Colombians know how to party, host and celebrate. Our friends Karina and Raul host the best and most relaxing gatherings and birthday parties, the types that we don’t look at the clock and we never want to leave.
I was very excited when they proposed a Brazilian-Colombian feast a few weeks ago, which ended up being a Colombian feast/cooking class for my blog with more Colombians and family traditions. On the menu: patacón (fried plantains), sobrebarriga (flank steak), papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese sauce), an avocado, tomato and onion salad and postre de natas (milk pudding).
We started off by snacking on something new to us: uchuva, or Colombian goldenberries. Related to tomatillo, uchuva is bright yellow or orange and sweet when ripe, with a mild tart flavor. I had only experienced in chocolate or candy as gifts from my Colombian connections (more please – Sebastian!), but was delighted to enjoy it plain.
Sandra, a childhood friend of Karina’s, came with a great cookbook, Colombian traditions (she knew exactly how to assist Karina the Colombian way while I needed some coaxing) and her husband Mark, an excellent cook and foodie who questions the need of many of the old fashioned steps involved in cooking the dishes we learned from the previous generations and challenges us to adapt to more efficient methods. Hmmm…
We seasoned the flank steak with garlic, onion, pepper, thyme, and salt, covered it with water and cooked it in the pressure cooker with bay leaves for 20′ until tender, followed by 25′ of braising at 350F with half of the amount of liquid and a can of beer. The result was super tender and flavorful meat, sliced and served by Raul, the sous-chef everyone dreams of (when you think of asking for something, he has already done it).
Next were papas chorreadas, boiled red potatoes covered in a rich cheese sauce that converted Romas and Mateus, who are not big into potatoes (not your common Lithuanian descendants). The potatoes are boiled until tender and then partially pealed before being drenched with the hot hogao, a sauce made by sautéing scallions, tomatoes and cilantro, adding 1/2 pint of heavy cream and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Once the cheese is melted, the hogao is poured over the potatoes for this pretty looking and crowd pleasing dish.
Now the patacón! It starts with choosing the plantains: if too ripe, they are too sweet, but if too green, they will be too hard. You want the ones that are beginning to ripe, but still green.
Karina uses a caldero, a medium-sized deep pot commonly used in Colombia, to fry food and cook rice. She fried the plantain pieces for about 3-5 minutes, until they were golden and edges were round. She has this little wooden press to make her magic, but you could simply smash yours on a cutting board using a flat surface like the bottom of a bowl.If they look like this when you press them, they are undercooked! Time for the second round of frying. Fried plantains are usually seasoned with a bit of salt, but Karina’s recipe calls for dipping each fried and flattened piece in a mixture of limes, lemons, salt, water and cilantro, which gives it a bit of a kick. Cecilia’s Patacón stuffed mouth – not intimidated by the almost spicy taste. We topped ours with guacamole and salsa. I could have eaten just that for dinner.
Can you tell why our kids love going there? Royal treatment and endless fun. A table of Colombian/American/Brazilian/Canadian-of-Lithuanian-origin mix. Most Americans by birth.
A table of mostly new Americans (by birth or immigration), enjoying a relaxing Colombian feast.
Thank you Karina & Raul, for the many years of friendship and for always being such wonderful hosts and supportive friends. Next is at nuestra casa!
COLOMBIAN PATACÓN (twice fried green plantains)
4-5 green plantains (not too green, beginning to ripe)
toppings of your choice (we used guacamole and salsa)
*optional: dip in Karina’s lime and cilantro mixture for added flavor before frying for the second time.
Karina’s cilantro dip:
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of cilantro
Remove edges of plantains with a knife and cut slits on the skin lengthwise, just deep enough to remove the skin with your hands. Cut plantains into 2-inch pieces. Heat 1 1/2-inches of vegetable oil in a deep medium-sized pan over medium-low heat. Fry plantains pieces for about 10 minutes, until golden and edges are rounded. Place them on a shallow dish lined with paper towels.
Flatten each plantain piece one at a time to 1/4-inch thickness using a cutting board and another flat surface like a bowl. Once they are all flattened, dip them in the cilantro dip (optional) and fry them for a second time for another 8-10 minutes or until brown. Place them on the shallow serving dish with new paper towels.
Serve the patacones plain with a pinch of salt or top them with your choice of toppings.