Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Hello readers! Our Fourth of July week was a whirlwind of fun, resulting in 4 parties, 2-3 house guests, and minimal blogging. We kicked off the week with a dinner party for some new friends, capped it off with a celebration at Caseus, and filled the rest of the week with baking and cooking galore!

Our Fourth of July menu included the following:

  • Lechon roasted on the grill
  • Thai-inspired summer slaw
  • Grilled bread
  • Corn on the cob
  • Strawberry-blueberry pie
Lechon is a traditional pork dish in Spain and in former Spanish colonial possessions (including Venezuela). It’s typically a whole suckling pig roasted over charcoal for several hours, until it’s deliciously tender and smoky. Somehow, we couldn’t find a whole pig to buy (darn you, New Haven!) so we settled for a shoulder instead.
10-lb. pork shoulder, lean (for 15 people, with leftovers)
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
2 onions, sliced thinly
dry rub, enough to cover surface of pork
Advance preparation: 24 hours before cooking, rub the pork liberally with your favorite dry rub. Ours was a homemade concoction of paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, cracked black pepper, salt, and coffee. Wrap tightly and refrigerate. (If you fail to wrap tightly, your refrigerator may smell like pork for days!)
Day of: Light up the grill by placing hot coals on one side only of the grill. Place pork, onions, jalapeno in a grill-safe container. We used a disposable aluminum foil tray. Cover pork with two sheets of foil, leaving a bit of a crack at the top. The foil ensures that the pork will not dry out in its 8-hour sauna session, and the crack at the top ensures a wonderfully smoky flavor to circulate.  Place the pork on the other side of the grill where there are no coals. This ensures that the pork will cook with indirect heat. Do something else for the next eight hours and you might need to add more coals after 4 hours. Return, and remove pork from grill. Let it sit for one hour before serving. Pull apart gently with two forks.

Thai-Inspired Summer Slaw

Half head of red cabbage, shredded finely (on mandoline preferred)
Half head of green cabbage, shredded finely
6 scallions, diced
Fish sauce, to taste
Sesame oil, to taste
Habanero pepper, chopped

Advance preparation: Once the cabbage has been shredded, place in a large bowl and salt heavily. Refrigerate for 24 hours at least. This steps breaks down the toughness and bitterness of the cabbage.

Day of: Squeeze the excess water out of the shredded cabbage. There should be a pool of salted water sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Discard water. The cabbage should be nicely tender and slightly salty. Add scallions and habenero pepper, and mix well. Add fish sauce and sesame oil to taste, and mix well. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry-Blueberry Pie with Mark Bittman’s Crust

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t sugar
1/2 c butter, cold
3 T ice water, plus more as needed
3 c berries
1 T cornstarch
2 T sugar

Advance preparation: The pie crust can be prepared up to two days before baking. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the container of a food processor; pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.

Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gradually gather the mixture into a ball; if the mixture seems dry, add another ½ tablespoon ice water. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a small disk, and freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. (You can also refrigerate the dough for a day or two, or freeze it almost indefinitely.)

Day of:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Ensconce the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. (If the dough seems very sticky at first, add flour liberally; but if it becomes sticky only after you roll it for a few minutes, return it to the refrigerator for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Continue to roll, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, rotating the dough occasionally, and turning it over once or twice during the process. (Use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place.) When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter (it will be less than ¼-inch thick), place your pie plate upside down over it to check the size.

Move the dough into the pie pan by removing the first sheet of plastic wrap. Place the pie pan upside down on the uncovered side of the dough. Slide your hand underneath the pie crust, then flip both the pan and the dough right side up. Remove the second sheet of plastic wrap. When the dough is in the plate, press it firmly into the bottom and sides.. Trim the excess dough to about ½ inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes.

Toss berries in cornstarch and sugar until well mixed. Fill pie with berries. Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


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Last December, a mysterious bag of fine, white organic powder was the cause of much scrutiny at multiple airport security spots en route to Taiwan. This Harina PAN was part of a cultural offering of black beans and arepas to my decidedly Chinese family from my part-Venezuelan husband.

Arepas are the “national dish” of Venezuela–at least one of them–although other countries have their versions as well.  Unlike the arepas sold on the street at most fairs or zoos (maybe you’ve seen “mozarepas”) Venezuelan arepas are savory, biscuit-like cornmeal patties that can be filled with pretty much anything. The best way to stuff them is to cut a small pouch and treat them more like a pita than a sandwich, but that is entirely just a suggestion.  Some people in this household buck tradition and eat “open-faced arepa sandwiches” (like the French). Most recently, we made ours with an assortment of leftovers in an effort to clear out the fridge — shredded red cabbage, cooked black beans, pollo frit0 (which is really just a knock-off of vaca frita with chicken substituted for beef).

(Speaking of pollo frito, life in the suburbs has brought us the wonders of Costco! The rotisserie chicken at Costco is fantastic, primarily because the chicken can be carved and the bones used for stock. And though it does make an excellent stock, we often find ourselves struggling to use up the actual chicken — my imagination runs wild with soup but is severely limited when it comes to poultry.  Thankfully, our newfound love for bread-making has given us ample opportunity for yummy sandwiches.)

Enough filler; on to the recipe.


1 part harina PAN (yellow or white will do–it’s precooked, well-ground, corn meal) and just over 1 part warm water.  1 cup of harina PAN will make two large or three medium sized arepas.

a tsp of salt for roughly every cup of PAN.  this is totally an approximation; I’ve never–ever–measured before.

Mix salt and PAN and then add water, stirring until everything is consistent.  You should have a dough that is not too wet, that definitely coheres well, but that you can manage without it sticking.  And then, as my Bita advises, let the dough sit for a while.  then take balls of dough, roll them, compress them–whatever you need to do to get them into one cohesive unit–and then press them a little flat, like in the picture.  How big?  It’s up to you really.  2-3″ diameter should be your goal, but it’s up to you.  Just try to keep everything the same size for even cooking.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and on the stove start heating a well-oiled pan over medium-high heat.  Place arepas in the pan to start frying and flip after about 5-7 minutes.  The goal is to start cooking them and to get a nice crust on the outside (being liberal with the oil will help here).  When both sides have cooked, transfer to the oven to finish cooking.  about 30 minutes later they will be done when they sound hollow when you hit them.


The easiest filling: a slice of cheese.  I prefer a salty, harder cheese, but, really, you can’t go wrong with cheese.  Slightly more involved: black beans.  Cook them with onion, garlic, and cumin–and maybe a few other things…for another post–and you’ve got a delicious filling.  Although, I’m sure my wife wants me to write about what we actually cooked…

We sliced and then sauteed half a red cabbage, carmelized a large onion, and added some leftover black beans, maybe a cup worth.  Most importantly, we fried the chicken (maybe a cup and a half) in a hot pan with a shallow covering of oil.  The chicken should be shredded or in thin chunks, and when you fry it DON’T MOVE IT AROUND.  Let is sit and get crispy, and then flip it once and let it get crispy again.  Mix in with the vegetables and beans, squeeze some lime juice, and serve.  Cilantro is an excellent way to finish it all off.

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