Learning to Cook Seafood in Chile (aka, A Cry for Help)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pulpo a la Plancha

Pulpo a la Plancha from Sur Patagónico in Santiago, Chile

I’ve often lamented the lack of delicious, fresh seafood in Buenos Aires. Despite the city’s location on the Atlantic coast, seafood’s not always a common sight on restaurant menus. Sure, there are some gems like Crizia where you can find oysters and fish beyond merluza, but they’re not the norm…and certainly not always budget-friendly. And buying seafood to make at home can also be a challenge. The fish markets in Barrio Chino are affordable, but quite the hike from San Telmo. El Delfín is a great pescadería within walking distance, but paying $100 pesos for two servings of salmon is a tad too rich for my blood.

That is why we were freaking out over all the frutas del mar during our recent roadtrip to the coast of Chile. We spent some time in the beach town Algarrobo, overdosing on seafood. I’m happy to report that every single restaurant we entered had a robust selection, and the pescaderías were plentiful and affordable.

Pelicans outside the pescadería in Algarrobo

Pelicans outside the pescadería in Algarrobo

When we’re on the road, we try to cook for ourselves as much as possible to keep things healthier and cost-effective. The thing is, cooking seafood is not my specialty. So these were experiments, which I’m happy to report turned out quite well.

We cooked our fish fillets on the grill, wrapped in foil with butter and plenty of lemon slices. They were super quick and easy, and crazy flavorful. Win!

Fish Fillets on the Grill

And then we got ambitious. We picked up some machas (razor clams), which we’d been spying everywhere and which made our little cabaña smell absolutely heinous for the rest of our stay. And of course, once we had them in our possession, we realized we had zero clue what to do with them. After searching the internet using the painfully slow and completely unreliable WiFi connection, there were conflicting reports. Some sites advised hours worth of scrubbing, rinsing, soaking and repeating. Some advised soaking in salted water, or water with cornmeal to draw out the sand. Still others advised that if shells were open, we should knock on them and if they don’t close, they’re bad. This was all way more labor and stress than I’d had planned for my vacation, thank you very much.

Machas - Razor Clams

I ended up scrubbing them and soaking them for an hour or so in salt water before deciding to just crack them open and rinse them out by hand, dammit. I’m sure this is some sort of seafood cooking no-no, but I’m really glad I did it. The sand was completely embedded throughout those bad boys, and we would have been crunching our way through dinner. After a good rinse, I put the clams on their half shells in foil, with crushed garlic, chopped onion, some butter, and beer. We wrapped them up so there was space for steam, but made sure they were shut tight, and cooked them over the grill for about 5 – 10 minutes. The one thing I was sure of was that overcooking these suckers would have resulted in a rubbery chewy mess that would make me regret the hours spent on preparation. Luckily, the timing was perfect, and the machas were a success.

Razor Clams on the Halfshell

My ultimate takeaway is, razor clams are a bit more labor intensive than they may be worth. They were good, but the sauce really made the difference. The clams themselves, for all their stinking when raw, didn’t have a very powerful flavor. And all that preparation works up an appetite that won’t be satiated by those tiny pieces of clam-flesh. Still, it was worth the effort for the experience. The moral of the story is this: I need your tips, suggestions and recipes for cooking seafood on the grill or open flames if we’re going to survive three months on the road.

Dining Out in Buenos Aires: Useful Words & Phrases

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Menus at Hierbabuena

For longer than I care to admit, I had a debilitating fear of ordering for myself at restaurants in Buenos Aires. My self-consciousness about my Spanish was overwhelming, prompting me to overthink every potential interaction and required response to the point that by the time the server arrived at the table I was completely tongue-tied.

Thankfully, those days are behind me, but the memory of my self-consciousness prompted me to put together this list of helpful words and phrases for beginners, so you can dine out in Buenos Aires with confidence.

First, some background to prepare you for the experience.

  • Many restaurants close down in the late afternoon. They may be open for lunch from noon until 4pm, then re-open at 8pm for dinner. Yes, that’s right my North American friends, be prepared to eat later than you’re used to.
  • Tipping 10% is customary. Many restaurants will charge a “cubierto” service charge – this is not the tip! It’s basically the cost of getting a table at their restaurant, or maybe the basket of bread? I’ve never really been clear on that.
  • Service is generally slow, if not otherwise atrocious. Don’t take it personally, it’s not you. Just sit back, relax, and try to enjoy the wait for your menu, your drinks, your food, and the bill. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time.
  • Many restaurants and cafés do not accept credit cards.

