Colombian Food: Chorizo Montanera

March 4, 2007 in breakfast, Colombian Food, cooking, ingredient, latino, pork, product

I am slowly, ever so slowly, finding stores within a 50 mile radius of where I live that have the [tag]ingredient[/tag]s I need to make [tag]Colombian[/tag] and also Japanese foods. The first 30 miles of that travel is through a foodie wasteland so don’t be impressed with the distance I travel for food :-).

One ingredient that I have found that reminds me of my childhood is this pack of sausages from Colombia called “[tag]Chorizo Montañera[/tag]”. The spices are exactly like the [tag]salchicha[/tag]s I remember my grandmother and mother making and then hanging from the “rafters” in the kitchen. They would dry and release this transcendent aroma.. exactly like these sausages.

If you are a Colombian far from home or your [tag]abuela[/tag] or [tag]mamá[/tag], try to find some of these and give them a try.

Roasting: The Beautiful Way

February 20, 2007 in chicken, cookbook, cooking, Food Porn, pork, recipe

roasted chicken

While [tag]shopping[/tag] at my membership shop-o-world-a-ramma, I could NOT restrain myself from buying some truly massive cuts of [tag]meat[/tag]. I got this [tag]pork loin[/tag] that was as tall as my 3 year old, no kidding. As a consequence, when I strolled past the [tag]cookbook[/tag] isle, pushing my straining cart and skipping over the trail of [tag]popcorn[/tag] dropped by said three year old, the “[tag]Essentials of Roasting[/tag]” by [tag]Williams and Sonoma[/tag] caught my eye.

Legs and a shopping cart

Look at the cover of this hefty book, could you resist? Pure [tag]eye candy[/tag].


The eye candy is all over the book, glistening [tag]roasted[/tag] morsels of all kinds adorn the pages. There are plenty of useful photo series too of how to truss a bird or roll up a roulade, etc. The photography in this beautiful book was done by [tag]Noel Barnhurst[/tag]. Mr. Barnhurst’s portfolio site reveals more of his delicious images and that he has worked for some of the best food magazines like [tag]Bon Appettit[/tag], other Williams and Sonoma titles, Williams and Sonoma catalogs, [tag]Eat + Drink[/tag], etc. I have a whole lot to learn from him.

When I got home, I portioned out all the hunk-o-meats but had some [tag]chicken breast[/tag]s that had to be cooked or else poultry mutiny was a certainty. Chicken breasts always bore me and I fear their dryness. For these two reasons I decided to [tag]marinate[/tag] them in the following mix: [tag]Worcestershire[/tag] sauce, whole black pepper corns, rubbed sage, cracked pepper, sea salt, olive oil, mushrooms, and quartered shallots and thats about it. I WANTED to put in the [tag]wine[/tag] but forgot. After a few hours, I put the mushrooms and shallots on the rack you see below, put the chicken over it, poured some of the wine over that, and layered bacon over each chicken breast.

scary chicken 2

even closer!

scary chicken 1

I popped the tray into a 350 oven along with some squash for roasting.

40 minutes later, these chicken breasts were perfectly cooked and very delicious.

I was not able to show you the nice crisped up [tag]bacon[/tag] in the photos below because those were scavenged almost immediately. I do not cook in a vacuum, many scavenging gremlins inhabit my kitchen.

and closer still

roast chicken

Additional Resources:

Essentials of Roasting” by Williams and Sonoma

Electronic Gluttony: A pig roast by any measure

January 3, 2007 in latino, pork

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(The making of a lechona – latino pig roast)
As a judge for the 2006 Food Blog Awards I had to to look at and evaluate a HUGE number of food blogs.I read so much filling prose, I saw so much beautiful photography.I came very near to catastrophy.

Around 11:30 or so last night, after debating various nominations ALL DAY LONG with other judges, I very nearly didnt want to ever blog or surf blogs again!

I know, its shocking, but true.

I must be ok because here I am today adding even MORE content to the huge food blogosphere (for better or worse). I have learned a lot and gained so much perspective from the exposure to so many different blogs. (Even if it did leave me quivering with hyper-exposure overstimulation syndrome, something I will call HOS for short).

I found the perfect visual personification of my experience over at Grab Your Fork‘s blog in today’s post “Cafe Mix, Sydney“.

Visit, but for the love of all that is good and holy, be sure to be hungry before you go!

In the spirit of stretch-mark inducing cuisine, I will share a sparsely worded pictorial of what it takes to prepare a pig for a latino pig roast (traditional at Christmas and New Years).

