la vida comida

food. life.

Author: Jennifer Ramos (page 1 of 3)

Manjar Blanco 2016 Redux

Hello again, after (another) long hiatus! I have been so thrilled to watch Peruvian cuisine gain attention and interest over the last year. I always knew that once the creativity, simple elegance, and intriguing combination of history and fusion behind this fabulous cuisine came to light, the world couldn’t help but stand up and take note!

Today, I’m revisiting manjar blanco, one of my all-time favorite sweets. (Click here for my original post.) It is ubiquitous in Latin America (and especially popular in Argentina and Peru): each country and region has its own name and variation – dulce de leche, arequipa, etc. It can be made with goat’s milk (as in Mexican cajeta), or coconut milk; but most versions are made with cow’s milk.

Manjar blanco is a culinary workhorse. Cook it a little less, and it becomes a rich sauce to drizzle over ice cream, crêpes, or any favorite dessert. Reduce it longer, and it can be piped into alfajores; spread in a pionono (a Peruvian jelly roll); or formed into tejas, a Peruvian truffle confection. It is also the base for suspiro de limeña, one of the most heavenly desserts on earth.

More about suspiro another time. But here’s a teaser.  😉

Manjar blanco can be a little tricky. The main issue I’ve had is occasional graininess, especially after a day or two (refrigerated or not).  Any suggestions?

I’ve seen some fresh milk recipes floating around. The ones that look more reliable advocate for four parts milk to one part sugar, by volume; high heat to boil quickly, then very low heat (and constant attention) for several hours. I did try this once. Frankly, I don’t have an entire day to devote to making condensed milk – THEN turning it into manjar blanco – when that hard work has already been done for me. (I know, all-natural, homemade, no shortcuts, etc. etc…. but I’m picking my battles here. I mean, we are making milk candy, not an organic salad, people!  🙂  That said, I’d like to make fresh goat’s milk cajeta sometime.) If you have had success with this method before, though, will you please share your results? Maybe I’ll change my tune.

Just say no to microwave manjar blanco. That’s all I’m saying.

Anyway… I generally make manjar blanco two ways. My favorite is my usual, tried-and-true method: slow-cooking condensed and evaporated milks. Every once in awhile, I’ll cook it in the unopened can (in other words, under presssure). I haven’t yet tried to make it in an actual pressure cooker – I’m fatally clumsy, and not fond of explosions. But this looks like a good recipe; I may try it sometime, if I’m ever feeling adventurous.

(An aside: Want some cool info about food science, the Maillard reaction, and dulce de leche? Click here, and here.)

Manjar blanco cooked in the can is smooth and perfect. It has little to no separated milk solids, and is completely slick and shiny. Also, there is practically no work involved: I simply make sure the water level stays high. It’s relatively thin, which makes it great as a dessert sauce. While the caramel flavor is good, it’s fairly neutral to me. And it looks a little too perfect, even store-bought.

Manjar blanco cooked in a pot requires much more care. You have to stir frequently, and watch for scorching. It does generally have some milk solid and caramel specks in it, so it’s not as smooth-looking as can-cooked manjar blanco; but I find this does not affect the texture or mouth-feel. I personally greatly prefer it. You can reduce it to the consistency you want; and it has that deep caramel flavor, that butterscotch fragrance… it’s just ambrosial.

Here, you can see the difference:

Left: manjar blanco cooked in the pot. 

Center: manjar blanco cooked in the can.

Right: caramel-flavored condensed milk, cooked in the can. (The fake caramel flavor was so gross – not even worth mentioning.)

I haven’t really changed my original manjar blanco recipe; I’ve just added some more cooking details and a few helpful tips. Experiment, and let me know which works best for you!

Buen provecho!

 

Manjar Blanco in a Can
This is the simplest way to have smooth, delicious manjar blanco - without all the stirring or mess. It does take hours - and it's not as thick or rich as manjar blanco cooked in a pot - but the only thing you need to do is keep the can covered with water. Doesn't get any easier!
Servings Prep Time
1can 5minutes
Cook Time
2hours
Servings Prep Time
1can 5minutes
Cook Time
2hours
Ingredients
  • 1can condensed milk(14 oz.)
Instructions
  1. Remove label from can. Place can, on its side, in the bottom of a very tall aluminum stock pot.
  2. Fill the pot almost to the top with room-temperature water. Place the lid tightly on the pot.
  3. Place the pot on the stove over very high heat until the water just boils.
  4. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Simmer gently for approximately 2 ½ hours (2 for lighter color; 3 for darker).
  5. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the lid. Do not drain the water or remove the can.
  6. Place pot in the sink; run room-temperature (not cold) water into the pot, and gradually allow the can to come to room temperature.
  7. Do not remove the can from the pot, or handle or open the can, until it is completely cool.
  8. Let rest overnight before opening, if possible.
Recipe Notes

The can must be completely smooth, with no dents; otherwise, the can could explode.

It is extremely important to make sure the water never runs low. If the water is allowed to evaporate to the point that the can is exposed to air and not completely submerged, the change in temperature / pressure may cause the can to explode.

The can must always be covered with at least 2” of water; so it’s best to simply keep the pot filled. Be sure to check the water level at least every 15-20 minutes (set a timer!), and add hot water whenever necessary (it’s helpful to have a hot pot of water at the ready, and ladle in extra water as needed). Keeping a tight lid on the pot will help prevent evaporation.

