It was time for one of our recently less frequent non-pescetarian meals, and I decided to pull out a couple of dishes from my Peruvian repertoire that I’d been playing with on and off. Not for every course, in fact, three of the five were repeats of recent hits. I’m still debating, internally, this whole pescetarian focus. It’s definitely the way Henry and I tend to eat most of the time during the week, and I do like promoting a bit healthier cuisine, but, at the same time, maybe the weekends can be those days when we stray…? Then again, we’re not eating the five course meals as we serve them – I taste each before I plate them up, but generally I’ll just pick one dish out of the evening and make some extra for us to eat on the go. Or sometimes I just have a salad or bowl of cereal. It varies.
One of the really fun things for us is the variety of people who come to these dinners, from all walks of life, and all parts of the world. This weekend was one of our more multicultural, with folk in from here in Argentina, Brazil, Panama, the U.S., Canada, Germany, Holland, Poland, Iran and Australia. Quite the mix!
We started with our “Textures of Tomato” dish – spicy smoked tomato cheesecake, fresh tomato and olive oil sauce, tomato powder, deep-fried cherry tomatoes, a curried polenta crisp and some chives.
And, a hearty five-bean soup spiked with cumin, coriander and chili, and topped with tempura battered celery leaves.
Time for the first of the Peruvian dishes – mollejitas al ajo (chicken gizzards in garlic) – a dish I’ve done a step-by-step post for, though I’ve made some changes since then – adding in some more spice in the form of fresh chilies added along with the onions and garlic at the beginning, and a mix of roasted and freshly chopped garlic in the dish. Served over a corn puree, arugula oil, and with some fried yuca on the side.
Now, my little neighborhood chicken butcher store sells the “parts is parts”, but not separately. He basically takes those little plastic bags that come with whole chickens and tosses them all together in a tub and sells them off by the kilo. But that means buying a lot to get what you want. 6.6 kg (14.5 lb) of these little bags yielded up roughly the following: 2 kg chicken necks, 2 kg chicken livers, 1.5 kg fat, and, just barely over 1 kg of giblets. I stuck the first three things into the freezer to be used down the line, called him to make sure he’d have enough little bags for me to use for the next two nights, and got to work.
Next morning, off to the chicken store, and did he have my promised 12 kg of baggies? No he did not. He sold them to someone else. In the moment and all that. Pissed me right off. Spent two hours running around and calling all over to see if I could get what I needed (should have just run out to Barrio Chino), and couldn’t find them. Flash of inspiration, back to the house and pulled those livers out of the freezer. Cooked them up the same way – just without the braising period, they don’t need it to tenderize. Beyond that, had decided that the yuca, good as it was, in the scheme of the dinner was just one more heavy starch, and probably wouldn’t have gone as well with chicken livers as with giblets, so, dropped them in favor of some shaved and sauteed brussels sprouts spiked with a little mustard. I like the plate better than with the gizzards, and, despite Henry’s pre-assertion that people wouldn’t eat them, they disappeared from the plates. (We’ve served chicken livers before, sin problemas.)
Main course – adobo de chancho – slow braised pork in yellow chili, spices and beer – served with rice and sweet potato, plus some fresh peas. One night tried cooking the peas in the braise (towards the end, not the whole five hours), but they turn out like mushy canned peas. Not to be done again.
Finished off with a lúcuma tart, it was so popular a couple of weeks back, with roasted strawberries (molasses and vanilla), and maple caramelized croutons.