If all you can remember is “Vino, por favor!” you’re good to go. But just in case, here are some other words and phrases that may come in handy. This is by no means exhaustive, but covers the basics to get food in your belly. And keep in mind that some of the terms may be specific to Argentina or Rioplatense Spanish.

USEFUL PHRASES FOR DINING OUT IN BUENOS AIRES

“Excuse me…” =Perdón…”

“A table for two, please.” = “Una mesa para dos personas, por favor.

“What do you recommend?” = “Qué aconsejás?”

“I’d like to order ____.”“Te pido ___ por favor.” Literal translation is “I ask you for ____ please”, which I know sounds super awkward to us Yanks, but it is what it is.

“Can I order food to go?” = “Puedo pedir para llevar?

“Can I take the leftovers?” = “Puedo llevar las sobras?” But don’t be surprised if they look at you like you’re crazy or don’t have anything to package it in. This is not a common practice.

“The bill, please.” = “La cuenta, por favor.

“Are credit cards accepted?” = “Se aceptan tarjetas de crédito?”

Have no fear! Order with confidence.

USEFUL VOCABULARY WORDS FOR DINING OUT IN BUENOS AIRES

appetizersentradas

beer: una cerveza, un chopp (draft beer), un porrón (bottled beer), un litro (large liter bottle of beer to share…or not, no judgement)

the billla cuenta

chickenpollo, suprema (chicken breast)

coffeecafé, café con leche (coffee with milk)

dessertpostre

entréeplato principal

fish: pescado; the most common are merluza (hake), lenguado (sole), and salmón rosado or blanco (pink or white salmon)

forktenedor

hamjamón, jamón cocido (cooked, sliced ham), jamón crudo (dry-cured ham)

icehielo

juice: jugo

knifecuchillo

menula carta

ground pepperpimienta negra molida

napkin: servilleta

porkcerdo, bondiola (pork shoulder), chorizo (pork sausage)

potatoespapaspapas fritas (fries) puré de papas (mashed potatoes)

rice: arroz

saladensalada

saltsal

seafood: mariscos

servermozo/a

silverware/cutlery: cubiertos

sodagaseosa

soupsopa

spooncuchara

steak / meat: carne (check out this post from Wander Argentina for a list of all the various cuts); to request meat cooked rarevuelta y vuelta, medium rarejugoso, mediumal punto, well donebien cocido. Rest assured, it will arrive at the table more well done than you’d wanted.

sugarazúcar

tea

vegetarian: vegetariano

wateragua con gas (sparkling water), agua sin gas (still bottled water)

wine: vino, vino tinto (red wine), vino blanco (white wine), una copa de vino (a glass of wine), una botella de vino (a bottle of wine)

 

Parillada Para Dos, Por Favor

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Buenos Aires would be a tough town for a vegetarian.

I’ve encountered meat treats that I never knew existed, and many that I try not to think about too hard as I’m savoring (hello, morcilla). There’s no shortage of protein options, and for better or worse no…part, shall we say?…goes to waste.

One of my favorite meals, and a must for anyone traveling here, is ordering some version of parillada para dos: literally, grill for two (or four, or six, etc). A small charcoal grill is brought to your table sizzling with mouth-watering smells and piled with succulent cuts of beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), riñon (kidneys) and sweetbreads.

My favorite spot in the Capital to spend an afternoon digging into a mountain of carne is in Recoleta, at any of the parrillas on Junín along the walls of El Cementerio de la Recoleta. An odd preference, perhaps, but I had my first parrillada experience at Clark’s so I’ve got a soft spot for it. I also always look forward to hitting Tata Juancho along Ruta 11 between Mar del Plata and Chapadmalal. During weekend trips to the beach we religiously stop here to enjoy some cold beers, sizzling grilled meat, and perfectly crisped fries outside at one of their picnic tables, with Judah successfully scouring the premises for discarded scraps and being treated to her own chunks of meat fresh off the grill from the dog-loving grillmasters.

While the cuts of meat can vary in quality and appeal, for me, the beauty of the parrillada is the experience. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

TATA JUANCHO – Ruta 11 km 7,5 south of Mar del Plata

CLARK’S – Junín 1777 in Recoleta

Recipe: Cinnamon Biscuit Rolls

Tags

, , , , , ,

Cinnamon Biscuit Roll

I love any excuse to make a special breakfast. And by “special”, I basically mean anything outside of cereal and smoothies. I like to experiment with breakfast, but I have my old standbys. This cinnamon biscuit roll recipe is one of them. It’s a treat I’ve used to mark special occasions from my college graduation to Christmas. I like them because I usually have all of the necessary ingredients on hand (no yeast involved) and they’re surprisingly quick to whip together, but feel no less celebratory for their ease.

