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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).

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