Eat Like a Viking

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Much of the history surrounding the origin of the Danish aebleskive is shrouded in mystery—and to some, in ancient Scandinavian folklore. Legend has it that during the days of the Vikings, after the warriors returned home, hit hard in battle (many poorly wounded and hungry) mixed together flour with milk, and cooked the batter inside the hollows of their iron shields and horned helmets (which, too, were dented and broken) over an open fire.

The result: A delicious golf ball-shaped cake, golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Today, aebleskiver (plural) which roughly translates to “sliced apples” are enjoyed by just about anyone in every corner of the world. Topped simply with powdered sugar, filled with delicious lingonberry jam, or dipped in a creamy lemon curd—the possibilities with these apple-shaped delights are endless. For my first solo (and best!) attempt at aebleskiver-making (I can briefly remember a short lesson on making them in culinary school), I decided to pair a simple aebleskive recipe with an of-the-moment curd. While we’re still in a weird transitional season from late-fall to winter fruits, I made a delicious pomegranate-lemon curd that pairs perfectly with this recipe.

Cooking with a special aebleskiver pan makes this recipe so much easier, but I used a mini muffin pan, and it worked out PERFECTLY.

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Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

Yields 16
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup half and half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Aebleskiver pan (found in select cooking supply stores, like Sur La Table)
or, use a mini muffin pan (which I did.)

METHOD
Whisk together the AP flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just-combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, don’t overmix, as it should be slightly lumpy.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form,  about 5 minutes. Then fold in the whipped egg whites into the lumpy batter.

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If you have an aebleskiver pan, place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter evenly to each well of the mold, and once the butter starts to bubble, add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking till the tops are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate covered with foil to retain heat. Repeat steps till the rest of the pancake batter is used.

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If you DON’T have an aebleskiver pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a mini muffin pan into the oven to heat up. Once your oven is up to temperature, remove the muffin pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into each mold well, then add about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pancake batter into each well. Place into the oven and allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Once you see that the bottoms are golden, remove from the oven and flip each pancake onto the other side.

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Raise your oven’s temperature to 425 degrees, and once heated up, place the aebleskivers back into the oven to finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes, till golden brown. Once done, immediately transfer the cooked aebleskiver to a plate covered with foil to retain heat, and repeat the steps till the rest of the batter is used.

Garnish with Pomegranate-lemon curd. (Recipe here)

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Curd UP!

Pomegranate-Lemon Curd
Yields about 2 cups
Recipe Slightly Adapted from Baking A Moment

INGREDIENTS
1/8 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pomegranate, juiced
3/4 cup water
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

METHOD
Whisk together the first five ingredients into a small bowl till smooth.

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Place the juice from the pomegranate, water and the lemon juice in a pot over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer.

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Slowly pour in about a 1/4 cup of the heated juices into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Add another 1/2 cup of the hot liquid, whisking till the egg mixture is warm to the touch.

Carefully pour in the tempered egg mixture into the pot with the remaining hot liquid, whisking constantly. Cook the mixture gently, stirring constantly to avoid lumps and adjusting the heat temperature accordingly.

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Whisk in the cold butter and lemon zest, then transfer the mixture into a bowl to cool.

Serves well as a filling for cake or this Aebleskiver recipe.

Bao Down

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Gua Bao
is a Taiwanese street food, comprised of a steamed bun, braised meat, and other fillings. I was first introduced to these teeny-tiny bites of delight while I worked for a food truck in San Francisco. Every weekend our truck met with other food trucks at Fort Mason hosted by Off the Grid, a Bay Area-based food and music event planner of sorts, bringing together only the best local food trucks at different venues weekly throughout the Bay. Off the Grid events were super fun to work because we were always busy and we got to meet some really awesome and talented people in the food truck community. One of my favorite trucks that I became a huge fan of was Chairman Bao, food truck that specialized in gua bao. A light and fluffy steamed bun with a tender, crisp slice of pork belly, with a nicely pickled crunch of daikon. So many excellent flavors all in one bite. You can’t help but want more.

This week I put my own spin on gua bao with braised pork belly, sweet pickled papaya and spicy pickled cucumbers.

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FOR THE BUNS
Recipe slightly adapted from Food52
Yields 16

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 1/8 cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup reserved pork fat, room temperature (you can use bacon or pork belly fat)

METHOD
Set up a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and water together and mix just to incorporate to activate the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add in the flour, sugar, milk powder, Kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on low for about 10 minutes. After the mixing cycle, your dough should be gathered into a ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl, wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and allow the dough to rest for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Once the dough has rested and risen, transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the ball in 2 equal-sized pieces.