Manjar Blanco 2016
Manjar blanco - milk caramel - can be a decadent spread for Belgian waffles, a filling for cookies or cake, a rich fruit dip... or just eat it, one huge spoonful at a time. It is well worth the effort and time - which you can spend collecting all the foods you want to put it on! The yield is determined by how much you reduce it.
Servings Prep Time
1 pint (approx.) 5 minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Servings Prep Time
1 pint (approx.) 5 minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Ingredients
  • 1can condensed milk(14 oz.)
  • 1can evaporated milk(12 oz.)
  • 1/8tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
Instructions
  1. Combine 1 Tbsp. of the evaporated milk with the baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Place remaining milks and salt in a very tall aluminum pot. Pot should be at least 6-8 times as tall as the milk in the pot. Stir to combine.
  3. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir the baking soda into the mixture very quickly with a long wooden spoon. Be careful - it will immediately foam up a great deal.
  5. Immediately turn heat down to very low, still stirring constantly.
  6. Once the mixture stops foaming and is very lightly simmering, stir very frequently (every few minutes), for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on desired degree of caramelization and thickness).
  7. When manjar blanco holds its shape for 2-3 seconds when stirred, it can be removed from heat. (Continue to reduce for thicker / more caramelized manjar blanco.)
  8. Pour into a completely clean stainless steel bowl (use the cleanest side of the pot to pour). Do not scrape bottom or sides into bowl (scrape it into a separate bowl, if you don’t want to waste it).
  9. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a container with an airtight lid.
Recipe Notes

Manjar blanco keeps for 3-4 days at room temperature, and longer than a week in the refrigerator. (However, it is more likely to re-crystallize and become grainy if refrigerated.)

A culinary tribute to my father on his birthday

* This post was originally published on April 22, 2011. I’m reposting it to honor my dad, who would’ve been 87 years old today.  

April 22, 2011

This is only my third blog post, and already I’m straying off-topic… but I have good reason, I promise.

Today, April 22nd, is my father’s birthday. He would have been 83. We lost him to cancer six months ago, after a valiant two-year fight that only highlighted his strength, grace and dignity. I still struggle to accept that he is gone. It’s like accepting that I’ll never see the moon again. 

Today, I celebrate my father with food… because while my mother apprenticed me in the skill of cooking (for which I am eternally grateful), it was my father who taught me the art and pure joy of eating.

My father was Swedish, German, and English. His first loves were cultivated at home, and early: smoked salmon, pickled herring, fresh fish, dark rye bread, creamy wursts and pâtés, sausages, thick stews, strong cheeses. And candy.

He grew up in New Rochelle, New York, and worked for over fifty years in Midtown East Manhattan.  The Lorson family business had been located in an office suite in Rockefeller Center since the early 1900s (which my dad sadly vacated in the 1980s, when he semi-retired). We’d sometimes accompany him to work on Saturdays.  We’d talk to the impassive elevator-man, plunk on the massive typewriters, spin each other on office chairs until we were nauseous… then run to the café downstairs for lunch and hot chocolate (and do a bit of skating, if it was the season).

When we lived in Pelham, he would pick up teawurst and still-warm onion bread every Sunday afternoon from the German deli. I dreaded church… but eagerly anticipated the earthly reward for behaving during mass! For a rare treat, we would go to the Italian deli in New Rochelle, and get bread and fresh mozzarella – and sometimes, a grapefruit-sized manteca. We dug out salty butter and spread it on fresh-baked Italian bread, and topped it with slabs of pungent cheese… there is no better definition of heaven. Yes, Sundays were good when I was a child.

For our birthdays every year, each of us got to pick any restaurant in Manhattan and have a “date” with just our parents.  We dressed up, took the train to Grand Central, marveled at the constellations. We ate at the Rainbow Room, the Brasserie, Flutie’s, other places which have faded into the landscape. It sure made each of us five kids feel like we were the center of the universe, if only for one day.

He was on a first-name basis with the people at Caviarteria while they were in Grand Central. When they left, he had a steady stream of shipments arriving almost weekly.  In his later years, crème fraiche and caviars were a staple of his diet. And mine, thanks to him.

Manhattan is my father.

Later, after he and my mom moved to Connecticut, and ventured into the city less often, Dad found a wonderful cheese shop, The Villa Gourmet in Milford. The delicious treats – and Linda, the sweet owner – offered my father a brief respite from the devastating rigors of chemo. I truly believe that for a while, those rich, fattening cheeses helped to keep his weight up… and looking forward to them helped sustain him in a way no other meal ever could have.

My father definitely had caviar and champagne tastes… but he didn’t like pasta, rice, vegetables, and most fruits. He replaced those with junk food.  Cheese puffs, potato chips, and his all-time favorites, M&Ms and Reese’s peanut butter cups, were never more than an arm’s reach away. His constant working and striding across Manhattan kept him from ever becoming heavy; it also helped that he was 6’2” and absolutely never stopped moving.

My dad knew pretty early that I was his snack-mate. I liked everything he liked (except scotch, thank God!). When we grilled steak, my father would share the rarest, juiciest pieces with me; and would give me a big slab of “bread and gravy” (salty blood-soaked bread). When he discovered a new cheese, a new pâté, a new gourmet shop – or got a fresh batch of Andes mints – I was the first to know. I inherited his mash-up tastes:  when I first started learning about wine, my first impulse was to find a dessert wine to accompany my Hostess cupcakes. I never would have become so fascinated by food – and certainly not so adventurous – if it hadn’t been for him. He has made me who I am, in so many ways – but this particularly was a precious gift that continues to shape my life… and the life of my daughter as well.

