The soups I ate at my maternal grandparent’s house had been cooked in two large pots, or maybe even three, to feed everyone in the family as a main dish, accompanied by some arepas, casabe, and avocado.

The word sancocho comes from the Latin sub-coctum, wich means to cook at a low heat. That is precisely what sancocho is, and even though it is also called hervido, which means boiled, in order to make sancocho, you must never let the water actually come to a boil. People also call sancocho the actual family gathering where they meet to enjoy this delicious dish.

Soups (sopas) are basic broths with small pieces of solid foods like vegetables, chicken, beef, sometimes rice, pasta or even dough balls, some even have milk or eggs. Some of these soups end up being creams (cremas) if those ingredients are all blended together. Stews (sancocho o hervido), on the other hand, are hearty enough to be the main dish, with big pieces of vegetables and roots, corn and even plantains. Sancochos and/or hervidos can be made with chicken, beef, fish or even pork based broths, and some people even make ‘cruzado’ (mixed/crossed) when they make it from two or even three different base broths. Stews can also be made into creams when blended together.

To me, there is nothing like a good cup of soup, cream, or stew when you have the flu.

Ingredients: Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

Ingredients: Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

What you need:
– 1 Whole Chicken
– 1 Lemon (to clean the chicken)
– 2 Small Onions
– 2 Large Leeks
– 2 Bell Peppers
– 2 Cilantro Stems
– 1 Lb. Yuca
– 1 Lb. Apio
– 1 Lb. Ocumo (Sold as Malanga in the US)
– 1 Lb. Auyama (Sold as “calabaza” – Cucurbita moschata or ayote or zapallo, is a type of pumpkin squash)
– 1 Lb. Batata Blanca Alargada (Sold as Boniato or White Sweet Potato)
– 3 Large Ears of Corn
– 8 Garlic Cloves
– 2 Small Stems of Spearmint
– 2 Tablespoons Salt
– 1 Teaspoon Pepper
– Water

Preparation:
1. First cut the chicken, or if you want to make your life easier, buy the pieces separately (breasts and drums, bones included). Wash the chicken pieces by using two halves of the lemon to scrub it and then rinse it and damp dry with paper towels.
2. Place the chicken in a large enough pot and fill with water, about half the pot, enough to cover the chicken. Add the ears of corn as well; cut them in thirds or fourths. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the leeks, bell peppers and the onions. You can wash these and then cut in large pieces, since they will be removed later.
4. Cook for about one hour to an hour and a half or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add the cilantro right around half way through cooking the chicken. Add more water as necessary.
5. You will notice that a layer of foam will start to form on the top as you cook. You should keep an eye on the pot and remove the foam as it starts to collect on the top.
6. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool for a bit. In the meantime strain the broth, so that you remove all the pieces of onion, leek, bell peppers and cilantro. Be sure to keep the broth, since we will use it to cook the rest of the ingredients.

Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool for a bit.

Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool for a bit.

7. Use however much broth you have, hopefully around 11 Cups. Wash, cut and peel (if necessary) the rest of the ingredients in large pieces (Yuca, Apio, Boniato, Malanga, Calabaza, etc.), and add them to the pot with the broth. Also add the garlic, the salt and the pepper.
8. Boil on high for about 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are ready. In the meantime you can shred the chicken using a fork to remove the meat from the bones and set aside the meat to add it to the soup later on. You can leave some bigger pieces of chicken as well.
9. When the vegetables are almost done, you can add the chicken, the spearmint and a little bit more cilantro.
10. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove the cilantro and spearmint.
11. Serve hot with casabe or a plain arepa. It is also a custom to add a couple of pieces of avocado.
12. You can also take out the chicken and corn from the soup, and blend the soup into a cream, and then add back the chicken and the corn, for a delicious cream version of this soup.

Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

Hervido o Sancocho De Gallina | Venezuelan Chicken Soup

Note: When cutting the Malanga, you should wear gloves because it might sting if you get it on your skin or eyes.
Optional: Some people add other types of vegetables and ingredients in the soups like potatoes, carrots, zucchini, yam, bollos, hallaquitas, plantains, etc.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

25 Mar Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

I wasn’t sure how to call this recipe, and I don’t know where it came from or how it came to be. All I know is that I have always called this salad the “Ensalada Rusa”, which means Russian Salad. I just didn’t want to call this recipe the ‘Venezuelan Russian Salad’, because that doesn’t make sense. However, I am pretty sure that is not the name for this salad, because when I Google it I get the recipes for a different salad, a salad similar to chicken salad or Olivier Salad.

