Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Ajiaco Bogotano (Chicken and Potato Soup)
Makes about 22 cups
Colombia's national dish calls for three types of potatoes, one of which, a yellow potato, is native to the country. It breaks down during the cooking process, helping to thicken the soup. Some Americanized versions of the recipe suggest that Yukon Gold potatoes can be substituted, but embassy chef Gladys Rodriguez insists on the native papa criolla. Guascas, a South American herb, imparts a grassy flavor to the soup. When Rodriguez serves this at the embassy, she provides corn cob holders along with the soup spoons.
1/4 of an onion, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch cilantro
6 scallions, white parts only
1 clove garlic
1 stalk celery
4 quarts water
One 3 1/2 -pound chicken, skinned and quartered
4 chicken bouillon cubes
4 ears corn
2 pounds red bliss potatoes, peeled and cut into medium slices
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium slices
2 pounds papa criolla* (Colombian yellow potatoes), peeled and quartered
One 0.35-ounce packet dried guascas*
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream, for garnish
3 avocados, coarsely chopped, for garnish
1/2 cup capers (not drained), for garnish
Aji Salsa, for garnish (recipe follows)
On a large piece of cheesecloth, bundle together the onion, cilantro, scallions, garlic and celery. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and fasten with kitchen twine to form a version of a bouquet garni. Place it in a large stockpot with the water, the chicken pieces and the bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, with bubbles just breaking the surface, for about 30 minutes, skimming any foam that forms on the top, if necessary. Remove the chicken. When cool, shred the breast meat and set aside. (Reserve the thigh and drumstick meat for another use.)
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the corn and red bliss potatoes to the pot. Boil for 10 minutes. Add the russet potatoes and cook for 20 minutes. Add the papa criolla and half of the packet of guascas and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until thickened. Remove the corn and, when cooled enough to handle, cut cobs into 2-inch rounds. Return corn to the pot with the remaining half-packet of guascas.
Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Serve with shredded chicken and other garnishes in separate serving bowls.
*NOTE: Papa criolla are available in jars or frozen at Latin American specialty markets. Packets of the herb, guascas, also are available at Latin American markets.
Per 1 cup serving: 121 calories, 4 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 9 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber
Makes about 2 cups
Colombian households have their own favorite version of aji salsa, some using lime juice and vinegar. This is the one Rodriguez serves at the embassy. Of the garnishes, aji salsa and capers give the soup a burst of flavor.
2 bunches cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 scallions, white parts only, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, or 4 red chili peppers, finely chopped, or to taste
6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 cup water
In a medium bowl, combine the cilantro, scallions, hot pepper sauce or chili peppers, tomatoes, water and salt to taste. The mixture should taste like a salsa but with a more liquid consistency. If not using right away, cover and refrigerate.
Per 1 tablespoon serving: 3 calories, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 21 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Recipes tested by Leigh Lambert and Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to email@example.com
Couscous With Seven Vegetables
10 to 15 servings
Nazha Kasraoui, a cook for the Moroccan Embassy, learned to make her country's national dish -- which, despite its name, is made with any number of vegetables -- while growing up in Rabat. There are faster ways to make couscous, but Kasraoui prefers the age-old, multi-step method for superior results. She allows for 10 servings, but there's plenty left over.
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 10 pieces
1 pound onions, cut in medium slices
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of saffron
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound peeled and seeded medium tomatoes, each cut into 4 to 6 pieces, depending on size
11 1/2 cups water
1/2 pound chickpeas, soaked the day before and drained (may substitute one 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained)
1 head cabbage, quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise and crosswise
1 pound small turnips, peeled and halved
1 small pumpkin (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks (may substitute butternut or acorn squash)
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and crosswise
1 bunch cilantro, tied with kitchen string
Two 2.2-pound packages medium-grain couscous
2 tablespoons corn oil
5.3 ounces (1 stick and 2 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat. Add the lamb, onions, ground ginger, saffron and salt and pepper to taste and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add 8 1/2 cups of the water and the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the cabbage and cook for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Add the carrots, turnips and pumpkin and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Add the zucchini and the cilantro and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until tender, then discard the cilantro. Set aside.
Have ready a large, heavy pot that is fitted for a steamer. Add enough water to come up just below the steamer. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the couscous and the corn oil. Using your hands, mix well. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of water over the couscous and mix with your hands to evenly distribute the water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to the steamer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
Return the couscous to the bowl and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, mixing to incorporate (the couscous will be soft at this point). Let sit for 5 minutes, then put it in the steamer for 10 more minutes. Transfer the couscous back to the bowl, add the butter and salt to taste and stir to combine. Set aside until the vegetables are nearly ready. About 5 minutes before the vegetables are done, heat the couscous in the steamer.
To serve, mound the couscous, with a slight crater in the middle, on a large, shallow platter. Using a slotted spoon, alternate the carrots, turnips, pumpkin and zucchini along the outer edge of the couscous and place the lamb and cabbage mixture in the middle. Spoon about 2 cups of the cooking liquid over the whole dish. Serve immediately.
Per serving (based on 15): 917 calories, 36 g protein, 91123 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 81 mg cholesterol, 14 g saturated fat, 220 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber
Recipe tested by Alice Hreiz; e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Karelian Hot Pot
6 to 8 servings
Mikko Kosonen, executive chef of the Embassy of Finland, is a fan of this traditional meat stew that comes from the Karelia region of Finland. Don't trim the visible fat from the pork prior to cooking; it adds flavor to the stew. Back home, as well as at the embassy in Washington, the stew is served with boiled or mashed potatoes and lingonberry preserves.
1 pound boneless beef round roast, cut into 1- to 1 1/2 -inch cubes
1 pound boneless pork shoulder or roast, cut into 1- to 1 1/2 -inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into wedges
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 -inch rounds
4 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a roasting pan or large ovenproof dish, place all of the ingredients and just enough water to cover the meat. Roast, adding water if necessary, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. Check seasonings, adding salt to taste. Discard the bay leaves. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.
Per serving (based on 8): 226 calories, 19 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 5 g saturated fat, 100 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber
Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to email@example.com