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Then divide each half into 4 equal-sized pieces, making 8.

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Roll each piece into mini logs, then cut each log in half, making 16 pieces total.

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Each piece should weigh about 25 grams each and be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Then roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Loosely wrap the sheet tray with plastic wrap and allow to rise for a half-hour.

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After the buns have rested, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush each bun lightly with oil, and lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold it over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and place it onto a sheet tray, allow all the rolled out buns to rest for another 45 minutes.

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Set up a steamer on top of your stove. Steam your buns in batches so the steamer isn’t overcrowded, and steam them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove each bun and place on a sheet tray to cool.

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The steamed buns can be used immediately or kept frozen in Zip-Lock bags for up to 2 months. Reheat the frozen buns on a stove top steamer for about 3 minutes, or until soft and warmed all the way through.

FOR THE FILLING
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound slab skin-on pork belly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stub ginger, peeled and minced
3 each star anise
2 each Thai chili
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Asian rice wine
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 cups water

METHOD
Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot, place the pork belly into the pan and allow to sear for 5 minutes (or until light golden brown) before turning the belly onto the other side. Allow to sear for another 5 minutes, flipping the belly till all sides are seared nicely.

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Remove the belly and place onto a plate. Lower the heat to medium, then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chilis. Toss for 2 minutes. Then add the star anise and brown sugar. Stir for a minute then deglaze with the wine. Stir till the sugar is melted.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Return the belly to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Carefully cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow to braise for at least 1 hour. Check the belly for tenderness after 1 hour. Cook till fork tender.

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FOR THE PICKLES

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Yields 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Thai chili, julienned
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

METHOD
Heat the vinegar, sugar, chili, salt, pepper flake and sesame seeds in a small pan till boiling. Place the sliced cucumbers in a Mason jar or deli cup, then pour the boiling brine into the jar then cover. Allow to sit in room temperature for an hour, then keep in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickled Papaya
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 small green papaya, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

METHOD
Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine into a Mason jar or deli cup with the papaya. Cover tightly and allow to sit in room temperature for 1 hour. Then keep in the refrigerator.

Pickles can be used once cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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TO ASSEMBLE
16 steamed buns
braised pork belly, sliced into 16 pieces
hoisin sauce
spicy pickled cucumbers
sweet pickled papaya
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

METHOD
Place a slice of the pork belly into the bun, smear a little hoisin sauce on the pork. Put 3-6 cucumber slices and about 3 tablespoons of papaya on top of the pork. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

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Sir Mix-Mix A-Lot

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My first memory of devouring halo-halo (pronounced hollow-hollow, and Tagalog for “mix-mix”) was at an early age at Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in L.A. close to where I grew up. (The restaurant is luckily still around, but it’s now called Crispy House, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in L.A.) The food was soooo good; the best Filipino food I’ve ever had–crispy pata (fried pork belly), Shanghai lumpiang (Chinese-style deep-fried egg rolls), chicken adobo (braised chicken in herbs, vinegar and soy sauce), pancit bihon (stir-fried rice noodles), and of course, the house special halo-halo, a shaved ice/ice cream dessert with milk, Spanish flan, and various beans. Yes, beans. As in, frijoles.

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

Anthony Bourdain tried it for the first time on his show, Parts Unknown, and described it as, “It makes no goddam sense at all; I like it,”  and “it’s oddly beautiful.”

The standout part of halo-halo is the bright purple scoop of ice cream gracing the top of the ice-cold glass, called ube, a naturally-hued purple yam. Yes, yam. Yes, it’s purple. And it’s delicious.

Alone the beans, milk, ice cream, flan, shaved ice, and chunks of jackfruit and various jellies, are odd, but once mix-mixed, the blend of savory, sweet, creamy, caramel and sometimes tangy work perfectly well together. It actually works.

The key to enjoying halo-halo to its fullest is doing exactly what its name asks: mix! And mix! Use a long spoon to mix all the layers of ingredients together.

I haven’t had legit halo-halo in a few years, but during a recent trip to the local Asian market, I stumbled upon a quart of Magnolia’s Ube ice cream. I quickly added it to my basket and enjoyed it at home. I wanted to recreate the halo-halo that reminds me of the ones I had at Magic Wok with my family. Here’s my take on Filipino halo-halo, with homemade ube ice cream and Spanish-style flan!

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FOR THE ICE CREAM

Ube Ice Cream
Yields about 2 quarts
Recipe slightly adapted from Rot In Rice

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces (1 package) ube, grated purple yam*
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
(*Cook’s Note: Ube/grated purple yam can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
If your ube is uncooked (as most are in the package) steam it in a double boiler for about 20-30 minutes.