When I was a kid I was not a fan of the word salad or “ensalada”. When I would ask “What’s for lunch?”, I didnt want to hear that salad was on the menu. However, my mom used to make this beet salad all the time, because she knew it was the one salad I would eat, and even ask for seconds. My grandma also used to make the same beet salad, but she included lettuce in it, and I wasn’t a fan of the lettuce addition. I would still eat it, but I probably wouldn’t ask for seconds. This salad is delicious, mainly because it’s not really a salad. I consider it more of a side dish, a carb-loaded side dish. And who doesn’t love carbs?

These past holidays my sister came to visit us from Venezuela and I asked her to help me cook some of my favorite dishes so I could blog about them and post the recipes. As soon as she told me she always makes this salad back home, I knew I had to go buy the ingredients and have her show me how to make it. I had never found a good recipe online, and I wanted to know how my mom used to make it. So we bought all the ingredients and she made it for me. It was just like my mom used to make it, and it was very easy, too.

One thing you must know… this salad is pink! My sister and I even thought it would be a great salad or side dish to serve at a bachelorette’s party, girl’s baby shower or party… or any pink themed party!

Ingredients Venezuelan Beet Salad

Ingredients Venezuelan Beet Salad

What you need:
– 3 Small to Medium Potatoes
– 3 Eggs
– 2 Beets
– 2 to 3 Carrot Sticks
– ¼ Chopped Onion
– ½ Cup Mayo
– 1 Teaspoon Vinegar
– 1 ½ Teaspoon Lemon Juice
– 1 Teaspoon Salt

Preparation:

1. Rinse all the vegetables. You don’t have to peel the beets, in fact, you shouldn’t. But you can peel the potatoes and carrots if you wish to save some time.
2. Boil the beets in a large pot with enough water to cover them entirely. You don’t have to boil all the vegetables separately, but it is preferred that you do. (Beets usually take around 45 minutes)
3. On a separate pot boil the potatoes and carrots. (About 15-20 minutes)
4. On a separate pot, boil the eggs. (About 7 minutes – and peel once done)
5. Once all your vegetables are ready, you can put them in a bowl with cold water and ice so they are easier to handle.
6. Cut all the ingredients in small cubes and put them in a large bowl. Don’t forget the onion.

Venezuelan Beet Salad

Cut into small pieces

Venezuelan Beet Salad

Add vegetables and eggs in a large bowl

7. Add the mayo, vinegar and lemon juice and mix well, but delicately so you don’t smash any ingredients and it turns into puree.

Venezuelan Beet Salad

Add the mayo and mix delicately

8. Add salt to taste and you can add white pepper if you wish.
9. Serve cold.

Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

Ensalada de Remolacha | Venezuelan Beet Salad

¡Buen Provecho!

*Optional: Some people (like my grandma) like to add finely chopped lettuce to this salad. My mom also adds a bit of mustard sometimes. Other people add a bit of extra virgin olive oil and even a touch of soy sauce.

Recipe: Yuca Sancochada o Frita | Venezuelan Boiled or Fried Cassava

4 Apr

First and foremost, DO NOT EAT RAW YUCA!  Raw yuca contains two cyanogenic glucosides called linamarin and lotaustralin, which are decomposed by linamarase, thus liberating hydrogen cyanide.  I am no chemistry expert, but this stuff is highly toxic and you could become seriously ill and it could even be deadly.
So, now that I have scared you enough, lets talk about how yummy yucca is, if you dare to eat it, he he.  You have nothing to worry about, as long as you cook the yuca before you eat it.  In Venezuela we eat it all the time, and no one that I know of has ever died from eating yuca. So, seriously, don’t worry.  Just don’t eat it raw.
Yucca is a tuberous root, and in Venezuela we eat it in several different ways.  Yuca is served boiled as a side to our delicious parrillas, rotisserie chicken, or anything you can think of.  We also add it to soups.  We fry it to make delicious yuca fries.  We even prepare it differently to make casabe, a sort of yuca cracker.  So we use it much like you would a potato.  Boiled yuca is usually served hot with a little bit of butter, or a cilantro and parsley mojo, or Guasacaca (specially when eating at parrillas).  Fried yucca is usually served as a side much like French fries, with salt, but you could definitely dip it in a delicious Venezuelan Salsa Verde as well.

