Tag Archives: Plantain

Venezuelan Restaurant Review: Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine

15 Mar Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

A while back, while I still lived in Montgomery, Alabama, I had created a foursquare list for myself of all the Venezuelan Restaurants in South Florida that I wanted to try out and write reviews for, once I moved back down to Florida.  In that list, I had included Doggi’s.  When I finally moved back down here, I was a bit upset with myself because I was too busy with work and I realized most of the Venezuelan Restaurants on the list are in Miami and Doral, and I lived in Hollywood.  I rarely drove down to Miami and I rarely had a chance to try out all these places.  I was lucky to find Eats Good 33 (read the review here), but I was unable to enjoy their delicious food because they are only open when I am at work.

Things have changed a bit around here.  I moved to Plantation (even further away from all the good Venezuelan Restaurants), and now my commute is longer, giving me less time to try out new Venezuelan places and write recipes of my own for the blog.  However, my husband has been driving around all over South Florida due to his new job, and he has been keeping an eye out for new Venezuelan places to try out.  Since he drives to Miami all the time, it doesn’t seem that far away to him, and one weekend he suggested to take my sister and I down to the Wynwood Arts District in Miami.

Wynwood Art District Miami

Wynwood Art District Miami

It was kind of a “spur of the moment” plan for that weekend, so we really didn’t make any plans for lunch or anything.  After enjoying a nice walk, taking a few photos, and taking in all the artwork on the walls, we were kind of hungry.  My husband suggested finding the nearest Venezuelan Restaurant and going there for a late lunch (around 3 pm).  He found Doggi’s first, and I immediately remembered it was on my list of places to try.  So we headed over there.

Wynwood Art District Miami

Wynwood Art District Miami

On our way there, driving on Coral Way, my sister commented that the drive felt much like driving around Las Mercedes, in Caracas (Venezuela).  The bit of traffic, the trees, the road… something about it reminded her of Las Mercedes, and I agreed.  We were very lucky to find a parking stop right in front, but that is not the norm, so if you aren’t as lucky, you can park on the other side of the building.  There is an Italian Restaurant/Bakery on this corner building and a couple other businesses to the side.  Walking towards Doggi’s, you can appreciate the love and detail poured into every single detail in this place.  There are a couple metal tables and chairs on the outside, much like I remember a certain ice cream shop in Las Mercedes in Caracas.  The door is bright red and has a black wrought iron door in front of it, very much like almost every home in Venezuela.  You usually have your wrought iron ‘gate’ and then your wooden door – very nice touch.  Once in it feels a bit tight, and there are only about 10 small tables or less.  It is small and tight, but I think it makes it homey and cozy.  We were also lucky to get one of the only three tables by the window, so that was great.  The inside is beautifully decorated with a ton of Venezuelan… things.  I don’t really know how to explain these things; they are juts typical Venezuelan things that you would see on the walls of your grandmother’s house.  Things like a cuatro, maracas, cast irons, and virgins.  On another wall there are countless posters, ads, and logos of all kinds of different Venezuelan brands, sports teams, celebrities, etc.  They also have a large projector, which wasn’t turned on, but I can only assume they play all the soccer games when they are on.  On that wall they also have very stylized drawings of a male and a female figure dressed in typical Venezuelan folkloric costumes.  My poor description of the decor doesn’t really do it much justice, since it sounds crazy and cluttered, but it was actually done in a very minimalistic, simplistic and trendy manner.  They also have a smaller TV Screen that displays the current song being played.  My husband pointed out that he was shocked that they were not playing loud Spanish music like in most Venezuelan Restaurants we have been to.  They had a pop channel, and it was at a perfect volume level, in which you can still talk to the person next to you without having to scream like you are at a club.  The tables also have a trendy word-cloud or word collage of cool and unusual Venezuelan slang words.  The entire place’s decoration and design is very trendy and up-to-date, but also filled with old Venezuelan traditions and ‘things’.

Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi's Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

Doggi’s Venezuelan Cuisine Decor

As soon as we sat down our kind server Gabriela greeted us promptly.  We read trough the short but complete menu and we were definitely unsure of what to order.  Everything sounded delicious, so it was hard to make a decision.  We decided to have an order of Tequeños as an appetizer.  They are served in these cute little baskets and they are five small tequeños, but perfect for an appetizer, since you don’t want to be filled up before your meal gets to the table.  As soon as I tried one I knew they had it right… the cheese that is.  Usually, most Venezuelan places make tequeños with mozzarella, or whatever other white cheese they can find.  At Doggi’s they have the right kind of cheese, simple white cheese is what we call it, but it is far from it.  It is perfectly salty enough and melts just right inside the tequeños.  I had to order a café con leche, since it was very cold outside (for me at least), my hubby ordered the pineapple juice and he wouldn’t stop taking about how good it was, he said it was the freshest pineapple juice he’d ever tried, and then he realized it had fresh chunks of pineapple in it, and he liked it even more.

Tequeños

Tequeños

After giving it a lot of thought, I ordered the Arepa Santa Bárbara, which is an arepa with marinated churrasco (beef), tomato, avocado and I switched the organic white shredded cheese for queso de mano.  My sister ordered the Arepa Pabellón, which is an arepa with shredded beef, fried plantain, black beans and organic white cheese.  My husband ordered the Milanesa Steak, which is a thin flank steak breaded and fried, with fried yucca and plantains on the side.  My arepa Santa Barbara was delicious.  The arepa itself was not too big that you can’t even hold it, and not too small that it can’t contain all the stuff inside.  The size was just right.  The texture was just right too, not too soft, and not too hard, and just the right thickness as well.  When I had the first bite with some churrasco beef, I was immediately taken back to Sunday nights at my grandparents’ house when my dad used to make parrillas.  The beef was perfectly marinated and cooked, juicy and tender, exactly the way my dad used to make it.  It’s cut in bite size cubes so it is easy to eat inside the arepa.  Combine that juicy beef with avocado, tomato and cheese, and you create my new favorite arepa.  My sister’s arepa de pabellón was delicious, too.  The beef was seasoned just right and the plantains were ripe and sweet.  My hubby absolutely loved his milanesa steak, so much so, that he ate the entire thing, which he usually doesn’t.  He compared it to my mom’s milanesa, which is a huge compliment, since he once ate 3 servings of it in one sitting.  Surprisingly, we still had some room, so we ordered desert.  We ordered the churros with dulce de leche on top, I think the order usually brings 5 churros but we got 6.  They were pretty darn good.

Arepa Santa Bárbara

Arepa Santa Bárbara

Milanesa de Carne

Milanesa de Carne

Churros

Churros

Overall we all enjoyed the food, the ambiance, the décor and the music.  So much so, that we went back two weeks later for more.  We went there specifically, not just because we were down in Miami.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from where I currently live, but it is worth it.  We went down there on Valentines Day for an early dinner around 5:30 pm.  I called on our way there to reserve a table, because I thought it might be busy, I’m glad I did.  This time around we ordered arepitas dulces as an appetizer.  They are served with white cheese and nata.  They were delicious.  Not exactly the same as the ones I am used to, large and with a crispy thin crust.  However, they were still delicious, perfectly sweet and complemented by the right white cheese.  They where small and thick, and had just the right amount of anise.  I ordered the asado negro, which is marinated eye round cooked with brown sugar, green peppers and onions, served with rice and plantains.  The asado was incredible, it was just like my grandmother makes it, and I loved the addition of fresh cilantro on top, which balanced the sweetness of the beef and the plantains.  The plantains were served with white cheese and nata on top, which is a great extra.  The rice is the only thing I was not super excited about.  In my opinion, everything at Doggies has an extra something, but the rice doesn’t.  This time it was a bit undercooked and I think the type of rice is not what Venezuelans are used to.  True white Venezuelan rice is flavored with onions and bell peppers and then they are taken out.  Also this rice type seemed thin and small, like Basmati rice.  Whereas Venezuelan rice is more like medium grain rice that is not long and not short, and it’s a bit fatter.  I appreciate trying to go for a fancier type of rice, but it was the only thing on my plate that didn’t bring back memories of eating asado negro at my grandmother’s house in Venezuela.  Just to be fair, my sister disagreed and said the rice was fine.  She ordered a cachapa, which is a traditional corn pancake semi-sweet, served with queso de mano inside and topped with nata and white cheese, and she asked to add chicken to it.  I do not like cachapas so I did not try it.  My sister said it tasted just like the ones sold in Venezuela, and actually better, because it was less sweet, like not overwhelmingly sweet.  My husband loved the milanesa so much the first time, that he had them again, even though we had all agreed to try something different.  We were very satisfied after appetizers and meals, so we didn’t want any desert.  However, we did take a can of Pirulín home, it’s great that they have Venezuelan snacks, I sure miss those.  They also have Venezuelan beer brands and malta.

