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Chocolate Carne Colorada (gluten free) & Kitchen Tips

Carne Colorada receives its name from the reddish / orange color the meat absorbs from ground achiote or annatto seed. Carne Colorada is a typical dish from the provinces of Carchi and Imbabura in the northern highland region in Ecuador; it is a stove top braised beef dish marinated in beer, garlic, onion, achiote, cumin and oregano. Carne Colorada is generally served with sides such as fried plantains, hominy, llapingachos or potato patties, avocado slices, rice, yuca, boiled potatoes with cheese sauce, empanadas, salad, among others.  In many of the restaurants they will use pork, and that delights me as pork is my favorite over beef.  For my recipe below, I chose pork.

Chocolate Carne Colorada

3 lbs pork loin with some but little fat, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 Tblsp achiote

1.5 Tblsp ground garlic powder

1.5 Tblsp cumin

1 Tblsp oregano

1 Tblsp cocoa

1 Tblsp New Mexico Chili (ground)

Just enough oil to coat your pan

Salt to taste

Preparation:

Blend all the spices with a little oil into a paste. Season with the meat. Put in a hot skillet and reduce heat to medium simmer until done.

KITCHEN TIPS:

Bananas or Plantains

Many people confuse plantains with bananas.  Although they look a lot like green bananas and are a close relative, plantains are very different. They are starchy, not sweet, and they are used as a vegetable in many recipes, especially in Latin America and Africa. Plantains are sold in the fresh produce section of the supermarket, they usually resemble green bananas; ripe plantains may be black in color. Plantains are longer than bananas and they have thicker skins. They also have natural brown spots and rough areas.

Chifles

Chifles are green banana or green plantain chips that are fried.  In Ecuador chifles are usually made with green bananas, most of the time, especially in the highlands.  On the coast of Ecuador you will see more use of green plantains.

Zucchini

One pound will yield about 3 medium-sized zucchini or about 3 cups sliced or rough chop.  Most summer squashes are interchangable in recipes, so if you cannot find zucchini, substitute yellow squash, pattypan squash, Zephyr summer squash, or chayote. Just remember, overcook zucchini and you end up with mush. There is no way to salvage it other than to make soup.

Quinoa

Treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups (or less) of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 10–15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta). Alternatively, you can use a rice cooker to prepare quinoa, treating it just like white rice (for both cooking cycle and water amounts).  Quinoa may also be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content. In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat. This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the grains, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.  Quinoa is considered by the Incas as the ‘mother of all grains’.

Chaulafan

Chaulafan is an Ecuadorian version of fried rice. There are many different types of chaulafan: shrimp, chicken, pork, mixed.   In most major cities in Ecuador you will find chifas or Chinese restaurants, these are usually the best places to eat chaulafan.

Tree Tomato

A tree tomato or tomate de arbol, also known as tamarillo, is a South American fruit that is similar in looks to a roma tomato, rather pointed and with a thicker skin than a Roma.  Tree tomatoes can be either yellow orangish and the inside will be orange or dark red or almost purple. They can be eaten plain, or you will find they are used frequently in juices and in desserts (cooked in a panela or sugar cane syrup with cinnamon, clove and other spices). One of the most popular to use them is to make an aji or hot sauce, that is usually spicy and is served with many different Ecuadorian dishes.

Caldo de Bolas

Caldo de bolas or sopa de bolas de verde is a typical soup from the Coastal region in Ecuador, consisting of dumplings made from green plantains and stuffed with meat and vegetables served in a beef broth with corn and yuca.  The meat for the dumpling filling is boiled with some beef bones, the green plantains and other vegetables in the broth that will be used for the soup.

Microplane

Use a coarse Microplane to shave vegetables into salads or vinaigrettes. You can create an orange-fennel dressing by adding grated fennel and orange zest to a simple vinaigrette.

Sunny Side Up w/Sherry Vinegar

After making eggs sunny-side up, deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar, then drizzle the sauce on the eggs to add another dimension to the dish.

 Adding Oil for Sautéing

If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredient being cooked, it will be heated.

Sancocho

Sancocho (from the Spanish verb sancochar, “to parboil”) is a traditional soup (often considered a stew) in several Latin American cuisines derived from the Spanish dish known as Cocido. Variations represent popular national dishes in the Honduras, Canary Islands, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic,Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. It usually consists of large pieces of meat and vegetables served in a broth.  Sancocho in Ecuador is a comfort food made with pork. It has the typical ingredients: yuca, plantain, and corn “choclo”.

Choclo

Choclo is a large grain Andean corn called.  I’ve never known any other but corn, but North American corn, and could not understand the appeal of the giant, chewy corn known as choclo.  Choclo has a nutty taste and heftier texture that is different and delicious, once you stop expecting it to taste like the super sweet corn we prefer in the US. In fact, our ordinary yellow corn is not particularly favored in South America, except as chicken feed.

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