Be warned, we ARE talking about carnage and reality here. If you are a vegetarian or of a delicate constitution you may not wish to scroll further down.

Lechona: Step 1 - gird the loins

(Chef and pig at attention)
This fellow was so patient. This look tells the story. He is wondering why in god’s name would a self-respecting woman with pre-teen daughter in-tow want to spend time in the bowels of a large latino supermarket, in a less-than-spotless prep kitchen, shooting pictures of a perfectly boring and routine activity like getting the pig ready to roast. On top of all that, my spanish is so bad (was my first language but it has suffered massive attrition over the years of living in gringo-landia) that it was hard to explain to him why I would want to take these pictures. As a result, I am now putting together a photobook on latino foods (really, honestly, look at my eyes, would I lie?).Let us commence with the gore and oddly intimate aspects of pig roast making.
Lechona: Step 1 - gird the loins

(Another view of the carcass)

This was a young pig, not suckling nor fully mature. Perhaps something like a junior in high school, still somewhat tender but with some meat on the bones.
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Bone breaking – hacking really)
I watched and was forced to deduce the purpose of things by observation, not interrogation. Maybe its better this way.Here the chef is using a meat cleaver to crush the vertebrae of the spinal column. Why oh lord why, do you ask? This is the first step in getting the carcass to lie flat so that it roasts evenly.
Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Cracking open the chest cavity)

He then pulled open the chest cavity and pulled down the rib cage, breaking it along the spine so that it would lay open.
Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Ooh, yeah, right there, that feels great)
Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Man, that feels so good)
Another thing that has to be done to get this carcass to lie flat is to break the joints. This is the intimate odd part I mentioned. It is really reminiscent of a massage (a harsh one to be sure) and the chef was really quite meditative about the whole thing. He must have done MANY of these. I think 10 pigs for this New Years alone.
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Salt bath)
The chef sprinkled salt all over, inside and out. He also rubbed it into the skin and meat.
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Lemon Juice rub)
After the salt came the lemon juice. He sloshed the juice everywhere, very liberally.The pig sat after this treatment for about 15 minutes or so while the chef got the marinade going. This involved garlic, whole oregano, and mystery spices (or ones I just did not recognize in spanish – see, mysteries).
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(A hosing)
After those 15 minutes, the chef hauled the carcass over to the freshly scrubbed sink and he washed off the salt and juice.
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(The rub)
What I didnt show earlier is the poorly shot and rather disturbing images of the chef gouging holes into the skin and meat. The skin so that it renders into crisp goodness, the meat so that it can accept the rub/marinade. The chef is methodically rubbing in the marinade, pushing it into pockets he made with a knife and all over the surface.
The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Ready for the long night)
After the whole carcass is covered in rub it goes into the walk-in cooler over night. The chef said that he would rub coconut water onto the skin before roasting for 4 hours. The coconut water gives the skin a slightly sweet flavor and I think helps with the crisping and carmelizing process.He said that this would cost something like $60 and feed some 50 people (ok, maybe 10 of my relatives).Hope you enjoyed this.

I am planning to do more of these in the future. One showing the making of salchichas (colombian sausages) (also see these pics) either by a butcher or myself (have to get a meat grinder 1st though). I also promise better pictures because today I will be taking delivery of a new flash bracket and 580ex flash for just these purposes!

Related Posts:

Colombian Tamales How-2 Guide

December 29, 2006 in chicken, Colombian Food, cooking, How-2, latino, pork

Christmas in Colombia is QUITE a production. Its not just one or two days like here in the US and it can be exhausting if you are not used to partying constantly for a better part of some 15 days, day and night after day and night. If you think you will be spending Christmas in Colombia next year be sure to condition your liver with a serious regimen of rum training over several months. Otherwise, you will be such a light-weight that you will not remember past December 15th or so.

One of my most enduring memories from Colombian Christmases would have to be eating tamales at midnight on Christmas Eve. Even though I now live way the h*ll north of the beautiful equatorial paradise that is Colombia and far from my mom, I set out to make my own tamales this year (first time for me). I have put together a few pictures of the assembly process to help you with the how-to. Since I was shooting in the kitchen with low crappy lighting and also taking care of three kids and dealing with a delivery man, all at once, my shots are not the best here and not in great focus. I apologize for that ahead of time!

This is best done surrounded by all of your favorite relatives (preferably mamas, abuelitas, and tias who know how to do this and who have all sorts of stories to tell) so that you have help and make it all go by quickly. I had just myself!