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Carefully remove the cooked ube and mash it with a fork.

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In a large sauce pot, heat the sugar and milks over medium-low heat till just-summering. Add in the mashed ube and mix till completely incorporated.

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Place the mixture into a blender or stick blender and purée till smooth. Mix in the heavy cream and salt.

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Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grainy bits. Discard those bits. Place the ice cream base into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

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Place the ice cream base into your ice cream maker bowl, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

FOR ASSEMBLING THE HALO-HALO

Halo-Halo
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
Spanish flan (recipe HERE)
Ube ice cream (recipe above)
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups crushed or shaved ice
1 jar Halo-Halo mix*
(Cook’s Note: Halo-Halo mix can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
Gather 4 sundae or chalice glasses (I used a tulip-style one). Add a scoop of the ice in each, then add a layer of the halo-halo mix.

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Layer on another scoop of ice and halo-halo mix after that till you reach about 1/3 to the rim.

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Cut the flan into quarters and place a wedge on the top of each glass with 1-2 scoops of ube ice cream. Top with enough evaporated milk to cover a 1/4 to the rim.

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General Custard

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This Spanish-style flan recipe is super easy to make. I love using this recipe to accompany this Filipino Halo-Halo dessert recipe.

Spanish Flan
Serves 4
Recipe slightly adapted from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
kettle of boiling water

METHOD
Preheat your own to 350 degrees F. Place your ramekins (or whatever vessel you’ll be cooking your flans in) into the oven on a sheet tray to warm up.

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Heat a medium-sized sauce pan to medium-low, then add the sugar until it’s caramelized and brown.

While your sugar heats up, mix together the eggs and milks in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

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When the sugar becomes syrupy, turn off the heat and immediately pour into your warming ramekins.

(Cook’s Note: Heating the ramekins beforehand helps the caramel maintain its heat and not harden immediately.)

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Carefully pour the custard mixture into the filled ramekins. Then place the ramekins into a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Fill the pan with the boiling water about 1-inch from the base of the ramekin. Cover with foil and place into the oven for 40 minutes.

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Check for doneness, then allow to cool completely. When serving, completely trace the outside of the flan with a knife and then invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

The Little Lowboy That Could

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I’ve been really getting into the whole DIY-decor movement lately, thanks to my amazing interior designer friend, Mel, who I work design jobs with frequently.

A few weeks ago while I was working with Mel, we were driving back from a shopping venture for a client, and I complained how I have been looking arduously for the perfect vintage-style lowboy dresser to no avail. And then, two blocks later, Mel pointed to the street, “Look!” and there it was, like the heavens had heard my prayers–an abandoned lowboy dresser.

We immediately pulled the truck over. And then I exclaimed,
“And I want 100-million dollars and a hot young boyfriend!”

(Can’t knock a girl for trying, eh?)

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The dresser, clearly in bad shape, was an icky deep grape purple color with dated drawer pulls and scratches all over. The top of the dresser was warped and disconnected from the rest of the piece, and the inside of the drawers were lined with a 1960s-style floral print. But what made the dresser so beautiful to us was the base; it was clearly one-of-a-kind.

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It had beautiful bones and I wanted to take it home. At the risk of sounding cliché: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

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So Mel and I loaded up her truck (thank god she has a truck!) and headed to my apartment to drop of my little orphan lowboy.

A few days later, I headed to the hardware store and picked up some supplies: a roller, angled paintbrush, tinted primer, a water-based semi-gloss paint from Benjamin Moore (Caribbean Azure) and some plastic floor linings in case of spillage. My friend, Chris let me borrow his power-sander, so I immediately got to work on sanding down the entire dresser.

After removing most of the paint and sanding out the rough edges, I wiped off the excess paint residue bits and put on a coat of the tinted primer. (My paint guy and I decided it was the best bet for me to achieve the color I wanted, as the former base color was very dark.)

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I let the primer dry overnight and then got to work on putting on the base coat. I used the roller mostly, and touched up the hard-to-reach spots with the angled paintbrush. I allowed the paint to dry overnight before adding the second coat. After painting on the second (and luckily, final!) coat, I allowed it to dry one more night.

After Mel’s recommendation, I headed down to Hippo Hardware, this super rad three-story building that houses hundreds of vintage hardware pieces: from drawer pulls, vintage doorknobs, porcelain bathtubs, and lighting fixtures. (If you didn’t already know: Hippo Hardware is also the site of the infamous scene in the Jackass movie where Dave England goes inside the store and takes a dump in one of the vintage toilets on display.)