While my heart breaks a little every day that he is not here – and every day that passes carries me further from the time that he was on this earth – I know how very lucky I am to have had such a wonderful father for 42 years of my life. Whenever I miss him, I can share one of our much-loved treats and smile, knowing he is looking on approvingly (and with a bit of jealousy).

So today, I’m going to nibble a bit of caviar and good cheese, scarf down a Reese’s and a handful of M&Ms, and sip a glass of wine (for which he longed since quitting drinking nearly 30 years before he died, but refused even on his deathbed) to honor the memory of a kind, loving, neurotic, quirky, impatient, passionate and utterly human father… who made colossal mistakes, but gave his complete unconditional love without a second thought… who lived every single day without looking forward or back, with the pure joy of a child, and the savoring appreciation of an old man all at once. He made every simple moment special.

Skål, Dad. I wish you were here.

Donde Peruco

Seafood / ceviche, Northern Peruvian (norteña)
(4 / 5)
$$
review date: 12/24/2014
+51 1 4491030
Calle María Elena Moyano (La Merced) 178, Santiago de Surco 15038, Perú

 
 

My husband’s sister Susi and brother-in-law David brought us to Donde Peruco for Christmas Eve lunch, saying that if we couldn’t get up to my husband’s northern hometown of Piura, Donde Peruco had some good norteña dishes, and some great seafood too.

The restaurant’s located on a side street in Surco, Lima’s largest district. Mistura and Apega signs hang prominently outside the restaurant, proclaiming the restaurant’s participation in the country’s largest food festival (and by association, its quality).

Outside, the small, winding street was packed with cars (and attendants looking to help you park for a few nuevo soles); but the restaurant’s interior – while smallish – had a rustic, breezy feel. There was a little alcove bar which looked cozy.

The server was extremely polite, and swiftly served us beers, and a pitcher of sweet, clove-y chicha morada. We munched on the provided cancha (fried maize kernels) and chifles (plantain chips), then started with leche de tigre – for which chefs and home cooks alike have their own special recipe. Often this consists of strained ceviche marinade, while sometimes it is made on its own; still others use a combination of these two. Donde Peruco’s, to me, was more like a ceviche in a glass, with extra marinade – but I’m not complaining. The tart creaminess of the marinade, the inimitable floral, tangy-sweet Peruvian lime, fresh sea bass, and crisp red onion… my mouth waters just thinking about it, and I’m not even exaggerating.

This led into our main dishes, the first of which was a mild ceviche de pescado (which was nearly identical to the leche de tigre, I think). I personally like my ceviche much spicier, but it was still delicious.

The lomo saltado was incredible. Those who’ve had it before may think this phrase is an oxymoron! It’s a simple dish, certainly – strips of beef and bell pepper, with a lot of garlic and a hint of soy sauce, a nod to the many Asian influences in Peruvian cuisine. But the beef was filet mignon-tender, the sauce so flavorful, with just the right balance of salt and garlic. Even my husband said it was the best he’d ever had.

We also shared a plate of jalea, a plate of battered fried seafood and yucca, with homemade mayonnaise for dipping. Hot, light, crisp… yum.

Our arroz con mariscos had a dark, rich seafood sauce, with shrimp, squid, calamari, mussels, and a paella-like rice. It was very good.

We also sampled a few of the norteño dishes. I’d never had seco de chabelo before, and it was… well, interesting. It was like smashed tostones with fresh dried beef (charqui, or jerky), and chifles stuck in the top. There’s no question it was well-made; I’m just on the fence about tostones, which I find to be bland and dry. I greatly prefer ripe, moist plantains, fried to a dark caramel on the outside, and that sweet, deep yellow creaminess on the inside… well, I digress. If you’re not a fan of unripe plantains, you may want to skip this one. (My husband says that in his hometown, they do not put chifles, and they use chicha de jora to make it more moist and flavorful.)

Majado de yucca is another northern specialty. Now I’m a yucca freak, and I could pretty much eat fried yucca (with an assortment of dipping sauces of course) every day of the year. But this was similar to the seco de chabelo, only with yucca. Like the chabelo, it was very good – just not my thing.

For dessert, we went to a gelateria, though we’ll be sure to try Donde Peruco’s postres (and the arroz con pato, the one norteña dish we didn’t get to try) next time. 

For a restaurant in Lima, the prices might be considered middle of the road. For American visitors, the prices are quite reasonable; almost all of the entrées are priced between $8 and $9 American dollars.

Donde Peruco is simply an excellent restaurant. I can’t say one negative thing about it. Every single dish was well-made, perfectly seasoned, nicely presented, and served quickly and courteously. I absolutely recommend it, and plan to go back as soon as we return to Lima.

Sancocho

As most everyone knows, New York’s winter has been especially brutal this year. Subzero temperatures, weekly snowstorms, blustery gray days that blend into one another… it feels like winter will never end.

My husband’s friend Will is a Nuyorican who has lived in Albany for many years. He’s helped us out of many a jam, not the least of which has been digging us out of every snowstorm.

After the last storm, I gratefully asked Will what I could make to repay him. He immediately answered, “Sancocho!”

I wasn’t even sure what it was. But after a little investigation, I learned that sancocho is another ubiquitous culinary term: most countries in and near the Caribbean have their own version. (Peru’s sancochado is a soup – not quite the same.)

