Wow, Gran Cocina Latina is a mother effing tome isn’t it? Like heavy? Like textbook heavy. But, after a month spent perusing it and cooking from it, I approve! This sucker is awesome!
This fall/winter, i hope to have the time to really sit down and read this book, and cook a lot of the projects in it. I love cooking projects, and Gran Cocina Latina is full of them. The thing is, cooking projects aren’t that fun in the summer. You gotta do the ones ya gotta do: like your canning, pickling and preserving. But otherwise, I’m much more apt to take on a large project in the fall or winter. This month, instead of doing cooking projects, I have been doing the following: hanging out in my yard!
Visiting with my family in St. Louis!
Going to Cardinals baseball games!
Tending my garden! Which has just been amazeballs this summer, bt dubs. Seriously, best garden year ever for us!
But I also cooked from Gran Cocina Latina! I decided to pick a theme, and ended up choosing recipes for things that Double S and I love to eat out. So I made the following: Veracruz Tomato Sauce for Fish, page 48. Red Chimichurri, page 133. Cuban Style Rice, One Step Boiling Method, page 294. Pupusas with Cheese and Loroco, page 403. Grilled Skirt Steak with Argentian Chimichurri, page 704. I went on a hunt for the ingredients to make Oaxacan Chicken Pozole, page 518, but ran out of time for such a time-consuming project in July. What do the kids in the memes say these days? Ah yes, soon…
Let’s talk about the book itself for a minute. I really like the way it’s organized. The book starts with chapters that will give you the building blocks of Latin American cooking with chapters such as “The Layers of Latin Flavor” and “Table Condiments.” Then the author moves on to specific chapters such as one on rice, drinks, empanadas, cebiches, salads, breads, little Latin dishes, squashes/corn quinoa and beans, and so on. So much to explore!
I started with a sauce from the chapter entitled “The Layers of Latin Flavor,” which is a great chapter to spend some time with because of the versatility of the sauces therein. Double S and I like to order fish Veracruz at a Mexican spot near the homestead. I love the layers of flavor in Veracruz sauce, with its olives and tomatoes and capers and Mexican oregano. We still had some cod we had gotten from a fisherman this past winter, and the cod and the sauce went perfectly together. I wanted to try a rice in the comprehensive Rice chapter, so I just chose the easiest one, the Cuban style rice. We loved the rice, for what it’s worth.
Next, I decided to make pupusas, a Salvadoran dish that Double S introduced me to when we lived in NYC. If you haven’t had a pupusa, get thee to a pupusa spot! These were delicious; we both thought they were the best thing I made this month. And if you’ve had a pupusa, you may think it would be difficult to make them, but you’d be wrong. The most difficult task was finding the ingredients, but luckily I live my a couple great Latin American markets. i managed to find the loroco and the Salvadoran hard cheese.
The instant corn masa mix that Presilla calls for worked like a charm. Adding the loroco proved to be messier, but it all worked out in the end.
After you form balls from the masa mix and let them sit for a minute, you make a second ball of cheeses and any fillings, then incorporate the ball of filling into the ball of masa. Messy, but it worked.
After the filling is added to the masa, then you flatten the balls. Editor’s note: Heh heh. We followed Presilla’s instructions to the letter, and it worked nicely.
After you form these, fry them in a pan and you’re done! I’d recommend cooking them a bit less than Presilla calls for, as these got a bit too brown in spots. But again, these were very forgiving and they turned out delicious.
To eat pupusas, you top them with a wonderful, tangy slaw called cortido. Do not skip the cortido! We gorged on it, and even ate it like salsa with the fresh tortilla chips we picked up at the Mexican grocery.
After the success of the pupsas, I decided to try skirt steak and chimichutri. I love the wonderful elixir that is regular old green chimichurri, so I decided to try this one too, made with some more new stuff I’d picked up at the Mexican grocery. This was another success! This red chimichurri calls for smoked paprika and Argentiana aji molido and a lot of garlic.
I grilled my steak outside with some peppers and the end result was very good. Remember to cook your skirt steak very briefly, friends. I think Presilla calls for it to be cooked way longer than need be.
And that’s it. I did find the more obscure ingredients needed for pozole, like the dried lime and the dried corn for pozole, so that’s on the agenda, maybe for next month when we’re all just making ice cream all month. Exciting!
I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of the wide array of delicious foods that fall under the umbrella of “”Latin American cooking.” The book gives you so much more than you’d get just by googling a recipe online. Presilla provides readers with information and building blocks of Latin American flavors that can make you a better cook, which is kinda what it’s all about.