Arepitas Dulces

Arepitas Dulces

Asado Negro

Asado Negro

Cachapa

Cachapa

We like Doggi’s so much, we had to go yet again two weeks after that.  We simply wanted to eat there again, so we took the drive down there, simply because we were craving some really good Venezuelan food.  This time we ordered cazón and cheese empanadas, and grilled chorizo as appetizers.  The empanadas were medium sized so if you order these as appetizers, don’t order such a big meal, maybe an arepa.  The cazón was delicious and very well seasoned and filled with herbs and veggies that made it even better.  The cheese empanada was great, because it’s the right cheese.  The chorizo, even though I don’t usually care for it, it was very tasty, just like my dad used to make it on the grill at my grandparent’s house on Sundays.  I ordered the Pabellón Criollo as the main entry, which is the most traditional national Venezuelan dish.  It came with white rice, black beans, fried plantains, and shredded beef.  The beef was well seasoned and juicy.  The black beans were cooked well and they weren’t too watery.  My sister did point out that the black beans had white cheese on top, which is how I like them, but she said some people eat them with sugar instead, so she would ask for them to be sweetened before putting the cheese on top.  The plantains were perfect as usual with white cheese on top.  The rice, again was simple, there was nothing great about it, this time it wasn’t undercooked though.  My husband ordered the marinated churrasco, which is grilled steak with fried yucca and fries; he also ordered a side of plantains.  The beef (as before with the arepa santa Barbara) was seasoned and cooked to perfection.  And the yucca fries are delicious with the guasacaca sauces on the table.  My sister ordered the Doggi’s parrilla for one, which includes marinated churrasco, chicken and chorizo, with yucca fries.  All the protein was cooked and marinated to perfection.  We both agreed that it reminded us of my dad’s parrilla on Sundays at our grandparents’ house.  All of our plates were on the larger side, so we all had “doggibags” to go, and we all had the food the next day for lunch and we were surprised to see that it still was pretty tasty and somewhat fresh after re-heating it in the microwave.

Pabellón Criollo

Pabellón Criollo

Doggi's Parrilla

Doggi’s Parrilla

Marinated Churrasco

Marinated Churrasco

Overall I must say, if you want to experience true Venezuelan flavors, traditions, customs and ambiance, then visit Doggi’s.  What I love about it is that even though the menu seems small, you have a little bit of everything and not only do you have the typical Venezuelan dishes, but also dishes that families in Venezuela eat on a daily basis.  The servers are friendly, and you can tell that the owners are on top of their game and involved, which makes the place and the food, the best.  As I learned on my first visit, from Gabriela, Doggi’s started as a gentleman selling hotdogs from a cart in Miami, hence the name Doggi’s.  Then the gentleman, his wife and three kids opened up the restaurant down the street from where it is now.  Now, the three brothers run the place, and I even saw the mother there.  This truly makes all the difference in a place, because you can tell they put thought and care into every detail and they run an airtight family business.  The place is clean, and the service is fast.  I enjoy that they serve you with real plates and forks, it has a restaurant feel, but it is small and cozy like a fast food place, and they ARE fast. They deliver nearby and they also have take-out. You will get a true Venezuelan experience and you wont be disappointed.