Some cite sancocho’s origin as the Canary Islands: slaves brought to the Caribbean by the Spanish brought the dish (originally made with fish) along with them. Others elaborate, asserting that African slaves set a pot of sancocho to simmer in the morning, so they would have a hearty stew to sustain themselves after toiling in the scorching heat. (It also alludes to the individuals themselves, boiling under the hot sun.) Still others credit the indigenous Taino peoples with introducing the Spanish to their root vegetable stew.

Like most food history, things have a tendency to get muddled over time. There’s surely truth in each version.

But it is important to remember – especially now, in honor of Black History Month – that each Latin American country’s cuisine was not created by only indigenous and Spanish food cultures. African slaves prepared, influenced – and truly, invented – many dishes for the viceroy and upper class households. This vastly influenced the mainstream cuisine of many countries. African contribution to Latin American cuisine simply cannot be overstated.

Will says his family always used oxtails – which is usually used in the Colombian version – and included tomatoes. This version, based on Will’s family recipe, is a meat-heavy stew, full of earthy roots, sweet squash, and of course, sofrito.

Sofrito is a central ingredient in sancocho. Every Latin American culture has at least one version of sofrito. (Truly, almost every food culture has a similar culinary staple: a mix of aromatic vegetables which form the foundation of a dish’s flavor. Think pre-cooked, Latin American mirepoix. (Recaíto, a cilantro-based sofrito, is usually used for Puerto Rican sancocho.)

When I asked Will if his family’s recipe was traditional, he said that each family had its own version; but added: “Does it taste good? Then it’s traditional.” Truer words were never said!

It was such a hit, I’ve made it three more times in the last month! I can’t think of a more satisfying comfort food for this frigid weather – or for a loyal friend.

Sancocho
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Servings Prep Time
8people 30minutes
Cook Time
1.5hours
Ingredients
Browning meat:
  • 2packets Goya Sazon seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1pound oxtails or beef shin bones
  • 1pound beef short ribs
  • 1pound beef neck bones
  • 2pounds beef eye or top round,cubed
  • 1 ham hock
Stew base:
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1large yellow onionmedium dice
  • 10cloves garlicminced
  • 1medium green peppermedium dice
  • 1/2can tomato paste(6 oz.)
  • 1pint Sofritofresh or frozen Goya
  • 2quarts beef stock
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 1packet Goya Jamon seasoning
  • 1tsp. Goya Adobo seasoning
  • 1tsp. achiote, ground
Vegetables:
  • 4medium yellow potatoespeeled and quartered
  • 1large sweet potatopeeled and quartered
  • 1pound yucca,frozen, defrosted, strings removed
  • 1large batata (yam)peeled and quartered
  • 1large plantain,cut in quarter width-wise
  • 1 pound butternut squashfresh or frozen, large dice
  • 2whole corn cobs,cut in thirds width-wise
  • 1bunch cilantrochopped
  • salt and black pepperto taste
Instructions
Mise en place:
  1. Gather / measure all ingredients.
Browning Meats:
  1. Sprinkle meats with the two Sazon packets and ½ tsp. black pepper. Heat oil in a very large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, over medium-high heat. Brown meats, starting with the fattiest meats (oxtail / shin bones, neck bones, then boneless diced meat). Lightly brown pork bone. Remove meat from pot with slotted spoon.
Base:
  1. Lower heat to medium. Add onions to oil; sauté until transparent (3-4 minutes). Add garlic; sauté 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper; sauté until soft (3-4 more minutes).
  2. Add tomato paste; sauté until paste darkens and has a distinctive, rich aroma (pincé), about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add liquids; deglaze pot. Add sofrito; stir. Bring liquid to a boil, then add meats and pork bone to the broth.
  4. Turn heat back down to medium; partially cover (but allow some steam to escape). Simmer meat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Check that all meats are tender. (They do not need to be completely fork tender, since the stew will continue to cook. But if they are still firm, continue to cook. Check every 10 minutes until meats are just starting to become fork tender (fork will penetrate meat, but will not sink all the way through with no effort).
  6. Remove cover. Add all vegetables except butternut squash, corn, and cilantro. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Check that all starches are fork tender. If not, continue to cook until they are tender; but be careful not to overcook, or they will disintegrate.
  8. Add squash and corn; cook 7-10 more minutes, until squash is tender and corn is done. (Be careful not to overcook squash, or it will fall apart).
  9. Taste the sancocho. Add Adobo, salt, and/or black pepper to taste, if desired. Stir in cilantro. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

You can find Goya (and other) brand sofrito, recaíto, and yucca (cassava) in most grocery stores.

Goya frozen sofrito has a very strong oregano flavor and aroma.

If using recaíto instead of sofrito, omit the tomato paste.

You can substitute 1 can yellow hominy (rinsed) or 1 cup frozen and defrosted corn nibs for the cobs, if desired.

Panchita

Criollo Peruvian cuisine

(3 / 5)

$$

review date: 1/2/2015

Menu: Facebook 

+51 1 4478272

Calle 2 de Mayo 298, Miraflores District, Lima

My husband's sweet cousin Mili brought me, my husband, daughter, and mother-in-law to Panchita for lunch. Panchita is one of renowned chef / restauranteur Gastón Acurio's casual dining restaurants, located in the Miraflores district of Lima. It has a fun vibe, with traditional ceramics and posters of Peruvian expressions throughout. The first thing you see when you walk in is the refrigerated case of marinating meats and fish, giving the impression that Acurio means to showcase the traditional criollio Peruvian food from the outset.

