Harmony Reigns

2007.Oct.02 Tuesday · 3 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

 My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any personal feuds or dissentions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with, myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequence be very injurious.”

– General George Washington

Buenos Aires – I have noted before the difficulties we approach here at Casa S when we offer up a Peruvian dinner. Yet, every now and again, I give in to a bit of wheedling and schedule one. I was determined that one way or the other, this time was not going to be a huge stressful mess between Henry and me, with our different approaches to cooking, and to getting work done. So I posed it to him, how much work did he really want to do, and within that, what did he want to do. He decided he could comfortably handle taking on preparing two dishes. At that point, I laid it out as clearly as I could – I would take on the other three dishes, planned around his, and even with input on what sort of things he might suggest to accompany them, but he was not to interfere, question, complain, or anything else, in regard to my interpretation of the dishes, in fact, he was simply to pretty much stay out of the kitchen. I would get my stuff prepped and/or finished early on in the day, and then… the kitchen was his to make his two dishes. He could plan his own schedule, what he wanted to do, and I wouldn’t interefere, question, complain, or anything else about his plates.

It worked. We stayed out of each other’s way, we got the dishes prepared, and then when it was time for the dinner, we simply took turns in the kitchen and the dining room. Slightly disconcerting, but not stressful, and I think that all around the food came out better than it has in our past Peruvian dinners. We still probably won’t have them that often, as it’s still extra work and organization, plus, honestly, I like working in the kitchen, I don’t play waiter/host well…

First up, I whipped up a batch of ají de huacatay that we just put in bowls around the table for those who wanted to add more spice to their food, or for slathering on bread

Tiradito de MariscosWe started off with a Tiradito de Mariscos. Now, a tiradito is related to a ceviche, but there are some differences. There’s not 100% agreement amongst Peruvians as to what those differences are. The one constant seems to be that the tiradito arose from the Japanese influence in Peru, and the fish and shellfish are cut, generally, in a completely different manner – more of in longer strips rather than diced or chopped – a tira being a strip – imitating Japanese sushi cuts. From there, however, there seems to be a lot of disagreement as to what constitutes a tiradito. Generally, and these are not hard and fast rules, apparently – no onions are used, more herbs, and often herbs other than cilantro, are used, and, the citrus juice that’s used for curing the fish often has some element of something that gives it a creamier texture – several sources use some sort of good quality oil whipped into the citrus juice, not quite like a vinaigrette since the citrus predominates, but enough to give it some texture. So my version – strips of lenguado, or sole; some langostinos, or large shrimp, and some pulpito, which are small octopuses. I left the langostinos whole but peeled, and the octopuses I cleaned and separated the tentacles from the body – the former I separated into individual curls, the latter cut into strips like the fish. The curing liquid – a mix of orange and lime juice, about 1:2, chives, cilantro, garlic, one hot chili, salt, and a small amount of really good olive oil, all blended together. The langostino was cooked until just cooked through, the pulpito literally got dunked into boiling water for about 30 seconds, just enough to “set” it, but still staying very tender. The fish and shellfish were cured in the liquid for 20 minutes before we served them. A little confetti made of finely diced orange peel, and yellow, green, and red hot peppers, was sprinkled over the top for both decorative and spice effect.

Caldo de MoteNow, here’s the one problem with our separation of duties. I really did stay out of the kitchen while he worked so that he wouldn’t get upset that I was interfering with his traditional methods. So I can, at best, extrapolate as to what he prepared. This is a Caldo de Mote, a wheatberry based soup – the wheat being husked, and then, I believe, par-boiled, then dried out again. It’s not entirely clear, as all the Peruvian reference books and sites I can find refer to corn being prepared that way, but Henry says that in the southern parts of Peru, in the altiplano, mote is a wheat preparation. More research in the future… I know he put the mote in first and simply added water to it, and then started adding vegetables. I can be fairly sure there were onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes. I know he wanted both black pepper and pimentón amarillo powder at one point. Beyond that, I don’t know if he added anything else – I think, probably not – other than some chopped green onions for garnish. I do know that it was really good, and we got lots of compliments on it.