The Details:
Address: 1246 SW Coral Way Miami, FL 33145
Phone Number: 305.854.6869
Website: http://www.eatdoggis.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoggisAndMore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/doggismore
Instagram: https://instagram.com/doggis
Hours: Mon – Wed: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Thu: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Fri – Sat: 10:00 am – 1:00 am
Sun: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Menu: http://www.letseat.at/doggis/menu
Categories: Venezuelan
Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/doggis-venezuelan-cuisine-miami-2

Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

1 Jan

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

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

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

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

Hojas de Platanos | Plantain Leaves | Banana Leaves

Hojas de Plátanos | Plantain Leaves | Banana Leaves

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

Plantain Leaf Parts

Plantain Leaf Parts

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

Cuttin the veins of the plantain leaves

Cutting the veins of the plantain leaves

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

Chopped Onions

Chopped Onions

Chopped Green Onions

Chopped Green Onions

Chopped Ají Dulce | Sweet Peppers

Chopped Ají Dulce | Sweet Peppers

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

Chicken Broth & Chicken

Chicken Broth & Chicken

Shredding the Chicken

Shredding the Chicken

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

Frying the Ingredients

Frying the Ingredients

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

Adding the liquids

Adding the liquids

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

Adding the Beef

Adding the Beef

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

Add Salt To Taste

Add Salt To Taste

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

The Stew Is Ready

The Stew Is Ready

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

Garnish : Red Bell Peppers

Garnish : Red Bell Peppers

Garnish : Shredded Chicken

Garnish : Shredded Chicken

Garnish: Almonds

Garnish: Almonds

Garnish: Olives

Garnish: Olives

Garnish: Onions

Garnish: Onions

Garnish: Raisins

Garnish: Raisins

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

Making Annatto Oil

Making Annatto Oil

Annatto Oil

Annatto Oil

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

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

Making The Dough

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

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

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

Setting Up The Work Area

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

Start with an empty shirt

Start with an empty shirt

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

Add Annatto Oil

Add Annatto Oil

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

Set a ball of dough in the center

Set a ball of dough in the center

Cover with another plantain leave with annatto oil on it

Cover with another plantain leave with annatto oil on it

Close the press

Close the press

Press down a bit

Press down a bit

Press down fully, but not too much

Press down fully, but not too much

Open the Press and Remove the top leaf

Open the Press and Remove the top leaf

Easy as Pie

Easy as Pie

Voila!

Voila!

Beautifully pressed hallaca dough

Beautifully pressed hallaca dough

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

Add the stew

Add the stew

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

Add garnishes

Add garnishes

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

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt's method)

Closing an hallaca (my aunt’s method)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapping an hallaca

Wrapped Hallacas Ready To Be Tied Up

Wrapped Hallacas Ready To Be Tied Up

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

Tie them up

Tie them up

Even the little ones can help

Even the little ones can help

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

Hallacas

Hallacas

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

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

Boiling Hallacas

Boiling Hallacas

The Hallacas Are Ready

The Hallacas Are Ready

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

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Serving An Hallaca

Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas  | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

Recipe: Hallacas Venezolanas | Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Hallacas

 

Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate

Venezuelan Christmas Dinner Plate

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

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

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

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

Bollos de Hallaca

¡Buen Provecho!

¡Gracias A Todos!

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

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

Recipe: Pollo A La Ana | Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

18 Mar Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you need:

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

Preparation:

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

Filete Breasts

Filete Breasts

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

Chop Onions and Shallots

Chop Onions and Shallots

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

Slice Mushrooms

Slice Mushrooms

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

Cook At Medium Heat

Cook At Medium Heat

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

Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

Pollo A La Ana / Venezuelan Creamy Chicken

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

¡Buen Provecho!

Recipe: 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!

Cool Tool Thursday

3 Nov

Today’s Kitchen Tool is:

La Tostonera

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One of those tools that you only use once, when making something in particular.   Unless you can find some other use for it.   However, this Venezuelan cooking tool or utensil is perfect for making Venezuelan Tostones.   All you have to do is place the plantain slices in the pre-cut whole inside the Tostonera, and it will flatten them to the famous Tostones shape without pressing too hard.   Also, it is very popular as a Mother’s Day gift.   I remember making one at school for her.   The school provided the wooden components and we assembled it, stained it and decorated it to give to our moms on Mother’s Day.

The Hispanic Houseware Brand IMUSA sells Tostoneras (Wood Plantain Press), and I have seen them at several Publix stores hanging in a display close to the plantains.   You can also find IMUSA Bamboo Tostonera at Macy’s on sale for $6.99.   At Kmart for $4.99.

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!

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