Our courteous server greeted the five of us immediately, and we while we perused the large menu, we ordered drinks: passionfruit and regular pisco sours, and a pitcher of chicha morada. The sours were good, with just the right amount of pisco and egg white froth. The chicha was very subtly spiced, and not too sweet; I don’t care for it personally, but my husband and daughter really liked it.

As we had walked to our table, we’d passed the huge bread oven, a red-mosaic monstrosity with a concrete wall around it. It glared with heat and promise. We were told that all the restaurant’s breads were baked in this oven, and I could not wait to try them. We were quickly served a variety of breads and condiments on a wooden tray: a large, fluffy loaf of potato bread; two round, crusty white rolls;  an unleavened bread made of beans; and another bread made of corn.

What a disappointment.  The potato bread was sweet and cottony-soft, but nearly flavorless, and reminded me distinctly of store-bought potato bread. The other breads had a nice chewy texture, but also lacked flavor, with barely a trace of the earthy stone-hearth aroma I would have expected from that oven. Even more, I was shocked to discover (after the fact) that we had been charged $7 soles per person for the one tray of bread we’d all shared, which was never even refilled! That makes $35 soles for four rolls and one four-serving loaf of bread. That’s outrageous. Though the price is on the menu, many people (especially Americans, including myself) would just assume bread was free, especially when it’s simply plunked down on your table without a comment. (Note 7/2016: apparently this “bread tax” is a common practice in restaurants; so you may wish to check the menu or ask the server at each restaurant you visit in Peru.)

We decided to share an assortment of appetizers. We began with Piqueo Doña Pancha, a sampler plate of appetizers: anticuchos de corazón; causa; chicharrón; tamal verde; choclo a la huancaína; and a papita rellena, accompanied by salsa criolla and fried sweet potato. We all agreed that each appetizer was exceptionally good. The tamal verde – moist and delicate, full of fresh cilantro flavor – was one of the best I’ve had. The anticuchos de corazón – marinated, skewered, and grilled beef hearts – stole the show: so tender, with a taste like a cross between a ribeye steak and a mild liver, and just a slight hint of game in the aftertaste. Add hot pepper paste, spices, and smoky char from the grill… simply amazing. Try them. You won’t be sorry.

Next came Jarana Criolla, or an assortment of stewed dishes which were largely created by Peruvian African slaves: olluquito (a stew made with olluco, a root vegetable that tastes to me like a cross between white potato and cabbage); ají de gallina; carapulcra (dried potato and beef jerky stew); cau cau (tripe); sangrecita (fried beef blood); patita con maní (pig’s feet with peanut); chanfainita (an organ meat stew); and frijoles con jugo y arroz (black beans with rice). All were very good, but the star was the pig’s feet – the meat was rich and sweet, and the peanut was a perfect accompaniment. However, a few of these were extremely salty, especially the beans.

We also ordered a plate of anticuchos de paiche, with tostones. Paiche is a massive South American river fish that is white and sweet, much like cod (indeed, it’s sometimes called the “cod of the Amazon”); but has a bit of chewy bite to it, making it strong enough to withstand the grill. It was marinated in lime juice, pepper paste, and spices, and cooked absolutely perfectly, plucked off the grill just at the point when it was cooked through. It was juicy, bursting with flavor, yet still delicate. This was one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten, bar none – and I don’t say that lightly.

My daughter ordered a plate of pesto pasta for herself; she said it was good. I tasted it and thought it was decent. (This might work for a vegetarian, as well as the breads / condiments, and possibly the bean stews – but ask which dishes are made with meat stock; I bet most are.)

For dessert, we all shared a plate of picarones, deep-fried beignets/doughnuts made of pumpkin, sweet potato, and sweet spices like cinnamon and clove. They were fresh and light, with most of its sweetness lent by the generous pouring of miel (molasses syrup). It was a perfect end to our lunch.

The service was excellent: friendly, knowledgeable, prompt, and unobtrusive. They cheerfully obliged our every request, even when I (very annoyingly) asked to take pictures of everyone and everything. They even took pictures on each of our phones.

Overall I found Panchita provided a very good meal for a reasonable price (with the exception of the bread). The entire meal for 5 people, including drinks, came to just over $400 soles – about $130 American dollars. Now that is a bargain, even with a steep “bread tax.”

Keep in mind this is more casual fare. It’s a good place for a fun lunch or happy hour with friends. We’ll definitely give it another try next time we’re in Lima, and sample some of the main dishes. I would recommend it.

I can hardly believe so much time has passed since I’ve written! I’m so glad to be back. It’s been such a busy year for me: I’m just two semesters shy of my food studies master’s degree, which has been very hard but rewarding research work. I’m also working as a pastry chef at a gourmet market, as well as a private cake artist (and participated in a cake competition earlier this year as well). But I will be posting regularly from now on – really, I promise!

Today’s my birthday, which I’m pleased to find falls during Mistura (September 5-15 this year). Quite a nice birthday present, I think! It’s my mission to attend next year.

Mistura is a Peruvian culinary festival which was created by APEGA (Peru’s Gastronomic Society, which promotes Peruvian biodiversity, farming, and cuisine). APEGA and Mistura seek to educate the public about Peru’s incredible and unique food products, which immediately translates into its tremendous gastronomic diversity. In that vein, Mistura’s chef-participants showcase Peruvian agricultural and food products in creative and exciting ways.

At Mistura, Peru’s culinary “worlds” are represented by ingredients or dishes (like anticucho, ceviche, and sandwiches) – and regional / fusion cuisines (including north, south, Amazon, chifa, and nikkei). Quinoa, the Andean superfood, local fish / seafood products, and chocolate took center stage this year.