Cassava (yuca) roots, the Taínos' main crop

Boiled Yuca
What you need:

– 500 gr. yuca (about 1 large or 2 pieces)
– Enough water to cover the yuca
– Salt (to taste)
– Toppings (butter, cilantro and parsley mojo, guasacaca, salsa verde, etc).
Preparation:
1. Cut the tips of the yuca, then peel it and rinse it with water.

Cut, peel and rinse.

Cut, peel and rinse.

2. In a large enough pot, add the water and the yuca (make sure the water covers the yuca entirely).  Turn the stove to high heat until the water starts boiling and then continue to cook for about 30 minutes.

Boil the Yuca

Boil the Yuca

3. Add the salt and then continue to cook for about 15 to 30 more minutes or until the yuca is soft (test like a potato), or until it starts to open up.
4. Drain the yuca and serve hot.
5. You can serve it with butter, with salt, or with a cilantro and parsley mojo, salsa verde or guasacaca.

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Fried Yuca
What you need:

– Same as above, plus oil for frying
Preparation:
1. Follow the instructions for Boiled Yuca.

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

Yuca Sancochada | Boiled Yuca

2. Make sure you drain the yuca right away, and then let it cool completely. Or better yet, place it in your fridge for it to cool faster.
3. Cut the yuca into sticks.

Cut

Cut

4. Heat up enough frying oil and fry the yuca sticks until golden brown all over.
5. Serve hot and sprinkle with salt.
6. You can serve with a yummy dipping sauce like Venezuelan Salsa Verde or Guasacaca.

Yuca Frita | Fried Yuca

Yuca Frita | Fried Yuca

¡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: Layered Salad

25 Jan

This salad is great to serve as a side with the Venezuelan Pasticho Recipe I posted last week.  I’m not usually big on salads that have fruit or nuts, but when my cousin made this one for me I was hooked and now I like to eat it all the time.

What you need:
– Romaine Lettuce
– Baby Green Mix
– Apples
– Tomatoes
– Hearts of Palm
– Avocados
– Goat Cheese
– Almonds
– Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onions Vinagrette.

Preparation:

1.  Chop the lettuce and baby greens if necessary, to bite sized pieces.
2.  Chop the tomatoes and apples.
3.  Slice the hearts of palm and avocados.
4.  On a large enough serving dish place a layer of romaine lettuce, then a layer of baby greens mix, a layer of apples, a layer of tomatoes, a layer of avocadoes, a layer of hearts of palm, a layer of crumbled goat cheese, and a layer of almonds.
5. Serve with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onions dressing on the side.

Layered Salad

Layered Salad

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

28 Dec Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

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

Ingredients

Ingredients

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

Preparation:

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

Separate and clean the corn husks

Separate and clean the corn husks

Soak for 1 hour

Soak for 1 hour

Or boil for 5 minutes

Or boil for 5 minutes

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

Prepare dough

Prepare dough

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

Form Hallaquitas

Form Hallaquitas

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

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

Add optional chorizo, cheese, etc.

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

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 1st corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Wrap with 2nd corn husk

Fold top

Fold top

Fold bottom

Fold bottom

Tie around center with rubber band

Tie around center with rubber band

Use two rubber bands if needed

Use two rubber bands if needed

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

Boil for 40 minutes

Boil for 40 minutes

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

Drain and let cool

Drain and let cool

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

Serve with husk

Serve with husk

Or without husk

Or without husk

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

Venezuelan Hallaquitas or Bollitos

*Makes about 4 to 5 hallaquitas.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: 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: Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

30 Nov

Venezuelan Black Beans are nothing like your typical Mexican Black Beans.   For starters, they are not spicy at all.   We usually serve them as a side, but we also eat them in soups, as a filling for our famous Arepas, refried, mixed in with white rice, with Queso Blanco on top, and even with sugar on top.   However, they are always present in the traditional Venezuelan Dish, Pabellón Criollo.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you need:

– 5 Cups of Water
– 1 Cup of Black Beans (washed and strained)
– ½ Red Bell Pepper
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1 Teaspoon of Oil
– ½ Onion
– 1 ½ “Ajíes Dulces” (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chilli)
– ½ Garlic Head
– ½ Tablespoon Cumin

Preparation:

1. Make sure to pick out “bad” Black Beans and little rocks or other impurities from your cup of Black Beans and wash them as well.

Black Beans

Black Beans

Pick Out "Bad" Beans

Pick Out "Bad" Beans

2. In a large enough pot, add the cup of Black Beans and add the water to them.
3. Let them soak for a maximum of 12 hours and a minimum of 5 hours. (I highlight this step so you remember you have to do this the night before.

