QueRicaVida.com event in Miami

May 25, 2010 in Colombian Food, Food Porn

QRC-450

Some weeks ago I was contacted by someone who was in charge of finding and inviting latina bloggers across the US and elsewhere to an event in Miami that introduced the new roll-out of the QueRicaVida.com site. This site is put out by General Mills and is their spanish speaking and hispanic oriented outreach to the latino community.

I flew down to Miami last Wednesday from Hartford and attended a delicious and crazy fun dinner at the Rusty (dusty?) Pelican in Key Biscayne. We watched the sun go down behind the Miami sky line, simply beautiful.

I actually enjoyed the hot and humid nature of the weather because its been so darn cold here! The only problem was that my hair frizzed out in the extreme, was embarrassing.

I met so many friendly people and I had to work really hard to keep up with the spanish. There are some accents I find VERY hard to follow so for some people, I had to do a sort of mime-translation to get what they were going on about!

The next day we had free until 5 pm at which time we attended this amazing production set up like an explosive on-set stage experience, like we were in the audience of a TV show being taped for Univision. I was mostly sitting there agape, dazzled by the spectacle of it all!

I shot the following video to give you a small taste of this fun couple of days!

Here are just a few shots of the event on the first night.

QueRicaVida.com: Miami from Key Biscayne


QueRicaVida.com: Dusty (Rusty?) Pelican - Miami


QueRicaVida.com: ambiance


QueRicaVida.com: ambiance


Thanks again to General Mills, QueRicaVida.com, and the amazing people at Hispania Public Relations! Yall know how to throw a latino party!

Fermented Colombian Sausages: Salchichas

October 10, 2009 in Colombian Food, latino, recipe

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When I went to see Sandor Ellix Katz speak about Wild Fermentation (Sandor Ellix Katz and the Wild among us) I heard him mention that he was getting into wild fermented meats.

This reminded me of my childhood when we would make Colombian fermented sausages called salchichas or chorizos. I wrote to Sandor about this recipe, I think he will enjoy it as he is quite an intrepid culinary explorer! Besides, these sausages are just amazing!

At first, the idea of fermented meat might seem revolting or alien to Americans – we are constantly bombarded by Big Ag, USDA, and FDA message about cooking meat until charred (but not to on the other FDA hand because char = carcinogens).

We hear about the woman, in the New York Times, who was poisoned and then paralyzed by the E coli in her cheap and utterly crap hamburgers from a big box store (E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection). She got a strain of E coli that is a product of CAFOs that Industrial Big Ag, the USDA and the FDA works so hard to protect.

Had she eaten free range grass fed beef from a small producer she would still be teaching dance to little kids. Its not a philosophical or economic thing – its a biological thing. The profoundly unhealthy diet of a CAFO steer encourages the human-toxic E coli while grass fed steers do not (its a matter of rumen health, bacterial ecology, and proper pH).

Thats all about bacterial issues that arise in the living animal.

There are also issues that can arise in foods that have been contaminated after butchering from bacteria in the ambient environment. As I just mentioned, our modern CAFO environments contaminate our meats with super bugs that we have not evolved to manage. There are also bacterial species that will colonize your food (raw or cooked) that come from your local environment.

In environments where such foolishness are not the standard, like Colombia, the meat is not pre-tainted with these toxic bacteria (also, obviously, meat you source from ethical farmers who feed their steers the correct diet of grass, 100% of the time).

Remember that Colombia is a tropical country, it is also considered 3rd world. When we lived there, back in the 1960s, it was certainly quite different from the US. My mom, who is American – a Illinois farmer’s daughter, tells of how the meats in the market would be hung out in the heat, without refrigeration, with insects buzzing about it. If you watch No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, you will often see shots of meat markets just like this. Meat isnt left out like this for long. They butcher enough for that market day. Needless to say the meat was already beginning to ferment before you bought it.

Fermenting is the same as aging. When you buy expensive aged beef, its beef that has begun to ferment.

This fermentation is essentially the same as that you find in pickles, cheese, sourdough bread, etc. The main bacterial species is the lactobacillus. This bacteria begins to digest the food and a waste product (we in science call it a metabolic product) is lactic acid. This lactic acid acidifies the food and then inhibits other human-pathogenic bacteria.

Lactobacilli have been our friends from the beginning (pre-modern human to be certain) and it continues to help us when we make our traditional foods.

The sausages I am writing about today have an enhanced flavor BECAUSE they are fermented or partially digested by lactobacilli.

