Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week #2: Nicaragua

Courtesy of Wikipedia
 Hello all!  This week we're going south of the south of the border, pretty darn close to the isthmus (I just wanted to say isthmus) to the largest country in Central America...Nicaragua!

According to Wikipedia, here's what we can expect from this week's cuisine:
"The Cuisine of Nicaragua is a mixture of criollo food and dishes of pre-Columbian origin. The Spaniards found that the Creole people had incorporated local foods available in the area into their cuisine.[143] Traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast; while the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around local fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast cuisine makes use of seafood and the coconut."
Sounds good to me!

So first up, here are a few recipes from my good friend Heidi.  I think I'm just going to make a huge batch of rice every other night and just eat it with every meal lol. 

My favorite is the way they do rice. Super simple and easy but really tasty.

I was taught to just use white rice, doesn't need to be anything fancy. This is for 1 cup of uncooked rice so if you want to make more or less you can adjust.

Cut up 1 medium onion into large chunks. Into eigth's would work fine. Cut a large green pepper in to big pieces as well.

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a saucepan and add onion and green pepper. Let them soften a bit but don't cook all the way.

Next, add your rice. Saute rice in the butter until it gets a little bit of color. Be careful not to burn it though.

Add water (2 cups water to 1 cup rice) and cook for 15 to 20 minutes (or according to rice directions).

Some people remove the onions and peppers from the rice and use them for another dish. I like them in the rice so I usually just leave them.

Pollo Encebolado

2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (more flavor if you use bone-in pieces)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil
3 medium onions, sliced thinly (leave as rings, more traditional)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup White wine
1 Bay leaf

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large saute pan or pot. Over medium-high heat brown chicken pieces in hot oil and remove to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion pieces to the same pot. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until onions cook down and just begin to brown.

Increase heat to medium-high, add chicken pieces back to pot, add the stock, wine, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Chicken should be cooked through and tender.

Serve with rice.
I have ramekins that I've never actually used, so this next one I'm very excited to try:

* Sugar -- 1 cup
* Water -- 1/4 cup
* Eggs, beaten -- 4
* Sweetened, condensed milk -- 1 (14-ounce) can
* Whole milk or water -- 2 cups
* Vanilla -- 1/2 teaspoon
* Sugar -- 1/2 cup


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the 1 cup sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Place over medium heat and boil the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to turn a honey brown, around 10-15 minutes.
2. Remove the caramelized sugar from heat and pour into a 9-inch cake pan or in equal amounts into each of 6 individual ramekins, swirling to coat the bottom. You may not need all the sugar. Place the cake pan or ramekins in a baking pan large enough to hold them without touching.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, condensed milk, whole milk or water, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Pour into the cake pan or into each of the ramekins.
4. Fill the baking pan with enough warm water to come about 2/3 of the way up sides of the containers. Place in the oven and cook until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean, anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour. Do not overcook your flan or it may curdle.
5. Remove the custard(s) from the water bath and chill well. Run a knife around the edges of the custard, invert over a serving dish and serve.

Steak Churrasco

Beef Tenderloin (1 1/2 lbs or so)
Large bunch of fresh parsley
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp water

Slice beef into about 4 strips and place between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound eat piece to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin will work as well.
Place in a baking dish or other container for marinating.

To make chimichurri; (this process is a heck of a lot easier with a food processor, can even use a blender in you want) Process parsley and garlic until finely chopped. Add oil, water, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a thick sauce. Place half of the sauce in a bowl to serve later and pour the other half over the beef. Cover and refrigerate to marinate for about 30 minutes. Turning frequently.

Grill beef (grill pan on the stove works fine too) on high for one to 2 minutes on each side for medium rare. Serve with remaining chimichurri sauce. Serve with rice and fried plantains.

Fried Plantains

Heat oil in a skillet or deep fryer.
Slice plantains into thin, lengthwise pieces.
Fry in small batches for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Sprinkle with salt or garlic, if desired.

A few more I'm going to try:

Last week I found it was actually easier to go grocery shopping on my way home from work, with a short list of items I needed for that night's meal. I think I'm going to go with that plan of attack this week as well, so I'm not going to post a shopping list...sorry!  :-) 

I think tonight will be the chicken and rice...and if I have time, maybe I'll even get brave and try the flan.  If I can find plantains, maybe I'll make those for dessert too.  My mouth is watering already.  :-)

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