The original recipe was from my childhood neighbor, who was a home economics teacher at my high school and who provided me with some of my first and most memorable experimental recipes. Egg drop soup, polvorones, croissants and other global cuisine found its way into my recipe list thanks to Mrs. Brewer, and I still have the printouts from junior high to prove it.

These biscuit rolls are more flaky than the average cinnamon roll, but still follow the most important cinnamon roll guideline: the gooey center is the best part.

Cinnamon Biscuit Rolls

CINNAMON BISCUIT ROLLS

2 cups of flour

1 T. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/3 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk

3 T. softened butter

4 T. sugar

2 T. brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 – 3 tsp. milk

Preheat oven to 425° F. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture looks like crumbs. Add milk and stir until well-blended. On floured surface, knead 10 times. Roll dough into large rectangle shape until 1/4 inch thick. Spread dough with softened butter. Mix sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle over butter. Roll up dough jelly roll style, starting at one of the narrower ends. With a sharp knife, cut into slices about one inch thick. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes.

Place powdered sugar and milk in a small Ziplock bag and squeeze until mixed and smooth. Cut away a small corner of the bag, and drizzle over warm rolls.

Christmas Feast-Worthy Roast Duck

Tags

, , , , ,

Simple Roast Duck

Growing up, Christmas always meant amazing home-cooked food. From the early morning breakfast (Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs, FTW!) all the way to the array of post-dinner cookies, it was day of continuous culinary delights. I still feel the same way today. Christmas is just not the same for me without a delicious home-cooked spread.

Ham was the tradition when I was a kid. In recent years, I dabbled in turkey. This year, I’m thinking duck.

Until recently, I’d only ever had duck at restaurants, hearing that it’s difficult to prepare at home. I was misinformed. To be sure, you can make it as complicated as you like, but a simple roast duck is delicious without all that craziness involving hair dryers and boiling pots of water. There may be an extra step or two involved, but when you carve into that melt-in-your-mouth bird, you will feel it’s well worth it.

Carving Duck

I followed a video recipe from the New York Times. It was low-maintenance, and the outcome was crispy, flavorful and Christmas feast-worthy for sure.

SIMPLEST ROAST DUCK (original recipe from the New York Times)

4 – 6 pound duck

1 Tablespoon kosher salt 

Aromatics of your choice: orange zest, toasted coriander, ground pepper, rosemary, garlic, onions, shallots, etc.

Fingerling potatoes, for an easy side dish

24 to 48 hours before you plan to serve the duck, trim off excess fat and skin around neck and tail areas. (This can be saved to render duck fat later). With a paring knife, prick the duck skin all over, sliding the knife between the skin and the flesh. This will release the fat so it will render while the duck roasts, making the skin nice and crispy. You don’t want to directly prick the flesh, as that will dry it out.

Season the duck, inside and out, with kosher salt and whatever aromatics you’d like to use. I used chopped fresh rosemary, garlic, and ground pepper. Put the duck in the fridge, uncovered, so that the skin can dry out a bit for the next 24 – 48 hours.

When you’re ready to roast the duck, preheat the oven to 450° F. Add more seasonings to the cavity. I used crushed garlic, sprigs of rosemary, and onion slices. Place in roasting pan, breast side down. If desired, toss the fingerling potatoes in the pan along the sides, to cook in the duck fat. Roast for 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350° F, and roast for another 30 minutes. Flip the duck over in the roasting pan, so that it’s breast-side up. If desired, use a turkey baster to suction up some of the fat in the bottom of the pan, to prevent it from smoking. Put the duck back in the oven for another 1 – 2 hours.

To check for done-ness, you can wiggle the legs of the duck. They should feel loose. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should register at least 175° F.

Roast DuckWhatever you decide to serve for your holiday feast this year, we hope you enjoy! Felices Fiestas!

Choripan: My Favorite Street Meat

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Chorizos on the Parrilla

In the street meat hierarchy, hot dogs ain’t got nothin’ on choris.

