Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine" & "The Spirit of Puerto Rican Rum" - Avocado Soup & Tangerine Loin of Pork

Date I made these recipes:  August 5, 2012

Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine by Mirtha Umana-Murray
Published by Lowell House
ISBN:  1-56565-817-5
Recipe:  Avocado Soup (Crema Quillotana) – p. 69

The Spirit of Puerto Rican Rum – Recipes and Recollections by Blanche Gelabert; Photography by William Gelabert
Published by:  Discovery Press, San Juan, Puerto Rico
ISBN: 0-9633216-1-7PBK
Recipe:  Tangerine Loin of Pork – p. 105

But first, a rant:  a couple weeks back, I reported a hog-stealing incident in nearby Wisconsin to some women lawyer friends of mine, the “G’s.”  One of the G’s, Jen (nicknamed “Jenja”) replied “If I thought I could get away with it, I’d steal the swine as well.  Have you seen the price of bacon lately?”  I confessed that I had not and then shortly thereafter, had to buy some bacon for a recipe and was surprised that a pack of bacon cost around $7.50.

But nothing prepared me for the astonishing price of $11.99 a pound for pork tenderloin.  Granted, this was a Whole Foods price but still – what??!!  So while I am not a betting person, I am willing to put some serious money down that most of you will NOT be making the entire recipe for Tangerine Loin of Pork because it calls for 5-6 pounds.  Ca-ching!  Ca-ching!

When I informed the G’s of latest thoughts on pork futures (something I will now be watching very carefully), I accidentally typed that I bought a pork “loan” instead of pork “loin,” and then promptly dissolved into fits of laughter.  Because even two pounds of pork, my compromise “bill,” cost a fortune and I almost needed a personal loan at the checkout counter.  “Yes, that’s right, a loan to buy pork.  Yes, a pork loan. Okay, then, we’ll call it a loin loan.  Duh….”

Okay, back on track.  I intended to make these recipes in late June but we were experiencing scorching temperatures at the time and my husband imposed a “No Oven” rule and so that was that (at least for the pork recipe).  Plus I had the Tour de France and the Olympics to write about.  But now the weather has cooled off to a balmy 85 and so it was time.

I’ve mentioned in other blog posts that I watch ABC’s The Chew, a talk show/food show/craft show that airs at noon locally.  I typically tape the show and then watch it later in the evening, although these days with the Olympics on, I am thrown off my usual schedule.  The other day, I was about ten taped programs behind and had to dedicate some serious non-cooking time to get caught up.  Anyway…

The Chew always has a topic of the day and back on June 22nd, the topic was three-generational meals. Each of the hosts talked about their favorite generational meals they had as kids and then some of the audience members showed off their own.  And then their special food “correspondent,” Evette Rios and her mother cooked one of their Puerto Rican favorites.

Well, besides being mouthwatering, this show triggered my memory banks as I knew, somewhere in this vast collection, I had a cookbook about generational meals (and really, who doesn’t?) and there it was – Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine.  Ta da!  Of course, finding it in my stacks and stacks of books proved to be challenging as apparently, I moved it from where it had always been to another stack that was more hidden than the other spot.  But find it I did and so the hunt for recipes began.

Now I will disclose to you that while I studied Latin American history in college (as part of my Spanish minor requirements and yes, it was all in Spanish, not English – books and all), we didn’t even come close to touching on the culinary history of Latin America and so revisiting this cookbook, purchased early on in my collecting career, proved to be enlightening.  I mean call me una estupida Americana but I was floored when I saw duck with oranges and goose with spicy mushrooms and cranberry sauce included in the offerings.  It just never occurred to me that Chileans would eat this stuff, perhaps because I hate those two fowls with a passion and wouldn’t eat them on a bet.  Besides, my Latin American history classes focused on the Spanish influence in Latin America (huh, go figure) and I’ve never thought of Spaniards eating a lot of duck or goose, either.  So clearly, some refresher classes are needed (along with a slap upside my own head).

On the other hand, I was not at all surprised to see a recipe for Chilean Bass but that is only because after this cookbook was published (1997), Chilean Bass became an off-the-chart popular item in as many restaurants as could get their hands on it.  This run on bass caused the fish to be overused and overfished and it now borders on being endangered.  Just goes to show that sometimes, it does not pay to be popular

So I was doing my usual hem and haw on what to make and then I went back to the beginning and when I got to soups (sopa) (in Latin America, apparently “crema” is the word we are looking for) and saw this recipe for Avocado Soup, I was in love.  And then when I made it, I was well, besotted?  Is besotted the right word?  I think so.  I was besotted. 