Peruvian cuisine is dynamic, innovative fusion at its best – and the culinary world is finally starting to take note! Mistura is fast becoming a culinary destination for top chefs and international foodies. The festival has grown in recent years to include culinary exhibits from around the world. Celebrated international chefs headlined food presentations, including (of course) Gastón Acurio, Ferran Adrià, José Andrés, Rick Bayless, Alain Ducasse, and René Redzepi.

One aside: I was greatly disappointed to learn there was not one female chef included in the presentations. I sincerely hope this inexplicable exclusion is corrected in Mistura 2014. However, chef Milagros Herrera was selected as Mistura’s Best Pastry Chef 2014, whose quinoa crème brûlée thrilled the judges. Read about it here:

This beautiful English-language video about Mistura was shared with me by filmmakers Mo Stoebe and Katja Kulenkampff. (It is also posted on their stunning blog, Cut and Cue.) It showcases renowned chefs Gaston Acurio, Tony Custer, and René Redzepi sharing their views about Peruvian cuisine, food culture, and the Mistura festival. It perfectly captures both the visual beauty of Peruvian food and the cultural essence of the cuisine – and especially how Peruvian food can become a vehicle for social change.

Mo and Katja, thanks so much for this enlightening glimpse into Mistura and Peruvian food life!

 

Want to learn more about Mistura? Check out the links below.

¡buen provecho! ¡hasta pronto!

Link to the official Mistura website (español)…

http://mistura.pe/

…and its official Facebook page (español):

https://www.facebook.com/misturaperu

Eater.com’s Mistura review (English):

http://eater.com/archives/2013/09/10/hangover-observations-from-mistura-2013-in-lima-peru.php

Peru This Week.com’s Mistura writeup (English):

http://www.peruthisweek.com/food-everything-you-need-to-know-about-mistura-2013-100774

Latina Lista.com (English):

http://latinalista.com/2013/09/international-foodies-turn-their-attention-to-perus-mistura

Peruvian newspaper El Comercio’s website, with Mistura 2013 news (español):

http://elcomercio.pe/gastronomia/?tag=mistura&ref=ecb

El Comercio’s aerial camera view of Mistura (español):

http://elcomercio.pe/gastronomia/1628820/noticia-feria-mistura-2013-desde-lente-dronevideo

Pimientos o Rocotos Rellenos / Peruvian Stuffed Peppers

I’ve never liked American stuffed peppers. The flavorless pepper, tinny meatloaf filling, and powdered cheese topping always made me think of a decrepit diner’s Monday night leftover special.

But these Peruvian stuffed peppers are vastly different. This recipe is based on Tony Custer’s, from The Art of Peruvian Cuisine; but I’ve altered it quite a bit, through trial and error. I use diced meat (over ground), and macerate the raisins in pisco. The peppers are par-cooked; this not only makes them fork-tender, but also allows the filling’s flavors to permeate the pepper during the baking process. The hot pepper’s fruity heat, combined with the sweetness of the pisco and raisins, create a rich meat filling that far surpasses its American Hamburger Helper counterpart – almost reminiscent of a cream-less moussaka. The Crema de Rocoto – which I’ve also altered by using pisco instead of wine – is a perfect complement. After all, what isn’t better with pisco?

I’ve used bell peppers here, rather than the traditional rocoto – the fiery red Peruvian pepper – which are very difficult to find fresh here in the U.S. You can use canned whole rocoto, if you can find it at your local Latin market; or use poblano, if you prefer. Rocotos are a little smaller than bell peppers; rocotos rellenos are sometimes used as an appetizer.

There are several steps (prepping the peppers and filling, stuffing, and baking); but the beauty of this dish is that you can make the filling (and even the peppers) a day ahead, chill, then stuff and bake the next day. I assure you that it’s worth the effort!