Choripan & Quilmes

One of the first places Gaspar took me when I joined him in Buenos Aires was a tiny hole in the wall on Carlos Calvo between Defensa and Bolivar. The walls were plastered with aging photos and notes from satisfied celebrity and average-joe customers, and the place was full of old men with mullets, missing teeth, wandering eyes and dirty piropos. Perhaps not every woman would appreciate such a charming treat. But the smell of garlicky delicious chorizo sausages sizzling on the parrilla is enough to make anyone go a little loco. The chorizo was butterflied, served up on hunks of crusty bread and slathered with chimichurri. Throw in a litro of cerveza, and it was the date of my dreams.

At the risk of stating the obvious, chorizo + pan = choripan, a popular pork sausage sandwich. This chorizo shouldn’t be confused with its spicy Spanish counterpart. Argentine chorizo, like most local food, is far from spicy. Instead it is flavored with garlic and pimentón (Spanish paprika).

Butterflied Chorizo with Chimichurri

We indulge in this local drunk food regularly, rarely bothering with the drunkenness excuse because we are not ashamed to love it sober. During the Feria de San Telmo, the popular street fair on Defensa featuring block after block of antiques and wares from local artisans, several parking lots are converted into choripan-pushing parrillas. El Rey del Chori is one of my favorites. In addition to choripan, most any chori vendor also offers bondiola (a hunk of pork served on a roll) or vacíopan (a hunk of steak served on a roll), both of which are also quite good.

El Rey del ChoriIf you’re looking to try out choripan in San Telmo, these are my favorite spots. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the potential creepiness of my favorite hole-in-the-wall on Carlos Calvo, mmkay? You may or may not find yourself being smothered in kisses by an intoxicated elderly gentleman sporting a rat tail.

NAMELESS HOLE-IN-THE-WALL – Carlos Calvo between Defensa and Bolivar

EL REY DEL CHORI – Sundays on the corner of Defensa and México

Recipe: Caprese Frittata with Jamón Crudo

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Slice of Caprese Frittata with Jamón Crudo

Yep. More eggs, people. I warned you we eat them a lot!

While I’m sure this would make a lovely breakfast or brunch recipe, we’ve only ever eaten it for dinner. And to be honest, that’s usually because I’ve taken stock of what’s nearing the end of its lifespan in the fridge and realized we need to use up some eggs. But it’s hearty enough to make a filling (and quick) dinner, and it’s super tasty.

This is another recipe that lends itself to substitution. Whether you just happen to have red pepper or onion on hand, an overabundance of chives in the garden, or you bought an economy-sized bag of oregano that isn’t going to make the cut as you pack to leave the country (ahem), anything goes. Just do not skip those chunks of mozzarella cheese. DO NOT! Nor should you try to be lazy about it by adding grated mozzarella instead. Buy a block and cut up those chunks, you’ll thank me for it later when you’re savoring the soft gooey deliciousness of a pocket of melted cheese.

Frittata Closeup

CAPRESE FRITTATA WITH JAMÓN CRUDO

10 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tomato, diced
4 thin slices jamón crudo, bondiola, or prosciutto, chopped
6 ounces mozzarella, cubed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, Parmigiano, basil, salt and pepper. In an ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook over low-moderate heat until softened. Stir in the tomato and prosciutto until warm. Add the eggs. Cook without stirring until the eggs are beginning to set on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Poke the mozzarella into the eggs. Bake the frittata until just set, about 20 minutes. Shake the skillet over a burner on high heat until the frittata releases, 10 seconds. Invert the frittata onto a plate and let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Call it a “Going out of Buenos Aires” sale…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Desserts for Sale

Well folks, cue the dramatic music…

I’ve been putting off this post because I’ve been in denial. But it’s time to confess. Our time here in Buenos Aires is coming to a close. Without delving into the details, suffice it to say I’ve got incredibly mixed feelings. I’m going to miss it here on a level that is difficult to describe, but I’m also excited for whatever’s next…which is (gulp) actually still TBD. Yes, my inner “Katie Plan Ahead” is having panic attacks.

What I do know is in January, nos vamos, and we’ll be driving around the continent for a few months and figuring out what’s next. I’ll continue to document our food adventures, whether we’re eating guinea pig in Peru, grilling shark steaks in Uruguay, or piling up an asado over the campfire in Chile. In the meantime, I intend to soak in Buenos Aires to the very last drop.

