Thursday, May 16, 2013

A new beginning

Congratulations to me: I just finished my master's program. Lucky you, I'm going to try to re-vamp this blog...again.

I spent the last few weeks working on eight thousand projects and papers, then graduating and entertaining my parents while they visited, so I was hardly eating anything at home. I gave up fast food as a New Year's Resolution (sort of...), so I wasn't eating complete garbage, but I was most certainly not eating well.

Now that I'm a "Master" (as I enjoy calling myself) and also highly underemployed, I'm getting back into my cooking habits. I made some of my favorite go-to foods, like minestrone-ish (which has basically turned into I'll-put-whatever-I-want-in-this-soup-thank-you-very-much) and BBQ chicken sandwiches. I've also made a few new things, like mashed turnips, peach cobbler, and avocado yogurt dip. I've got plans to make turkey tetrazzini (a favorite childhood school lunch staple) and probably something with squash and tomatoes because I have a lot of those still floating around. Overall, my food life is getting back on track.

In honor of my matriculation, I'm going to restart this blog with a recipe that I had to make and serve to my professors and classmates for my Public Health Nutrition course. Our last project was to write a paper about the food culture of another country/ethnicity/etc. and to prepare and serve a dish from it. I chose Panama, not because I'm particularly enthralled with the country or its food, but my uncle is Panamanian and I figured he would be easy to interview for the assignment.

But Panama is pretty cool, much like my uncle, so all was certainly not lost. I decided to make sancocho, which is the national dish of Panama. The travel books (and Wikipedia pages) I read told me that sancocho is a lot like chicken noodle soup in the U.S., in that it is considered to be a "cure-all" for every ailment imaginable, especially hangovers. My aunt and uncle did not think this was true, but I think it's interesting and since it is a chicken-based soup, I'm gonna go with it anyway.

Sancocho recipe:

1 whole chicken (cut into pieces)
1 chopped onion (large)
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 chopped garlic cloves
Chopped cilantro leaves (to taste)
1 tablespoon salt
3 chopped corn ears
2 pounds chopped yuca
1 teaspoon oregano
1 hot red pepper (no seeds)

Put chicken pieces in a large pot on low heat until cooked through. Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook on medium heat until cooked through. Add water to cover ingredients and boil for at least 40 minutes. Add cilantro, corn, salt, and yuca and cook until soft. Add oregano and hot red pepper. Boil for 8 minutes and serve.

Yummy in my tummy

My aunt said that she doesn't usually use the peppers, but I like the little kick they add. Despite that, this is most definitely not a spicy dish. It is actually kind of cool from the cilantro, so it's a great soup even when it's hot outside.  Also, this is a lot of food. I probably ate it for four days straight. You could probably just use parts of a chicken or a half-chicken or something (Arlond would prefer I just use some boneless skinless breasts, but where is the fun in that?). 

This is also kind of tricky to eat. The chicken and corn pieces are way too big to be spooned, so I opted to just eat the soupy part normally, then either fork or pick up the chicken (depending on the piece), and then eat the corn like I would corn-on-the-cob. No idea if this is "correct" but it worked.

Also, some notes on the yuca. It is sort of like a potato, but not. It usually works best to buy it frozen and then cook it. You have to boil it a little bit to soften it (10 minutes or so), and then you need to cut it up and remove the hard core (it's like a little white twig on the inside). One time I boiled it separately, and the other time I just boiled it in the soup. It was probably a little easier to find all the pieces to cut up when I boiled it separately, but then I needed to use an extra pan, so whatever floats your boat, I say.

Well, this is a good enough start for now. I'll add more fun adventures and deliciousness over the next few days.