Tuesday Fiesta

2007.Mar.07 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Drink, Food & Recipes

“It was almost two. At that hour, weighted down by drowsiness, the town was taking a siesta. The stores, the town offices, the public school were closed at eleven, and didn’t reopen until a little before four, when the train went back. Only the hotel across from the station, with its bar and pool hall, and the telegraph office at one side of the plaza stayed open. The houses, most of them built on the banana company’s model, had their doors locked from in-side and their blinds drawn. In some of them it was so hot that the residents ate lunch in the patio.”

– Gabriel José Garcí­a Márquez, Tuesday Siesta

Our Garcia Marquez’ birthday party...Buenos Aires – We’d been talking about it being the 80th birthday of our quoted author above… but Wikipedia insisted that he was born in 1928 and he was only 79. I see that as of this morning, and after yesterday having been his birthday, someone has changed it to say he was born in 1927. We’ll see if it gets changed back again… I’d been contacted by a charming gentleman from Philadelphia who was on his way down to Buenos Aires after having been living outside of the country for over thirty years. He wanted to have a reunion with a group of friends, and wanted to hold it here at Casa SaltShaker. He didn’t mention that it was also his birthday this week and that he was celebrating that as well, or we would have prepared something for him. That’s probably why he didn’t mention it. Besides, he’d prepared all sorts of good things for the evening anyway – lovely little rubber ducks as party favors for all, a show by a Tickle Me Elmo doll. The laughs went on all evening!

Sancocho empanadaWe’d decided on a sort of fusion Colombian and Mexican cuisine menu. After all, our celebratory author is from Colombia but resides most of the time in Mexico. That’s about as much inspiration as I need… and I started off with recipes for some of the “national dishes” of Colombia… and then went a bit “out there” from that point. Our first course was based on a wheat berry stew called cuchuco. First off, I simmered a whole bunch of shortribs, or tira de asado, in red wine and the usual sorts of stock vegetables, until the meat was falling off the bone. Then I let it cool and shredded the meat. I cooked wheat berries with onions and garlic, along with some diced potato, peas, and finely diced carrots, and the shredded meat. Seasoned simply with salt and then left to cool to later stuff into empanada skins – a non-traditional, but delicious approach as it turned out. I served them with a spicy chili sauce made from pureed chilies (mix of piquillos, pasillas, and yellow Peruvian) with a little red onion and vinegar. Perfect combination!

Sancocho of salmon blancoNext up, a classic fish stew called sancocho – which I turned into a non-stew. The sauce is made from the stew base – slowly cooked tomatoes, white onions, and garlic, flavored with lime juice and coconut, then coarsely pureed. Normally the dish includes mandioca, or yuca, but there was none to be found in the markets, and batatas, or yams, are sometimes used, so I went with those, julienning them and sauteeing them. The fish is salmón blanco, or Brasilian Sand Perch in reality, coated with mango powder, salt, and pepper, and then sauteed in butter and olive oil. Then I sort of re-assembled the stew as a line-up of its components. Quite tasty I thought.

Chorizo risotto cake with banana guacamoleThis was my personal favorite dish of the evening, but then, I love risotto and things made from it. I made a risotto that was packed with chopped bits of chorizo and salchicha parrillera, two local sausages – I’d started with a recipe for another Colombian classic, the bandeja montañera – a mixed sausage grill served over rice. Then I spread out the risotto in a sheet pan, chilled it, and cut it into rounds, which for dinner, I fried up in a mix of butter and olive oil. There are also normally all sorts of other interesting accompaniments to the dish – plantains, avocado, chilies, red onions… I decided to separate those out and made, more or less, a banana guacamole sauce – something I plan to do again – it’s amazingly good. All I did was puree in the blender: three ripe avocados, two ripe bananas, a red onion, four of those spicy yellow chilies I picked up last week, a couple of cloves of garlic, the juice of two lemons (maybe limes next time, I think it’d be even better), and a handful of cilantro.

Ajiaco de polloOur last “stew” was an ajiaco de pollo, by some considered to be Colombia’s true national dish (but there are advocates for each of the above as well). Obviously once again not in stew form. The chicken was dry rubbed and left to sit in salt and cumin for several hours, then pan-roasted. The sauce was made from corn kernels sauteed with chopped capers, and then finished with sour cream in which I’d dissolved a little cornstarch to help it thicken and get glossy. Salt and cumin for seasoning. It reminded me of any of a large number of classic dishes from other parts of the world with cream sauces on chicken breast, but the flavors of the corn, capers, and cumin make it really interesting and different.

Lime-Rum Cupcakes with ArequipeWe’d decided to do something with dulce de leche for the dessert, or as it’s known in Colombia, arequipe. I’ve been playing, so to speak, with my cupcakes, and decided to do a simple one flavored with lime zest and rum rather than vanilla, then topped with the dulce de leche, whipped cream, and some more grated lime zest. It worked! And maybe, for the moment, I’ve run the course on cupcakes… we shall see…

The gentleman who was hosting the evening had wanted just a single wine for the dinner, and we served up the Escorihuela Gascon Sangiovese 2004, a delicious example of this classic Tuscan grape being grown in Mendoza here.

Overall, a fun evening’s tribute to a great author, a fun birthday party for our host.

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