The thing about this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy:  onion, flour, chicken broth and pureed avocado and that’s it.  Four ingredients, five if you count the olive oil used to sautee the onions, six if you include lemon juice to keep the avocado green and there you go.  I could not quit eating it and finally had to force myself to stop already!  And now I’m damned mad that I only made a half a batch as I didn’t want to get too full with the pork.  Estupido!

The cookbook’s author said that she’s eaten this soup at the Pehun Inn in the wild Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.  And again I have to wonder “was I taking a siesta in history class” because my first thought regarding Patagonia was “snow,” not “avocados.”  But silly me, while that region does include the famous Andes mountains, it is also as topographically varied as any other section of the world—oceans, mountains, valleys –you name it, they have it.  So yes, avocados!

Turning our attention to Puerto Rico, another country we barely touched on in Latin American history class (but at least I’ve been there), we have the pork loin with tangerines…and rum.  Oh yum, that rum!!  I thought this would be a good match with my avocado soup and I was right.  Both dishes were so tasty that it was a run for the roses with my husband to see who finished first.  He won, but only by a half a piece of pork loin.  By the way, when I asked him why he didn’t sample the soup, he said “Oh was I supposed to put that in a separate bowl?”  Apparently, he thought the soup was a type of gravy for the rice.  Well, in the end, they all end up in the same place, right, so it was a cute moment with no harm, no foul (or is that “fowl?”).

While this recipe calls for Puerto Rican rum – and why wouldn’t it? – I have a sizeable stash of Jamaican rum on hand and so used that instead.  I was matron of honor for a good friend at her wedding in Jamaica and let’s just say Andy and I took advantage of duty-free shopping before getting on the plane.  In the end, booze is booze and so I’m not going to start a riot by preferring one over the other but I will say that rum makes this dish.  It’s just enough so that you taste it along with the other ingredients (garlic, tangerine peel, ginger and cloves) but not overpowering.  Nobody likes a drunk, sloppy (but well-fed) cook, do they?

Now like most cooks, I wanted to time everything just right so that I could serve everything at once.  I started my rice cooker going with a side of rice for the pork put the timer on for the pork (30 minutes per pound and I had just over two pounds) and prepared the items for the soup, the soup to be the final thing I made.  Well, sister, I mistimed the pork and it was done way earlier than it should have been and so I scrambled to start the soup while my husband put together the paste that should have been on the pork 40 minutes before finishing.  I told him that at $11.99 a pound, we would eat that pork even if it was rendered to charcoal but in the end, it came out perfectly.  To steady our nerves, we had a sampling of rum while we were on our final steps and this helped a lot.

And so with the Olympic games on the TV, and with bowls (or in Andy’s case, bowl) of soup and pork and rice, we were in for one mighty fine evening.  If I have any regrets, it is that the husband of the same friend whose wedding I was in is not fond of pork.  Bummer, that.  But I’m thinking that maybe this could be adapted to chicken and so I might play around with that because Sheesh was this an excellent “Three-Generational” meal, or what!

Avocado Soup (Crema Quillotana) – serves 6
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth (the author includes a recipe for Chicken Stock – Consome de Ave – on page 64)
2 large avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 pinch fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Saut√© the onion in oil, add the flour, and stir to cook the flour.  Add the chicken broth.  In a glass or ceramic container, peel and puree the avocados and immediately add the lemon juice to avoid oxidation and browning. (Ann’s note:  I used my Cuisinart for this and it worked just fine.) At the last minute add the avocado puree to the soup and stir well; do not boil. (Boiling causes the avocados to turn dark and lose their taste.)  Add salt to taste and serve hot, garnished with cilantro.

Tangerine Loin of Pork - 8-10 servings
(Ann’s Note:  unless you want to go to the poorhouse on this one, exercise restraint at the grocery store!  And by the way, you might be tempted to use one of those pre-wrapped and ridiculously salty preserved pork tenderloins that cost far less than fresh—but don’t!)
1 4-5 lb loin of pork (Ann’s note:  I used two)
3 cloves garlic
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated tangerine peel
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, grated
1/3 cup amber rum

Sprinkle loin with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven at 350 until 40 minutes before done.  (Allow 30 minutes per lb. or until internal temperature is 175F.)  Mash garlic with sugar, tangerine peel, ground cloves and ginger.  Add rum to paste.  Rub all over loin, return to oven and continue roasting until done. 

Ann’s Note:  This paste forms the most wonderful sugar crust on the planet. 

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