Anyway, the store has an entire section with drawers and boxes full of vintage drawer pulls. I knew I wanted them gold ’cause how well the blue and gold would look together. After scouring through every box of pulls they had, I finally found 13 gold, mid-century, hexagon-shaped pulls. They were GORGEOUS! Finding the same type of drawer pull wasn’t an easy task, but I was thrilled when I found these. I needed two more pulls and found a pair of contrasting yet cute gold pieces.

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I then headed to Target to grab some cleaning supplies, wood surface cleaner, and snagged a roll of Con-Tact paper to line the insides of the drawers. The print I found was adorable, and contrasted well with the color of the dresser.

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After thoroughly cleaning the inside of the dresser, the drawers, and lining the insides of the drawers, I put in the new drawer pulls. It turned out PERFECTLY. I’m so happy with the result, and the final price tag: $104! Not too shabby for a vintage dresser found on the side of the road, huh?

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Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella

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I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)

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I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.

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My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!

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Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)

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METHOD
In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.

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Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.

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In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.

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After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.

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Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.

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(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.

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Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.

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While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”

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Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.

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(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)

Recreating: Pica Pica’s Arepas

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The Mexican Gordita.

The El Salvadorian Pupusa.

The Venezuelan and Colombian Arepa.

Each are comprised of a corn flour-batter mix, shaped into a disc, fried in oil and stuffed with various fillings.

They all sound strikingly similar, but most will argue, are quite different. (Just ask a Venezuelan how their arepas compare to that of a Colombian’s, or vise-versa, and you will get strong disagreements from each party.)

While in the past I’ve enjoyed a Gordita or two or 10, and have had quite the experience being a human pupusería, I hadn’t stumbled upon Arepas until my recent trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. My awesome, longtime friend  and hostess Amber, took me to this amazing Venezuelan restaurant in the Mission called Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen. It is FAN (freaking!) TASTIC. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious the sweet corn, cake-like arepas, filled with hearty shredded beef pabellón, fried plantains, black bean purée and queso fresco were. I was in Arepa heaven. If such a heaven exists, I was definitely in it.

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The sweetness of the yellow corn viuda (Spanish for “widow” referring to an unfilled arepa) is most excellent on its own, but when paired with the various fillings, it becomes this flavor explosion in your mouth–the sweetness from the viuda and plantain, the salty from the pabellón and queso fresco and the gentle acidity from the guasacaca. Every inch of your tastebuds are satisfied, wanting more and not knowing when, (or how) to stop.

I had long (actually not quite that long, more like a week after) daydreamed of my rather virginal Arepa experience, wanting more. So I made my best attempt at recreating these delicate bellezas del cielo.

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Venezuelan-Style Arepas
Serves 3-6
Arepa dough recipe slightly adapted from Mommyhood’s Diary blog

FOR THE AREPAS (VIUDAS)
4 cups of water, room temperature
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups Harina P.A.N (precooked white corn meal. Look for the “P.A.N” as it’s very different from the harina used in pupusas and gorditas.)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

METHOD
In a medium-sized bowl add the water, salt and sugar. With a whisk, mix until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Slowly add in the Harina P.A.N. Using your hands, mix the dough, breaking any clumps with your fingers. Allow the dough to rest 5 minutes to thicken up.

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While you’re waiting, heat a non-stick griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Then add the oil to the dough, working the dough with your hands for about a minute. The arepa dough should be firm but not cracking when formed. If the dough is too soft add a little more of Harina P.A.N or more water if it’s too hard.

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Form dough balls and flatten them gently into discs until they’re about 1/2-inch thick. Immediately place the discs over your preheated pan and cook the arepas for 5-7 minutes on each side or until lightly golden brown. Repeat till all dough has been used. Serve immediately with your choice of fillings.

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FOR THE AREPAS RELLENAS (Filled arepas)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, julienned
2 1/2 pounds flank or flat iron steak
1 cup (8 ounces) canned tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large ripened plantain, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on a bias
6 Arepas vuidas
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 of small wheel Queso Fresco, crumbled
1 cup Guasacaca Salsa*

For garnish
2 small green onions, julienned (green and whites)

METHOD
Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper to both sides of your steak. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add in the oil, and when the oil begins to slightly haze, add the steak.

Cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. When both sides are gently seared, using a pair of tongs, remove the steak and place onto plate to rest. Keeping the heat still on medium, add the onions  and sauté till onions are translucent. Then add the tomato sauce, stirring well. Add the oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20-25 minutes to thicken.