Pimientos o Rocotos Rellenos / Peruvian Stuffed Peppers
Servings Prep Time
4servings 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30minutes 1hour
Servings Prep Time
4servings 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30minutes 1hour
Ingredients
Peppers
  • 4medium bell peppers(or 8 rocoto peppers)
  • 4quarts water (2 times)
  • ¼cup sugar (2 times)
  • ¼cup apple cider vinegar (2 times)
  • ½tsp. kosher salt (2 times)
Meat
  • ¼cup vegetable oil
  • 1tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1tsp. black pepper
  • 1tsp. ground cumin
  • 1pound beef, bottom round, visible fat trimmed, small dice
  • 1pound pork loin, visible fat trimmed, small dice
Filling
  • 1large red onion, small dice
  • 5cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2medium plum tomatoes, small dice
  • cup tomato paste
  • ¼cup ají panca paste  
  • 2Tbsp. ají rocoto paste (*see below)    
  • 10each olives, Peruvian or kalamata, small dice  
  • 3each hard-boiled eggs, small dice  
  • ¼tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
  • ¼tsp. black pepper (to taste)
  • ¼tsp. ground cumin (to taste)
  • 3oz. raisins (2 small boxes)
  • ½cup pisco (as needed)
  • 8oz. cheese, shredded or crumbled (mozzarella, queso fresco, etc.)
Instructions
Eggs and Peppers
  1. Hard-boil the eggs in advance; shock in cold water, then dice when cool.  Cut the tops off the peppers, and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and veins; discard.
  2. If using rocoto or other hot pepper: heat water, sugar (1) and vinegar (1) to boiling; add peppers, and parboil for about 3-4 minutes. Change the water, then repeat the process once more, and boil for about 2 minutes. (This process will reduce both the heat and the bitterness of the pepper, while partially cooking the peppers so that they will be more tender after baking.) Remove the peppers and immediately shock them in ice water (or under cold running water) until cool. Drain upside down on paper towels or a wire rack.
  3. If using bell peppers: boil the water with the sugar and vinegar as above; but cook for only about 5 minutes / until just slightly tender. Do not change water. Remove; cool and drain as above.
Meat
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the meat; season with 1 tsp. each of salt, black pepper, and cumin. Mix well.
  3. Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a large sauté pan; add the meat, and sauté until browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve.
Filling
  1. If the pan is very dry, add 2 Tbsp. more vegetable oil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add onion, and sauté for 6-7 minutes (until very soft and golden).
  3. (After this point, avoid adding extra oil, if the mix is too dry; the filling will become greasy. Add a splash of water when needed.)
  4. Add garlic; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add tomato; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add tomato and pepper pastes; cook until darkened to a brick color, and the mix has a strong tomato aroma (3-4 minutes).
  7. Drain the raisins, but do not discard the pisco.
  8. Deglaze the pan with the pisco; when the alcohol scent evaporates (2-3 minutes), add the raisins, and mix well.
  9. Add the meat and mix well. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely.
Stuffing Peppers / Baking
  1. When both peppers and filling are cool, place peppers in a Pyrex dish. Stuff the peppers; pack firmly, but take care not to rip the peppers. Leave a small space on top for the cheese.
  2. Place a layer of cheese on top of the filling; press firmly, so the cheese is level with the top of the pepper.
  3. Place the reserved pepper top on the cheese as a lid. Cover with foil; “tent” the top, so the foil does not touch the peppers.
  4. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes / until the internal temperature reaches 160° F.
  5. (Optional) Remove the foil; broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese (watch closely).
  6. Remove from oven; serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Pepper Tips

* When working with rocoto (or any hot pepper), be sure to wear disposable gloves. Use a separate cutting board and knife, and wash them separately from your other dishes. Pepper oils remain on the skin, even after washing; and if you touch your eyes or sensitive mucous membranes – well, let’s just say you won’t forget to wear gloves the second time around. Especially if you wear contacts. (Think pepper spray.) Trust me on this one.

* If using rocoto peppers, do not add rocoto paste to the mix (unless you are a suicide wing alumnus, or have a breakup revenge meal planned).

Variations

If you wish to omit the alcohol, use half white grape juice and half water (with a touch of apple cider vinegar) to macerate the raisins.

You can substitute ground beef; but it will render out more fat. If so, ladle out all but about ¼ cup before sautéing the onions.

You can use mozzarella; Peruvian quesillo; or Mexican quest fresco - whichever you prefer.

For a vegetarian meal: omit the egg; and use your favorite ground meat substitute. Follow the recipe the same way, except brown the meat substitute only lightly; and add ¼ cup vegetable oil before sautéing the onions. (The baking time may also be shortened; check the temperature frequently.) Either omit the cheese topping, or add your own favorite cheese substitute. This looks like a good vegan queso fresco recipe! (I'd add it after baking, though.)

New posts soon… I promise!

Hello again… I’m sorry – I know I’ve been neglecting my blog! It’s been far too long since my last post. In my defense, it’s been an incredibly busy time:  we’re selling our house and planning a move; and I just started working full-time on my master’s degree in Food Studies. I underestimated how busy I would be! I’m simply a stressed-out mess, to be honest!

But I am working on new content, and I promise I will be posting again soon. Now that I have a school break, I will definitely have some new posts this month.

Many thanks to all the people who have checked out my blog, subscribed or emailed, and given me such positive feedback. If you have any suggestions, questions, comments, or requests for a particular culture or recipe, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Hasta pronto!

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding

My mother-in-law, Evelina Ramos Tremolada, is the most amazing Peruvian cook. She grew up on a coffee plantation in the town of Chanchamayo, in the central Andean highland province of Junín. Chanchamayo is an area where many Italian immigrants have settled for the last 100 years. Evelina’s own father, Félix Tremolada, was originally from Milan.

Mamá Evelina, teaching the next generation of Ramos chefs!

Evelina has also lived in Piura and Lima, and has traveled all over Peru. She can make any Peruvian specialty, from any region – including chifa, ceviche, Italian-Peruvian food unique to her family and town, traditional Andean dishes, and other national favorites – and every single one is absolutely delicious. When she comes to visit us, we are treated to a vast array of dishes: secos, lomo saltado, milanesa, rice dishes, empanadas, tamales, and – perhaps most anticipated of all – her arroz con leche. The four of us can polish off an entire batch in one evening. She has to make it two or three times per visit, just to keep up with demand!

Lucky me: my very generous and patient suegra Mamá Evelina has been sharing some of her most prized recipes with me! I have learned so much from just watching her cook; and I am so thrilled to reap the benefits of her extensive Peruvian culinary expertise. During this visit, she has walked me through several of her most famous dishes, and given me tons of hints and tips. Her arroz con leche recipe is just a fraction of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from her during this visit.

My first experience with (edible) rice pudding was when I was the pastry chef at Zinc. We made brûleéd coconut-jasmine rice pudding, Chef Denise Appel’s creation. Before then, I’d only seen rice pudding in massive bowls at the diner, or little plastic tubs in the supermarket; I tried it once, and found it gelatinous, gloppy, and cardboard-flavored. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it again. But Zinc’s creamy, fragrant jasmine rice, enriched with coconut milk and a burnt sugar crust, changed my mind in a split second.