Soak Overnight

Soak Overnight

4. In the same pot that they have been soaking (if you soaked in a pot, not a bowl like I did), add the bell pepper and cook at a medium heat, covered, for about an hour and a half or until they become soften. Add the salt.

Add Bell Peppers

Add Bell Peppers

Cook

Cook

5. In a different pan make the “sofrito” by frying the onion, the ajíes and the garlic with the oil until they turn brown (about 5 minutes).
6. Add the cumin, stir, and remove from the heat.
7. Add the “sofrito” to the pot where the Black Beans are cooking and reduce the heat.   Let this cook for another 10 minutes, or until the liquid has almost completely evaporated (depending if you will be serving them as a side or as a soup).   However, it is recommended to leave a bit of the liquid so they taste better.

Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

Caraotas Negras (Venezuelan Black Beans)

Tips

– If you wish to refry your leftover black beans, simply sauté them with one or two tablespoons of oil until they become dry and shinny.   Top with Queso Blanco.

*Makes 4 servings.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Arroz Blanco Venezolano (Venezuelan White Rice)

23 Nov

White rice is white rice, right? Wrong! This cereal is common in all countries and cultures, but each one eats it differently.   My favorite is any kind of Asian rice preparation, because I like the mushy-sushi style rice.   However, that is not usually how Venezuelans prepare it or prefer it.   Rice is one of the most consumed products in Venezuela, because it is the cereal with the most protein content and the least fat content.   It also absorbs flavors of other ingredients pretty easily so most people use it often in all their dishes and preparations.   The most common type is the white long grain type, and it is usually served as a side in beef, chicken and fish dishes, as well as inside soups, and we even make a drink out of it, Chicha.

Ingredients for Venezuelan White Rice

Ingredients for Venezuelan White Rice

What you need:

– 1 Cup White Rice
– 2 Cups Water
– ½ Teaspoon Salt
– 1 Teaspoon Oil
– 1 Garlic Clove (minced)
– ½ Medium Onion diced in two
– 1/8 Green Bell Pepper in strips
– 1/8 Red Bell Pepper in strips

Preparation:

1. You can prepare the rice in two different ways.

Option 1:

– Add the water, salt, oil, garlic, onion, and bell peppers in a large enough pot.   Cook in high heat until the water is boiling, and then add the rice.   Stir everything together and let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the water has almost completely evaporated.

Option 2 (Pictured):

– Add the salt, oil, garlic, onion, bell peppers and rice into a large enough pot.   Stir-fry all the ingredients on high heat, and then as they brown, add the water.   Bring to a boil, and then cook until the water has almost completely evaporated.

Stir-Fry Rice with Salt, Oil, Garlic, Onion and Bell Peppers

Stir-Fry Rice with Salt, Oil, Garlic, Onion and Bell Peppers

*I usually prefer option 2.

Bring to A Boil

Bring to A Boil

2. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the rice is soft, dry and loose/fluffy.

Remove Bell Peppers and Onions

Remove Bell Peppers and Onions

3. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove all the big pieces of onion and bell peppers.
4. Serve with butter on top and enjoy.

Press On To Container

Press On To Container

Flip On To Plate

Flip On To Plate

Slowly Remove Container

Slowly Remove Container

Venezuelan White Rice

Venezuelan White Rice

Tips

– Always stir rice with a fork and not a wooden spoon, because the wooden spoon will make it stick to itself, and it will end up being sushi/mushy rice.
– For the perfect rice consistency you can add a little bit of limejuice or a little bit of white vinegar.
– My dad used to serve us little “mountains” of rice.   Just grab a small enough bowl or container, then wet it or grease it with butter, press the rice onto the bowl, and flip it on the dish you are going to serve it.   You can also decorate with little herbs on top.

Some Venezuelan Brands of White Rice include Arroz Mary and Arroz Santa Ana.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

16 Nov

These are great to go with the Tortilla Española I posted last week.

Ingredients for Salchichitas Glaseadas

Ingredients for Salchichitas Glaseadas


Ingredients:

– 1 Package of Smokies (about 400 gr.)
– 2 Tablespoons butter
– 2 Tablespoons sugar
– 4 Tablespoons ketchup

Preparation:

1. In a frying pan, heat up the butter at medium/low heat.

Heat Up The Butter

Heat Up The Butter

2. Add the smokies and cook until they start to brown a bit (about 8 minutes). Stir them up with a wooden spoon so you don’t break them apart.

