Friday, July 29, 2011

TBIR: Latin America and the Caribbean

In preparation for tropical storm Don, which is heading straight for me and will be here within the hour (ominous, no?), I shopped for recipes whose ingredients were minimal and inexpensive, in case the power goes out and I lose what's in the fridge. This led me to Venezuelan Stuffed Corn Cakes (pg 46) with Chicken and Avocado Corn Cake Filling (pg 48). I'm just going to count this as one recipe.

The idea, which I still believe is a good one, is to make a corn cake that is fried until brown, and then baked briefly (10 minutes) until they "sound hollow when tapped on the bottom." Once done, supposedly you can split them like an English muffin and stuff them with filling. This did not work out for me.

I claim full responsibility for the corn cake failure. The recipe calls for Masarepa Blanca. The book breaks down a number of corn products and defines them. Masarepa Blanca is a "pre-cooked corn flour." I could not find this in the supermarket. I expected to be able to, because I live in south Texas. There's a huge Mexican population here, so H-E-B is extraordinarily well stocked with relevant foodstuffs. I already had Maseca (masa harina) at home for making tortillas, so I decided to just use that and forge ahead with the recipe. Lesson learned.
Hockey puck, anyone?
I guess the pre-cooked nature of Masarepa Blanca is important. My corn cakes were nowhere near cooked after frying and then baking for ten minutes. Or twenty minutes. Or thirty minutes. Then I gave up and tried to serve them anyway. I "split" one, and it was still mushy in the middle. I served them anyway, but just piled the filling on top of them, as if they were pancakes. Shockingly, what bit I ate sat like a lead balloon in my belly. Yuck.
Despite my mistakes with the corn cake, I blame the book for the bland, flavorless filling. The shredded chicken and avocado is seasoned with minced cilantro, scallions, lime juice, and a scant 1/4 tsp of chili powder. Yuck. This packed no punch. Matt asked me if he was eating fish. He was not. Ugh.

Conclusion: Disliked. I respect the concept, and if I were in Venezuela, I would certainly try one. I have no interest in pursuing this recipe further.

For dessert, I made Baked Bananas (pg 56), which is served with vanilla ice cream. This couldn't be easier to make. Just sprinkle brown sugar and dots of butter on bananas, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another half hour.
Nasty to look at, delicious to eat.
The finished product looked vile, but tasted delicious. It's a prime example for how I try to look at food, which is to try anything and everything, regardless of how it looks or what you assume about it. I thought this would be slimy and wet. It was actually a very strange, spongey texture. In the future, I would take this out of the oven faster, because too much of the syrup in the pan burned. The drippings tasted like banana caramel--I would have liked to eat more of it.

Conclusion: Liked it very much.


  1. I will say that the avocado looks delicious.

  2. I know you probably won't make these again but you need P.A.N white cornmeal (you knew that,I know) anyway this white cornmeal is like a flour.

  3. At least dessert was a winner! Sorry about the corn cake disaster though, the chicken sounds ick.

  4. its this stuff- I don't think anything else will work:

  5. BTW I think you gotta go with mail order ingredients with such an intnl cookbook b/c substitutions are not going to work in your favor, unless you have tasted the dish before and know what can be improvised.