Empanaditas de polloI’ve posted on what I’ve come to call “regular Peruvian sauce“, or the sauce used on the dish tallarines con pollo – noodles with chicken – which is ubiquitous in Peruvian restaurants, though everyone seems to have their own take on just how the sauce is made – no different than Italians all have their own version of basic red sauce. I proposed to Henry that I reinterpret it as a chicken filled ravioli with the sauce. In principle he agreed, though started to object when I began to make them that it “wasn’t traditional”. I reminded him of our agreement for this dinner and he agreed to withhold judgment. I basically took the two components of the recipe and prepared them separately – I boiled the chicken, and then pureed it with a mix of red wine, salt, black pepper, cumin, and pimentón rojo, and just a little bit of extra cream cheese that I’d made for the dessert coming up. I then let it cool, and filled wonton skins, making little potstickers – which I later cooked in standard potsticker fashion – browning the bottoms in oil in a hot pan, pour in a splash of wine, cover, and let steam until the rest of the empanadita is cooked through. The sauce, I used the ingredients but changed the cooking method a bit – following the approach I’ve been using for our quite successful roasted tomato sauce – I threw some coarsely cut carrots, onions, and tomatoes, coated in olive oil and salt, into the convection oven at high heat and cooked them until well browned. Then I pureed them in the blender with reduced red wine, pimentón rojo, cumin, powdered bay leaf, black pepper, and salt to taste. I simply ladled the sauce over the potstickers. We both agreed that the roasted carrots get almost a touch too sweet over the usual cooking method, but that it was on the track to being something really interesting – I think if we do it again, we’ll simply add some hot peppers to the roasting vegetables.

Seco de CabritoI truly can’t tell you much about the seco de cabrito other than it was really well received. I know that he dry rubbed the portions of cabrito, or baby goat, with a mix of spices – cumin, black pepper, and salt certainly, but he probably added in some other stuff. I know he simmered up some dried ají panca and mirasol, the yellow and red peppers, until they were soft, then skinned and seeded them, and pureed them with some of their cooking liquid. I know he pureed a huge amount of cilantro in oil and poured it over the dry-rubbed goat an hour or so later and let it marinate in that for another two hours. I know he chopped up lots of garlic, leeks, and red onion. I’m fairly certain that he sauteed those last items in a little oil, then added the goat pieces, browned them, then added both the pepper puree and the marinating liquid, and then stewed the pieces in the liquid for a good hour or more. As to whether there was more to it? I’m not sure – I actually think not, because he was confirming details with one of his sisters earlier in the day by phone, so I heard the conversation back and forth. He served the pieces of cabrito alongside a simple quinua that had been toasted in oil, and then cooked in water, but I’m not sure what he added to the quinua – not a lot, as it didn’t have anything spicy going on, and I think he was letting the sauce from the seco give the dish its spice.

We finished off the night with a simple cheesecake that we added some concentrated passionfruit juice to. Originally we’d hoped to find some lúcuma flavoring, which the chef at Moche restaurant told us he buys in the food shopping strip of Liniers, but I couldn’t find any – I walked the entire strip, both sides, and asked in every single store, and several people knew they’d seen it around, but not recently, and of course, none of them were the one who carried it, but maybe the guy down the block… we settled on passionfruit, which aren’t yet in season, so we went with a juice concentrate. It gives just a nice, fruity, sharp edge to the cheesecake, and we drizzled a little butterscotch syrup over it, which worked really well.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Saratica October 3, 2007 at 14:03

I don’t always leave a comment… trust that my mouth waters at your delicious sounding and looking creations. This one is no different… sigh. Good work and glad to hear it all got done peacefully. Quite a feat in a one-person at a time kitchen! Pura vida – Sally

vardaman October 3, 2007 at 23:51

So Dan, you didn’t really say, how did Henry’s dishes turn out? They looked good!

A piece aired today on NPR dealing with Argentina’s inflation, with a focus on food items. Have you been noticing said rise in prices?


dan October 4, 2007 at 08:42

Henry’s dishes… last sentence on the soup, first sentence on the cabrito, I guess I left it more as that the guests liked both quite a bit – I did too.

Prices rising? Absolutely – anywhere from 35-50% a year since I’ve been here. Sometimes more. Just in sort of a general way, I’d say that when we started Casa S a year and a half ago, buying all the vegetables for a typical weekend ran me about 50 pesos, now they easily run over 100. A few weeks ago we made partridges – the first time I’d made them, about a year or so earlier, they ran me 8 pesos apiece, this time, 18 each. About the only things that aren’t going up fast are beef and milk, which have government price controls on them.

Give it a few more years and who knows, maybe BA will go back to being on of the most expensive cities in the world to live in…

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