Monday, October 24, 2011

A break from Sauces!

Did I tell you I went to Machu Picchu? I wish I could tell you it was the real one in the Andes in southern Peru…but alas, it was the new restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina! While visiting Ann and Bruce (sister and brother-in-law) a review of the restaurant was in the newspaper and within an hour, we were on our way. It is in a strip center; very average looking from the parking lot. As you enter, you notice the giant mural of Machu Picchu. It is such a breath taking wonder, literally. It is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level.[1][2] It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru. It was so nice to sit and breathe comfortably in Raleigh and yet experience part of the culture. Not one of the 6 of us had a clue what we were in for….we just knew we were game for something new.

One look at the menu and I was lost! Fortunately, our server was excellent. Each question was answered politely and patiently…and we had many! There were many unfamiliar words and terms on the menu….from beverages, specials, ingredients, desserts! After much humming and hawing, we each chose a different menu item so we could try as many things as possible. The menu consists of a collection of signature Peruvian dishes as well as Nouveau Andean dishes to cater to the Raleigh Community. We all agreed the outstanding dish was Tacu Tacu con Apanado de Carne de Puerco a combination of fried Peruvian Canario beans, rice and specialty Aji sauce, served with breaded pork and salsa criolla (thin slices of red onions and spices) and Extra Virgin Oil! The plate of food was HUGE and DELICIOUS! To see the complete menu, go to and click on “our menu”.

Chef Gloria and her Side-Kick
Having been a chef in a major restaurant here in Kansas City, I know how important it is to come out into the dining room and meet your customers. I was amazed at the time Chef Gloria and her Sous Chef spent with us. I didn’t ask, but I am fairly sure they were a husband and wife team, both well versed in their menu and very willing to talk about it.
All together, the menu, the dining room, the service, the server, the chef and her sous chef, and of course, the food, made for a great afternoon. Okay, so it wasn’t the real Machu Picchu, but it was fun! And I didn’t have trouble with the altitude!
Peruvian cuisine is recognized around the world as one of the best in South America - try it and see what everyone is raving about. Here is a recipe for you, straight from Peru.
Anticuchos are a popular party food in South America, especially in Peru. The most traditional Peruvian anticuchos are made with beef heart, but they can also be made with chicken (anticuchos de pollo) or steak.

Anticuchos are seasoned with garlic, vinegar, cumin, and aji panca, a mild red chile pepper with a smoky flavor common in Peruvian cooking. You can often find dried aji panca or jarred aji panca paste in specialty stores or Latin food markets

Grilled Beef Anticuchos - Anticuchos de Carne

12 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 cup mild chile pepper paste (aji panca, if available)
1/2 cup vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2-3 pounds steak (sirloin, tenderloin)
Wooden skewers

1.Cut beef into 2 inch chunks and place in a nonreactive bowl or dish.
2.Mash the garlic. Add a little water if necessary to make a paste.
3.Make the marinade: in a bowl, mix the crushed garlic, 1/4 cup of the vinegar, 1/4 cup chile pepper paste, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper.
4.Pour the marinade over the beef and mix well. Marinade beef overnight in the refrigerator. If you are pressed for time, marinade beef for at least 1 hour at room temperature.
5.Prepare the grill. Place the beef onto the skewers (about 4 pieces of beef on each skewer).
6.Make a basting mixture of 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, and a pinch of cumin.
7.Grill the skewers for about 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. Baste beef several times during cooking.
8.Serve with rice and corn on the cob.
Makes about 12 skewers.

So, after some research on line and a trip to  the library, I have found a recipe for our favorite dish, Tacu Tacu con Apanado de Carne de Puerco, with a few changes, I suspect.  There was no fried egg on the Tacu Tacu in Raleigh, but I think it sounds delicious!

Tacu Tacu con Apanado de Carne de Puerco
5 slices of bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chile powder or chile paste (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups cooked beans (canned are fine)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
20-25 saltine crackers
4 pieces of very thin boneless pork steak
4 tablespoons butter
Vegetable oil for frying
2 bananas or plantains
4 eggs
1/3 cup of thinly sliced onion for garnish

Saute the bacon until crispy.
Remove bacon (save for another use), and use the bacon grease left in the pan to sauté the chopped onion with the chile powder (or chile paste), until soft and golden.
Stir in the beans and mash them with a wooden spoon until they are pretty well broken up. Add the rice and stir.
Cook, stirring, until the rice and beans are heated through. Remove from heat, let cool, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Process the saltine crackers in a food processor to make fine crumbs. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumbs for later use.
Sprinkle a layer of crumbs on a cutting board, and place a piece of pork over the crumbs. Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper, and pound the steak with a meat pounder until flat and thin. Flip the steak over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of the steaks.
Heat butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet until hot, then sauté steaks for 2 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Remove from heat and place steaks on a plate. Cover them with foil and keep them warm in a low temperature oven until ready to serve.
Cook the rice and bean panackes: Shape the cooled rice and bean mixture into 4 flattened, football-shaped patties. Press them into the remaining saltine cracker crumbs, covering both sides.
Using the same skillet that cooked the steaks (uncleaned), heat 2 - 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the patties (1 or 2 at a time if necessary) and cook, 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove patties from heat and cover with foil to keep warm.
Peel the bananas and slice each in half crosswise. Slice each piece in half lengthwise, to make 8 pieces. In a clean skillet or pot, fry the banana (or plantain) slices in an inch of vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
Assemble the tacu tacu: On each plate, place one of the rice and beans patties. Top it with a piece of steak. Place a slice of fried banana on each side of the plate.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespooons butter until hot. Crack the eggs into the skillet and fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Top each piece of steak with a fried egg.
Garnish with some thinly sliced onions and serve.
Serves 4.

I don't want to go all "Shirley McClain" on you, but I would love to go to the real Machu Picchu. I think I could really use a little spirituality.

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