Rice pudding is found in a vast majority of world cuisines, as rice became nearly universally widespread throughout the Old World in antiquity. Thought to have originated in India, rice pudding was originally used to aid digestion and thicken other dishes; it evolved largely into a sweet dessert or porridge. Rice was introduced to Europe through Arab-occupied Spain and Sicily; then exported to Latin America by the Spanish conquistadores, where it became an indispensable component of the food culture.

Most Latin American rice puddings include sweetened milk, cinnamon, and citrus or coconut. I’ve since tried several different rice pudding versions; and while I admit I’m slightly biased – and really love Zinc’s – this is truly my favorite. I think that the pisco-soaked raisins add such a delicious flavor that I would advise against omitting them – and I’m not a “raisin person.”

Muchas gracias, Mamá Evelina, for sharing your incredible food with us!

 

Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding
Servings Prep Time
8-10people 15minutes
Cook Time
1.25hours
Servings Prep Time
8-10people 15minutes
Cook Time
1.25hours
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2cups white rice,short grain
  • 3cups water(and extra, as needed)
  • 2each cinnamon sticks
  • 1each vanilla bean,split
  • 14 oz. evaporated milk(1 can)
  • 14oz. condensed milk(1 can, + up to one more can, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4cup granulated(to taste)
  • 1cup raisins
  • 1/2cup pisco(enough to cover raisins)
  • fewdashes Cinnamon, ground(for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Macerate the raisins in the pisco until very soft and plump (preferably overnight).
  2. Place the rice in a fine colander or sieve; rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.
  3. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the rice; stir until the water boils again. Do not cover.
  4. Split the vanilla bean down the middle, then scrape the pulp into the rice. Add the vanilla bean itself and cinnamon stick.
  5. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot. Cook until the rice is thoroughly cooked and very soft (about 20-30 minutes). If the rice is not tender after 30 minutes, add water (1/2 cup or so at a time), and cook until soft.
  6. Add one can each of evaporated and condensed milk, and the whole milk. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil again, then turn heat back down to low.
  7. Drain the raisins and add (if using). Reserve the pisco. Cook for another 15 minutes or so
  8. Taste, and add up to 1 more can (a few tablespoons at a time) of condensed milk until the desired sweetness is reached. If you would like it to be sweeter, you can add granulated sugar (to taste - a teaspoon or so at a time). Also, can may also add 1 to 2 Tbsps. of pisco to taste at this point, if desired.
  9. Cook for another 5-10 minutes / until mixture reaches the desired thickness (and the alcohol evaporates).
  10. Remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean; pour into serving bowl or airtight container. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Arroz con leche keeps refrigerated for up to 5 days - but I bet it won't last that long!

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

Chicharrón Peruano / Peruvian Braised and Fried Pork

Chicharrón (or chicharrones) is one of those ubiquitous Latin American foods: each country has its own version. Chicharrones originated in Andalucía, Spain, and thus are eaten in most Spanish-speaking countries; though many regional names and adaptations exist. Chicharrones are traditionally crispy fried cuts of pork; but meats and condiments vary by country.

In Peru, chicharrón is meat that has been boiled until the liquid evaporates and most of the fat renders out, at which point the meat fries in its own fat (basically a confit). Because of the fat content, the meat is almost always pork; but it can be made with beef, chicken or even fish (with some cooking modifications). The pork is usually boneless picnic shoulder or pork butt, cut into large chunks; but sometimes (in pricier eateries) chicharrones are made with pork ribs.

Frequently, chicharrones are made the previous night, then enjoyed for breakfast. Chicharrones can also be eaten as an appetizer or snack. When traveling between the coastal beaches and Lima proper, savvy tourists stop at the town of Lurin, where the street vendors and restaurants are famous for their huge chicharrón sandwiches – thick, crusty rolls stuffed with fried pork, sweet potato, and fresh salsa criolla, the mild onions bursting with the flavor of tangy Peruvian lime juice.

Here, I’ve made chicharrones with baby back ribs – it’s a convenient way to eat them, plus the bones add a rich flavor to the meat. Cueritos (lightly-fried pork rinds, eaten as a snack) are marinated in vinegar. My version combines the cueritos marinade with the confit technique – with very successful results, I think.

 

Chicharrón Peruano / Peruvian Braised and Fried Pork
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 1hour
Cook Time
2hours
Servings Prep Time
4-6people 1hour
Cook Time
2hours
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 to 3pounds baby back pork ribs              
  • 3quarts water(enough to cover pork)
  • 1Tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper, ground
  • 1Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1Tbsp. cumin, ground
  • 1Tbsp. olive oilextra virgin
  • 2cloves garlicsmashed
Instructions
Mise en Place:
  1. Gather / measure all ingredients.
Rub:
  1. Combine salt, pepper, cumin, salt, garlic and vinegar to create a rub. Apply rub to ribs; marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Braising:
  1. Place ribs in a heavy-bottomed pot; fill with just enough water to cover. Add salt. Bring to a boil; then simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add more water, if necessary.
Frying:
  1. Remove cover; allow water to evaporate. Pork will begin to begin to fry in its own fat. Fry until ribs are crispy on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
Serve:
  1. With fried sweet potato rounds and salsa criollo. Also, if desired, place pork, sweet potato, and salsa on a bun for an amazing chicharrón sandwich.

 

Copyright © 2011 la vida comida

Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

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