If you would like to try this recipe without the fermentation step, it will still be delicious but it will not have the characteristic tangy flavor that the lactic acid brings.

I remember my mom and my grandma making this when I was a child. I remember watching them string the sausages up high in the kitchen. I can see in my minds eye the sausages hanging there and how I felt so fascinated by it all. I also remember how delicious they were.

When I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make these, she surprised me by sending me a meat grinder and then pork casings!

The sweetest part of this all was having my three kids at my side, peering over the edge of the counter in the case of my 3 year old son, watching me use the grinder and watching the meat filling up the casings. They were not grossed out, they were fascinated and they all wanted to give it a try!

It melted my heart, it was a perfect moment for me.

This is the recipe as I got it from my mom. I thought I would share the way she wrote it because it sounded great!

In her voice ….

As I remember, in Colombia, the meat in the chorizos were very finely minced by hand…however, I think you can do this with the food grinder attachment. Even when I grind the meat in the grinder machine, I used the coarse blade so that it would mimic this “hand-minced” meat.

Colombian Sausages: served

Colombian Chorizos (Salchichas) (Antioquia)

(The kind we used to hang in the kitchen! :-)

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of pork, lean, minced
  • 2 lbs of beef, lean, minced
  • 1/2 lb of pork fat, minced
  • 1/2 lb of mild chile peppers, minced ( Poblanos are good)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of hot cayenne pepper (ground)
  • 1 tblsp of oregano and cilantro, finely minced
  • 1 tsp of ground cominos (cumin)
  • Salt and pepper to your taste
  • Pork casings

Directions
Mix everything together, except the casings. Put it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. (I like longer for the tangy taste…but if you’re weirded out with aging meat, don’t do this). Then comes the tricky part, filling the casings. If you have the sausage making attachment to the machine, this is a piece of cake..if not, you have to do it by hand..I’ve done both.

Colombian Sausages: grinder

Grinder, in use.

Colombian Sausages: casings

Casings, soaking.

Colombian Sausages: meat to grind

Chunks of meat, just before being fed into the grinder.


Fill the casings with the mixture, giving it a couple of twists with every 4 or 5 inches. When done filling, stab each link with a toothpick to let it release air.

To do this, you need to slip a length of casing onto the sausage tube attachment on your grinder.

Colombian Sausages: loading casings onto sausage tube

Colombian Sausages: tying off the end of the casing

Colombian Sausages: grinding and stuffing the casings

When you come to the end of the sausage casing, tie it off (string or with casing) and then make links by twisting.

Colombian Sausages: ready to age

At this point you can make them or you can age them. To cook them, put them in a pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer, simmer until the water is gone (might want to flip them at some point) and then allow them to continue to cook/fry to caramelize the outside.

Colombian Sausages: add water to simmer

They brown up perfectly!

Colombian Sausages: Ready to serve!

If you are ready to go to the next level to get that unique tangy flavor, you do not cook them but you hang them up.

Hang the links on a clean twine in a nice cool airy place for a day or so.

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

After a day mine really had no odor at all. They were drier, perhaps shrunk a bit, concentrating flavor for sure.

Colombian Sausages: aged but still raw

Like before, you cook them up like any other sausage…first with a little water in a fry pan with a lid, then let them brown.

Colombian Sausages: on to simmer

We also made arepas and yucas fritas (fried yucas) as well as rice to go with this.

Arepas

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Arepa masa

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Shaped arepas

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Cooking arepas in the pan.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

They then go into a 400 F oven.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Yucas Fritas

Colombian Sausages: sides - boiling yucas

Boil frozen yucas 20 minutes (MUST DO THIS).

Colombian Sausages: sides - yucas fritas

Remove yucas from water, cool and allow to dry a bit, then break chunks up into bite sized spears.

Colombian Sausages: sides - yucas fritas

Deep fry until golden.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas y yucas fritas

Delicious arepas and yucas fritas are our sides!

Colombian Sausages: served

Colombian Sausages: served

It would have been more correct to also serve this with lots of cilantro, avocados, lime, etc but I didnt have those things!

¡Buen Aprovecho!

As an aside, after I posted the photos of these sausages on flickr I got an email from someone asking to order 200 of them! I guess thats the ultimate compliment!

I do not sell these although I understand the request – its hard to get these in the US, ones that taste authentic. This is the first time I have ever made sausages – very easy – but certainly not something I can do as a business proposition! (that is, unless someone wants to get met set up in a rent-free commercial kitchen!)

Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce)

January 19, 2008 in Colombian Food

Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce)

If you have read some of my older posts, especially the ones relating to latino foods, you see that I occasionally write about recipes that might be a bit disturbing to the general American cook. This is not on purpose but because the experience of cooking food in the US can be fantastically different from that in other countries where the people are much closer to the food source.

In the past, I have featured photo-documentaries on how to prepare a pig for a lechona (pig roast) (Electronic Gluttony: A pig roast by any measure), have talked about making liver and onions (Liver and Onions: You might even like it!), and how to make delicious fried pork belly (chicharrones) (Chicharron – Deep fried pork belly – How To).

Today I am going to share a recipe that comes out of my childhood and likely that of many other Colombians (as well as other latinos) – Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce). Yep, thats right, beef tongue. If you are a real foodie, this should not be that much of a stretch. If you are still learning about new foods and new cultures, do not be afraid, this is not as odd as it may seem.

As a kid, I did NOT like this dish. I can not say why but I have a memory of turning my nose up to it and I regret that. I think it had to do with the tomato being cooked and acidic and not about the flavor of the tongue.

I had never bought a tongue to make for my family but when I was on a pig belly shopping mission to make Colombian chicharrones recently, I came across a beef tongue and decided to make it myself and see how I did and how my family did.

One of my goals for this year is to go deeper with my photography and explore foods more intimately. This beef tongue was just such an opportunity. I hope to share other foods over time, its just a matter of creative space to get to it.

What follows is a little slideshow of photos that explore the shapes, textures, and colors of a raw cow’s tongue.

If you think this will disturb you, skip it, my goal is not to gross you out. These things do not gross me out because I am curious about everything and I find great beauty in nature.

As you might be able to tell and simply know on an intuitive level, a tongue is mostly muscle. There is also some very delicious fat and connective tissue going on there that turns out resplendent when served.

If you decide to follow the recipe below (and I recommend it to intrepid cooks) do not hesitate to get your hands dirty. There will be peeling of this and that layer of the tongue to get it to the edible stage. No way around that!

Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce)

The Results

Before I share the recipe, I would like to share my outcome. It came out in a way that did not invoke my previous experience. My problem with this recipe previously stemmed from the tomatoes, not the tongue. This recipe does not deliver an acidic tomato experience but, rather, a smooth delicious one.

The tongue slices are so tender you can cut them with a plastic spoon, I promise. The tomato caper sauce, studded with green olives, is an exact fit against the richness of the tongue.

My 11 year old said this when she tasted it, Oh mom, it tastes so savory! Like as if the savory was overwhelmingly good. There must be some massive umami going on here because it is like distilled beef essence, all in a good way.

My 4 year old said nothing because she was too busy eating. The 1 year old licked his lips and wanted more. The much older husband was also surprised by how delicious it was.

Mind you, the husband and the 11 and 4 year olds, they all watched as I did a whole photo shoot of the raw tongue then proceeded to boil and skin and boil and simmer the thing.

There was no chance that anyone could forget that this was a cow’s tongue we were talking about.

They loved it anyways!

My problem?

I had to fight to save a couple of pieces to shoot the next day. Was not a pretty sight and the moment I was done shooting the beauty shots, the sharks moved in and the tongue disappeared!

The Recipe

Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce)

  • 2 or 3 lb beef tongue
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 green onion cut lengthwise
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped and peeled
  • 2 small peeled and de-seeded tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened
  • 2 cups of broth from the tongue
  • 3 tblsp tomato paste
  • 1 16 ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 20 small capers
  • 10 finely chopped green olives

1. Rub the tongue with the cut lemon halves. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

2. Place the tongue in enough water to cover and simmer for about an hour.(10 minutes in a pressure cooker). Remove from heat and let it stand in the water to let it cool off a little in order to handle it. Remove it from the water and throw the water away.

3. Scrape the skin from the tongue with a knife.

4. Put the tongue with the 5 cups of water back into the empty pot. Add the green onion, garlic, salt and the peppercorns. Bring to boil, then lower temperature to simmer and cook for about 2-3 hours or until tender. (40 to 50 minutes in the pressure cooker). Let it cool off a little. Remove the tongue from the broth and set aside. Bring broth to a boil for about 10 to 20 minutes to reduce. Strain the broth in a colander lined with dampened cheesecloth to remove the solids. Set aside.

5. Add the oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. When hot, brown the (un-cut) tongue all over, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6. In a food processor, add the 2 coarsely chopped onions, the tomatoes, and the flattened garlic cloves. Finely process. Add this mixture to the skillet. Also add the reduced broth, tomato paste, wine, salt, and ground pepper.