So! For those of you in Capital Federal, one month left to order homemade Tres Leches, Fruit Pizza, Pumpkin Rolls, Chocolate Cakes….and the list goes on. I’m currently taking orders for the holidays, so let a girl know! Check out the Orders/Pedidos page for all the details on products and prices in English and español.

*sigh*

Tell it, Carlos.

Anuva: Wine Tasting in Buenos Aires

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vino

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When moving to Argentina, I anticipated a bounty of two of my favorite things: steak and wine. I haven’t been disappointed. While the wine in Buenos Aires is plentiful and affordable, the area with the most well-known reputation for serious wine-lovers is Mendoza. Naturally, we went there as soon as possible, and loved it. The scenery is breathtaking, and the wine tours are (literally) intoxicating. I do recommend it.

But Mendoza is far. Getting there can be time-consuming and pricey. And while touring the vineyards and bodegas was fascinating, the process of actually tasting and appreciating the wine didn’t seem to be a big focus on our tour. I’m not sure we did much more than swirl and ingest. And much more of the latter than the former.

Enter, Buenos Aires’s own Anuva Wines. Anuva is essentially a wine club, dedicated to hand sourcing limited production wines from South America. They host intimate wine tasting events in Palermo, introducing visitors to high-quality wines from small wineries, many of which barely export and are extremely limited in production.

Their wine tastings are offered at a variety of days and times, and we opted for a 2pm Saturday tasting because we day-drink like that. We were lucky enough to book a time with Cara as our host, who we’d first met over a delightful dinner at NOLA Buenos Aires. She knows her stuff. And she provides detailed background on wine regions, characteristics, and processes in a simple and approachable way, without making you feel at all ashamed for previously viewing Two Buck Chuck as a special occasion wine.

Each wine was truly unique, and came with a food pairing to complement and enhance the flavors.

Champagne and a toast point with blue cheese, sour cream, arugula and walnut

Hom Espumante, an extra brut sparkling wine, was accompanied by a toast point with blue cheese, sour cream, arugula and walnut.

Torrontés and strawberry and peach sorbet from Persicco

Carinae Torrontés paired with strawberry and peach sorbet from Persicco

Salame & Cheeses

Mairena Bonarda served with spicy salame and cheese picadas

Malbec and an empanada

San Gimignano Malbec paired with a Salteña-style empanada

Blend and chocolate amargo from Fénix

Caluna Blend (malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot) served with chocolate amargo from Fénix

As you can see, while the emphasis isn’t necessarily getting bien pedo, there is plenty of vino to be had and you’ll not be left wanting for heavier pours. By the end of the afternoon we were feeling pleasantly chatty, yet 100% functional without the threat of a hangover by late evening. The perfect balance. And I learned a LOT. The highlight for me was getting more background on Torrontés and Bonarda, two wines I’d been completely unfamiliar with before arriving in Argentina and which I now plug shamelessly to whomever will listen.

Overall, a great experience, and one I’d highly recommend for residents and tourists alike.

ANUVA WINES – visit their website for the details on the wine store, wine club and booking wine tastings.

Recipe: Carnitas

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Carnitas

I was introduced to the glory of carnitas years ago, when friends in Chicago invited us over for “Carnitas Night” and we stuffed ourselves with guacamole, black bean dip, tres leches, margaritas and the star of the show:  tender, flavorful slow-roasted pork. I was hooked. (Thanks, Amy and Matt!)

But with so many recipes and preparation recommendations floating around, it took me a while to perfect my favorite version of the dish. After lots of searching and taste testing, David Lebovitz’s carnitas recipe stood head and shoulders above the rest. This version is adapted from his, with the spice factor kicked up a notch and as always, heavier on the garlic.

Carnitas2

What I love about carnitas is its simplicity. The intensity of the flavor belies the fact that it’s so easy to prepare. And it feeds a crowd, just add some plantain chips and guacamole to round out the party. I like to serve the meat with corn tortillas and a simple avocado pico de gallo, but feel free to add whatever toppings you like: shredded cheese or queso fresco, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

Carnitas3

CARNITAS (adapted from recipe by David Lebovitz)

4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder (bondiola) or pork butt, cut into 5-inch chunks and trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon canola or neutral vegetable oil
water
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon chile powder
dried hot peppers, to taste
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate overnight. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat.) Heat the oil in a roasting pan or oven-safe pot set on the stovetop. I use my Le Creuset French oven. Cook the pieces of pork in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around.

Once all the pork is browned, remove it from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.

Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powder, dried chilies, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish (but I love them, mmmm). Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.