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While your sauce is simmering, and after resting your steak for at least 15 minutes, slice your steak into even 1/4-inch slices. The steak should be at a nice rare pink.

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When your sauce has thickened up, immediately turn off the heat and throw in the sliced steak. The residual heat of the sauce will further cook the meat just a tad.

In another medium-sized non-stick pan or skillet, heat a Tablespoon of oil on medium.

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Place the sliced plantains in the skillet, cooking each side for about 3 minutes each or until nicely browned and caramelized. Immediately remove from the pan and into a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

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Next, gather all filling ingredients together.

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When ready to assemble, split each arepa in half horizontally with a knife. Butter each side of the still-warm arepa. Fill the bottoms of each arepa with the plantains, then layer on the steak, and a heaping spoonful of guasacaca salsaqueso fresco crumbles and green onion garnish.

Serve immediately. (Knife and fork optional, but highly recommended!)

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How To: Guasacaca Salsa

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The guacamole of Venezuela, guasacaca is the green condiment that almost every Venezuelan household has in their fridge. Instead of lime juice, the salsa uses red wine vinegar, giving it heightened acidity, much similar to an avocado relish. The salsa is excellent for dipping (taro chips? plantains? yucca fries?!) or as a condiment spread for Arepas. It’s easy-to-make and stores well in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

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Guasacaca 
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via Mami Talks

INGREDIENTS
1 avocado; halved, pitted and flesh removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper; deseeded and finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped (the white and the green part)
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt

METHOD
Place all ingredients, except the oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend till fully incorporated. Turn off. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the excess bits on the side of the machine’s bowl, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Blend on medium for 30 seconds. Season to taste.

The Horchata Made Me Do It!

a streetcar named devour horchata

Well, summer is officially here, and temperatures are continuing to rise in Portland. It’s warm at home and it’s doubly horrendous when you work in a hot kitchen all day.

Horchata (or Orxata de xufa, depending upon the flavors and Spanish or Latin American region) was originated in Valencia, Spain, where they traditionally use tigernuts (chufa nuts). In Mexico and Guatemala, they use rice as the base of the drink. The Mexican version is what I grew up drinking. (I have also, however, had the Spanish version a few years ago when I vacationed in Spain. It is also, very very good.)

On my day off last week, I made these Mexican Horchata popsicles to help cool down. (And who doesn’t like horchata? It’s so freaking delicious!) I had some leftover horchata base at home and decided to bring it to work to treat my fellow co-workers.

When I started pouring glasses of the Horchata and distributing them to the prep kitchen, more of my fellow cooks came up to me, asking for a glass. Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared for such a demand and only had enough to feed a few of my co-workers, so I had to think fast and bulk up the batch I had made on-the-fly.

I slowly went down the line and passed glasses of the ice-cold Horchata I had made to all the line cooks. Even in 100-degree weather and a full house of diners (in arguably one of the busiest restaurants in the city), the guys didn’t hesitate to take a second and gulp down that ice-cold cinnamon sweetness. In just a matter of seconds–faces full of sweat, and urgency turned into big smiles of pure delight and relief.

When I returned to my station and went back to work, in a matter of moments I heard calls for more Horchata.

“I’m gonna need more of that cinnamon drink,” said one.

“That was the best Horchata I’ve ever had,” said another.

“This is my first Horchata and I know it’s the best one I’ll ever have,” exclaimed another.

Haha.

And then my sous chef came up to me and pleaded that I make Horchata for all the Back of House once every week.

OK, alright. That’s a deal.

While this Horchata mix is clearly delightful on its own, freezing them into popsicles makes them even more appealing, especially in 3-digit weather.

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Mexican Horchata Popsicles
Recipe adapted from The Candid Appetite
Yields 10-20 popsicles (depending on the size of your molds)

INGREDIENTS
1½ cups long grain rice (uncooked)
4 cups hot water
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup coconut milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dark rum

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METHOD
Place the rice, hot water, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and cinnamon sticks into a large bowl. Stir the mixture to combine well.

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Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature for about 1½ hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks and strain the rice, reserving the liquid in a separate container.

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Place the rice in a blender or food processor. Blend on medium-high till the rice is pureed and smooth. Slowly add in the reserved liquid. Once all of the liquid has been pureed, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard rice paste remnants.

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Stir in the ground cinnamon, sugar, salt, and rum to the strained mixture. Place the horchata mixture into popsicle molds.

Set popsicles in the freezer for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight before serving.

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When ready to serve, gently run cold water on the outside of the mold to loosen and release popsicle.

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