Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Venezuelan Cooking Lesson




I have learned quite a bit about Venezuelan food from my friend Carla. I've been eager to learn how to make some of the dishes and was lucky enough to get a cooking lesson from her Mom, Anamelia, on her recent trip to the U.S. Anamelia and her husband, Raul had a restaurant for 3 years in Venezuela called CIBUS Arepas Gourmet. They had a very successful restaurant and fiercely loyal customers but the toll of running a restaurant 7 days a week made them redirect their entrepreneurial ambitions into a tea business which is also doing very well. This couple is so incredibly warm and friendly, I'm sure they could make any venture succeed.

When I arrived at Carla's apartment, the place already smelled heavenly. Anamelia was working away on three different dishes without breaking a sweat or seeming the least bit stressed. Bea, my Mom, accompanied me since she is an avid cook herself and wanted to learn something new. We both decided to watch and participate where possible instead of taking frantic notes. I figured it was more important to really watch Anamelia in action since there are always nuances to regional cooking that can't be learned just from a recipe. I knew I could always gather the recipes later. It was difficult to take it all in but there's one thing in common I find in all regional cooking - it's a labor of love. They're not usually complicated recipes but they take the kind of time and TLC you put into cooking for someone you really care about. These recipes are not created by some hot celebrity chef. They come from generations and generations of famililes who prepared these meals with great love for their families.

I learned how to make 3 stellar dishes that day that are true comfort foods, Venezuelan style: Tostones (doubled fried plantains), Carne Mechada (shredded beef with tomato sauce), and Asado Negro (marinated bottom round steak with panela, brown sugar). Anamelia was kind enough to offer to share the Asado Negro recipe with me and all of you. Not sure any of us will be able recreate the dish like she makes it but we can give it our best effort.

ASADO NEGRO Recipe

Ingredients:
• 1 bottom round steak (about 2 lbs)
• 12 garlic cloves
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 4 tbs vegetable oil
• 5 tbs brown sugar or Panela (the Venezuelan version of brown sugar)
• 6 onions
• 2 green bell peppers

How to:
• Mix 4 minced garlic cloves with soy sauce. Rub the steak all over and let marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Take out of the fridge about 1 hr before cooking.
• In a big pot, heat the oil and 5 tbs of brown sugar (or Venezuelan panela available at Christina's spice shop and Latin specialty stores) until it melts and forms a dark caramel.
• Add the steak and let it sear on all sides (careful not to burn the sugar).
• Meanwhile add the onions, 8 cloves of garlic and the green peppers to a food processor until is all chopped finely and blended well.
• Add this mix to the seared steak and add 2 cups of water. Stir and let simmer for about 2 hrs until meat is tender.
• Take the steak out of the pot and let rest a few minutes. Slice crosswise and add back to the sauce for about 15 minutes.
• Add salt and pepper to taste.

Traditionally the Asado Negro is served with white rice and plantains. Fantastic comfort food.

Thanks so much to Anamelia and Carla for giving me a bird's eye view into Venezuelan culture and food. It was a truly memorable experience for both me and Bea. Next time we'll host and share Portuguese recipes.

Enjoy the recipe, everyone!

5 Comments:

Anonymous Donna said...

Anything with 8 cloves of garlic has to be good! Sounds like a good time was had by all.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Madeira Mama said...

I had a wonderful day at Carla's sampling her wonderful mom's cooking and oh, the end result was so delicious. I've since made the steak dish...m-m-m good!

9:54 AM  
Blogger xoxobono said...

Thanks to you guys for making my mom cook so much food that night, we had leftovers for days :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.
There is nothing like Venezuelan food, MUY RICO!

1:21 PM  
Blogger DraBrenda said...

Hi I'm Venezuelan and was looking for an easy Asado Negro recipe to cook for this Christmas, I live in Iowa with my family so it's very hard to make Hallacas!!

I'm gonna try this recipe and let you know how it was!! :D

Thank you for sharing this!!

2:44 PM  
Blogger Lynne said...

i hope you enjoy it! nice to there's venezuelan food cooking in iowa. happy holidays!

3:16 PM  

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