Christmas Eve Tamales - The set-up for assembly

(Christmas Eve Tamales – The set-up for assembly)
Pork and chicken are marinated overnight

(Pork and chicken are marinated overnight)
Filling includes masa, eggs, peas, pork, chicken, carrots, and hogao

(Filling includes masa, eggs, peas, pork, chicken, carrots, and hogao”)
Wrap tamal up in banana leaves and tie with string

(Wrap tamal up in banana leaves and tie with string)
Wrap tamal up in foil and steam 3 hours

(Wrap tamal up in foil and steam 3 hours)
Here is the recipe that our family uses to make Colombian tamales. There is quite a bit of preparation time, so you will need to start at least two or three days ahead of the planned serving time. This recipe should make about 20 tamales.

  • 20 chicken thighs, skinned and defatted (save this. Can be rendered to crisps and schmaltz for other recipes).
  • 20 pork ribs about the length of your finger with a good amount of meat on them. You’ll probably have to buy them as a rack and chop them up yourself. (If you don’t want pork ribs, use 20 chicken legs)


  • 3 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tsps of ground cominos
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Pinch of ground annatto seeds


  • 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

4 C “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” precocida (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here, find this ingredient)


  • 5 large carrots, peeled and 1/4″ sliced
  • 2 cups of frozen green peas
  • 5 large red potatoes, scrubbed, 1/4″ sliced (put in water to prevent discoloration)
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and 1/4″ sliced

Package of thawed/frozen banana “platano” leaves (latino food store), cut into 12 inch square pieces and rinsed in VERY hot tap water.

Clean string or cord used for tying meat roasts.

Aluminum foil

A very large crab or lobster steamer with a bottom rack and lid. Fill with salted water about 3 ” above the bottom rack.

Pique Sauce:

  • 6 cleaned green onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of minced cilantro
  • 1 tsp of ground comino
  • 1/8 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • salt to taste


Two or three days before:
Put the chicken and ribs in separate containers. (Or if you are substituting more chicken, you can put all the meat in one container). Prepare the marinade from the ingredients listed above, divide and put 1/2 on the chicken and the other 1/2 on the ribs. With your hands, work the marinade into the meats. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.

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

Preparation of the “Masa”:
Corn dough or “masa”. Put 4 cups of “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” in a large bowl or container. Slowly add 5 cups of lukewarm (not hot) water or chicken broth. You’ll probably have to use your hands to mix well. Most likely, you will need to add more water to get the “masa” to the consistency of cooked oatmeal or grits. This dough does not have the stiff consistency of “empanada” dough.

Assembly and cooking of the Tamales:

Place about a cup of the dough in the center of the banana leaf. Place one rib and one chicken thigh on top. Place about 3 slices each of the carrots, potatoes and egg on the meat. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of “hogao” on top of the vegetables and egg. Then spoon about a 1/2 cup of “masa” on top of all of this and gently spread as much out as you can. Now, fold the edges of the banana leaf over the filling so as to make a package. Do not let any of the filling show. If the leaf splits, just take another smaller piece of leaf and fold it around the package.

Tie up the package/tamale with the string or cord. Believe me, this tying up of the tamales in banana leaves takes practice!! After you have tied up the tamale/package, tear off a 12″ sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it tightly around the tamale. Continue with the other tamales according to the above directions. Stack the tamales all the way to the top in the steamer pot and turn up the heat to high. If your pot does not hold all of them, just refrigerate the rest until you can steam them later, or, borrow another steamer pot. When you hear the water boiling furiously, turn the heat down to medium. Always make sure that the pot is steaming and that there is enough water in it. Cover tightly and steam for at least 3 hours. After that time, remove the top tamale and open it up to make sure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. It should be falling off the bone.

Serve the tamales on a section of banana leaf. (Warn guests not to eat the leaf! A favorite Colombian story is that a Gringo was served a tamale. When he finished it he said,”Boy, was this delicious!! However, the lettuce was kind of tough!!” (har,har).

Some Colombians like to put “pique” on their tamales.

To make pique sauce:

This sauce/relish is similar to “pico de gallo” except it does not include the minced jalapeno. If you want to use jalapeno, you can, but it’s not legitimate Colombian. This relish is spooned into a bitten-off empanada or onto arepas, into tamales, etc. Yummmm! Its like a taste of sunshine!

Finely mince the green onions and the garlic. Add the other ingredients and let marinate for at least 2 hours. There should be enough liquid to almost reach the top of the relish. You may have to adjust by adding a little more vinegar.

I made enough to freeze (raw) and will see how they cook up out of the freezer at a later date!

Related Posts:

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