Add the Smokies

Add the Smokies

3. Drain the smokies using a colander, and remove the excess oil from the pan using a paper towel.
4. Add the smokies back in the pan, and add the sugar as well.
5. Turn to high heat and cook for about 3 minutes so that the sugar starts to caramelize.

Add Sugar and Caramelize

Add Sugar and Caramelize

6. Add the ketchup and turn the heat back down to medium, cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and sticks to the smokies.
7. Serve hot.

Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

Salchichitas Glaseadas (Venezuelan Smokies)

¡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: 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: Plátanos Dulces (Sweet/Caramelized Plantains)

12 Oct

Sweet or Caramelized Plantains are delicious.   We usually serve them either as a side, yes a side, or as dessert.

Ripe Plantain

Ripe Plantain

Ingredients

– 1 Ripe plantain
– ¾ Cup vegetable oil (for frying)
– ½ Cup Water
– 2 Tbsp. Sugar
– 1 Tsp. Cinnamon Powder

 

Preparation

1. As always, cut the two ends of the plantain, and make a cut down the side through the skin only, to peel the skin off.

Cut Ends

Cut Ends

Peel Skin

Peel Skin

2. Cut in slices of about 0.25” each.   You can slant them if you wish.

Cut in Slices

Cut in Slices

3. Fry the plantains about 2 to 3 minutes on each side with enough hot oil.

Fry

Fry

4. When the plantains are browned, remove them and lay them on paper towels to remove the excess oil.

Remove Excess Oil

Remove Excess Oil

5. Place the plantains in another pan at medium heat; add the water, the sugar and the cinnamon.
6. Let the water boil, and it will start to turn into a caramelized and sticky mixture.

Caramelize

Caramelize

7. Once you reach this consistency, serve and enjoy.

Platanos Dulces

Platanos Dulces

***Some people also make this recipe with bananas, almost overripe bananas.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Plátano Horneado (Oven Baked Plantain)

5 Oct

Oven baked plantain is one of my favorite ways to eat plantains.   My grandmother used to serve it as a side for lunch with butter and Queso Blanco on top.   This recipe uses ripe or overripe plantains, which will turn very sweet and soft while in the oven and with a golden outside that might be a bit crispy depending on how long you cook it.   You can serve it plain, with butter, with Queso Blanco, or anything else you can come up with.

Overripe Plantain

Overripe Plantain


Ingredients
– 1 Ripe or overripe plantain
– Butter
– Wax Paper / Parchment Paper

 

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven at about 350 to 375ºF.
2. Cut the two ends of the plantain, make an incision down the side cutting the skin only, and then peal the skin off (It should be easy to peal, the skin just come right off).

Cut Ends

Cut Ends

Remove Skin

Remove Skin

3. Cut a large enough piece of wax or parchment paper, and if you wish coat with butter.   You can also coat the plantain itself with butter.   You don’t need to wrap in wax paper, you can simply place on a backing sheet if you wish, or even cook it in its own skin.   My grandma did it with wax paper, so that is how I’m doing it here.

Prep Wax/Parchment Paper & Butter

Prep Wax/Parchment Paper & Butter

Coat with Butter

Coat with Butter

4. Wrap the plantain with the wax paper like a candy wrapper, and then place on a baking sheet.

Wrap Plantain

Wrap Plantain

5. Bake the plantain for about 30 minutes, but turn it on each side so it cooks evenly. It should come out a bit “burnt” looking.

Remove Paper

Remove Paper

6. Take the plantain out when it’s done, and then make a cut down the side and then fill with whatever you wish.

Platano Horneado (Oven Baked Plantains)

Platano Horneado (Oven Baked Plantains)

7. I made three different types with just one plantain; Queso Blanco and butter, plain with butter, and honey and butter.

Baked Plantain with White Cheese and Butter

Baked Plantain with White Cheese and Butter

Baked Plantain with Butter

Baked Plantain with Butter

 

Baked Plantain with Honey and Butter

Baked Plantain with Honey and Butter

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Tajadas (Fried Plantains)

28 Sep

Tajadas are slices of plantains that are fried.   They are served usually as a side, and they are also used to make other dishes like plantain desserts.   They are also a part of the traditional Venezuelan dish, the “Pabellón Criollo”.