7. Bring to a simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add the tongue, capers and the chopped olives. Cover, over medium heat, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened. Place the tongue on a cutting board and thinly slice. Place the slices back into the sauce, or place the slices on a serving plate and pour sauce over it.

Enjoy!

Lengua de res en salsa de alcaparras (Beef Tongue in Caper Sauce)

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Arepa de huevo (Arepa with egg)

March 23, 2007 in breakfast, Colombian Food, cooking, deep fry, Food Porn, ingredient, latino, recipe

[Sorry for the annoying copyright symbols on these images but there are too many people downloading and stealing these images. I am working on a downloadable for-a-fee document where you can get the whole "picture" and I do not lose all photo rights and revenue.]

Arepa de huevo - after final frying

Arepa de huevo is a Colombian food that I remember from my childhood. Other countries may do this but I do not know much or really anything about other varieties. Arepas are made from a very finely ground corn meal. I will put a recipe or guideline below for making that as well as how-to photos on how to make the arepa with egg below.

My first experience with it was when we visited Colombia 25 years ago. As in other latin american countries, street vendors sell all manner of things. We were on foot somewhere in Bogota, Colombia, and literally by the roadside there was this large woman sitting next to an enormous wok-like pot filled with boiling hot oil. She also had dozens of eggs and arepas. I didn’t really know what to expect when we walked up. I watched her cut open a large arepa (size of your hand, I am used to seeing them more like 1/2 that size), break an egg into the steaming middle of the arepa, pinch it back closed, and slip it quickly down the side of the wok-pot down into the boiling oil. Next thing I know, I am holding a napkin with a steaming hot arepa de huevo inside, tasting it for the first time.

Truly fantastic.

I have always respected the potent possibilities of food poisoning and GI upset that can happen when you eat things in a region where you have not acclimated yourself to the local bugs in the water. On this trip, I experienced food poisoning also for the first time but it was NOT from the Arepa de huevo I had from the street vendor.

Why?

Arepa de huevo

Because this treat is deep fried, making it less likely to be a vector for forborne illnesses.

More important than all of that, it is very delicious!

I had not eaten one in all that time until just the other day, when I finally got down to making them in my own kitchen. They came out so much better than I had anticipated. I hope you will try them too!

Arepa de huevo

Ingredients:

Arepas:

  • 1 C “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” precocida masa harina (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here, find this ingredient)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 C boiling hot water
  • 4 eggs (or more, depending on how far your masa goes)

Hogao:

  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cominos
  • Pinch of ground annatto seeds
  • 1/2 cup of packed, chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Saute the listed “hogao” ingredients in the olive oil until wilted, set aside.

Mix the harina and salt and then add the boiling water. Mix until incorporated and set aside for 15 minutes.

Arepa de huevo ingredients

Dough ball

Wet hands with cold water and shape hand sized pancakes of harina (about 1/6 inch thick) or use a tortilla press. I used the press in this case but I think I would prefer to recommend the hand method as you get a thicker arepa. With the press, its a delicious crispy thing, just a bit different than I remember.

To use the press:
Put a ball of masa on the press (which you have lined with a freezer ziplock bag, cut to size).

Arepa de huevo - on press to be flattened

On the press, with plastic

Gently push down on the press so that you mash it flat but not TOO thin.

Arepa de huevo - squished flat

First pressing

Open the press and rotate the arepa 180 degrees and press just slightly more to try to even the thickness all around.

Peel back the plastic and either toast in a hot pan like you do with most arepas (below shown with smaller ones), or slip the raw arepa into the hot oil until it puffs up.

Arepa de huevo - after smashing flat

Ready for first stage cooking

Remove and allow to cool.

Carefully cut into the side of the arepa to form a pocket.

Arepa de huevo - fried once, opening pocket

Slicing the hole

Put a spoonful of hogao in the bottom of the fried arepa.

Put an egg into a small cup and then slip the egg into the pocket.

Arepa de huevo - pouring in the egg

Small expresso cup used to put egg in arepa

Arepa de huevo - after the egg has been poured in

Egg in the arepa, quick go to the next step!

Mend the edge with raw dough and then slip it back into the hot oil for a couple of minutes (until it hits the color you want, light golden brown).

Arepa de huevo - mending hole at edge with a bit of raw masa

Mending the edge before frying

Enjoy hot!

Arepa de huevo - right out of the second fry

Ready to eat!

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