Ripe | Yellow Plantain

Ripe | Yellow Plantain


Ingredients
– 1 Ripe/yellow plantain
– 1 Cup vegetable oil – or as needed (for frying)
– Paper towels

Preparation

1. Pour the vegetable oil in a large enough pan and turn on the stove to medium heat, so the oil starts heating up while you prepare the plantains.
2. Cut the two ends of the plantain and make an incision with a knife along the side.

Cut Ends

Cut Ends

3. Remove the skin.

Remove The Skin and Cut In Half

Remove The Skin and Cut In Half

4. Cut the plantain in half.   You can make a straight/down the middle kind of cut, like I did here, or a slanted cut to have more oval like tajadas instead of what I did, which are more rectangular Tajadas. If you cut them in the slanted way, they look better, but the flavor is the same. Check out the slanted ones here (text is in Spanish, though).
5. Now make about 4 slices out of each side of the plantain by slicing them sideways, to form slices of about 0.25 – 0.75 inches.   Don’t make them thicker than that.

Make Slices

Make Slices

6. Lay the plantains on the frying pan and begin to fry them until they are golden brown, turning them if necessary, to fry both sides equally. It took me about 2 minutes per side.

Fry the Plantain Slices

Fry the Plantain Slices

7. Remove the tajadas from the pan one by one and lay on top of a paper towel to remove the excess oil.

Remove Excess Oil

Remove Excess Oil

8. Serve and enjoy!

Venezuelan Tajadas

Venezuelan Tajadas

*One plantain makes about 8 Tajadas (depending on how thick you slice them).   This is a good serving for just 2 people.

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: Venezuelan Tostones

21 Sep

Tostones are one of my favorite ways to eat plantains.   It is also one of the most common ways to eat unripe plantains, and easy to make as well.   Because they use green plantains, the texture of Tostones is dry and hard, and their flavor is salty.   The simplest way to serve these plantains is sprinkled with salt, but you can treat them as appetizers, like little disk-dish for other toppings such as cheese, mojo, salsa, Guasacaca, salads, butter, lemon juice and much more.   Usually they are served as a side dish in other Venezuelan dishes with sprinkled salt on top.   Then as you eat the rest of your shredded beef, rice, black beans, avocado or such, you can use them as a cracker to pick up other main components of your dish.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients
– 1 unripe/green plantain
– 1½ cups of vegetable oil (enough for frying)
– 1 cup of water
– Garlic Powder (or 2 garlic cloves)
– Salt
– Olive oil
– Tostonera
– Bowl

Tostonera

Tostonera

Preparation

1. Add the oil to a small frying pan and heat it up on high temperature.
2. Mix the salt and garlic with the cup of water in a bowl, to create salty and garlicky water.
3. First cut the top and bottom of the plantain, just the tip.   Then cut a slit from top to bottom through the skin, until you touch the pulp.   Use a little bit of olive oil on your hands to separate the pulp from the skin, so that you avoid the pulp from blackening quickly.

Cut Tips and Slit

Cut Tips and Slit

Remove Skin

Remove Skin

4. Now cut the entire plantain in rounds of about half an inch each.

Cut In Circles

Cut In Circles

5. Fry the plantain rounds about 2 minutes on one side.   Then turn and continue frying another 2 minutes on the other side.

Fry

Fry

Turn

Turn

6. Carefully remove the plantain from the pan and lay them on top of some paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Do not turn off the stove just yet.

Lay on Paper Towels

Lay on Paper Towels

7. Now you will flatten the rounds in to the famous “Tostones” shape.   You can do this easily with a “Tostonera”, which is simply a wooden press created specifically to make Tostones.   But if you don’t have one, you can use a mallet or the bottom of a plate.   Make sure you don’t press too hard or the tostón will break.   Leave them at about ¼ of an inch thick.

Flatten Plantain Rounds with Tostonera to form Tostones

Flatten Plantain Rounds with Tostonera to form Tostones

Repeat with each plantain round

Repeat with each plantain round

8. Dip each tostón in the salty/garlicky water mixture and then place them back in the pan to fry them a bit more.

Dip in Salt/Garlic Water

Dip in Salt/Garlic Water

9. Once golden take them out and lay them again on paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

Fry a second time and remove excess oil with paper towels again

Fry a second time and remove excess oil with paper towels again

10. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Serve Hot & Sprinkle with Salt

Serve Hot & Sprinkle with Salt

* 1 plantain makes about 10 Tostones (depending on how long the plantain is and on how thick you slice it).

Venezuelan Tostones

Venezuelan Tostones

Venezuelan Tostones

Venezuelan Tostones

¡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!

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