Summer keeps rolling, and the time came for my fundraising dinner to benefit Centro Hispano for the 3rd year in a row. On a personal note, it gives me a bit of confidence to know that I can do this to a satisfactory degree when I have never worked at a restaurant or in the food service business. In a more kindly note, I am glad to be able to give to an organization that exists to empower the Latino families in our community. At the same time, this dinner has given me the opportunity to introduce new people to the mission of Centro Hispano and its importance in this community. I am grateful for all of it.
This year I saw a great opportunity to introduce people to Venezuelan food. To plan the menu, I started thinking of a tour of the different regions of Venezuela and their traditional dishes. Our food culture is a melting pot of flavors with a dominant indigenous influence. Each recipe that I created is a full meal on its own, so my challenge was to create small portions for a tasting menu. Here is the menu.
This time the preparation was somewhat more relaxed, mainly because I have made all of these food many times and felt confident on their flavor and my ability to cook it. I only tested cachapas (corn cakes) a week before the dinner, trying to figure out portion amounts. I started the prep the night before, used my husband’s help for shopping at the store while I went to the market for vegetables.
This year I had Karen Menendez-Coller, Centro Hispano’s Executive Director, join me to serve dinner. She even helped me with last minute cooking steps, and we had a blast in the kitchen as well as talking about all the great things happening at Centro with the diners.
Here is all about the food we served:
Dinner started with arepitas on the table. The Venezuelan bread.
Tostones con Ensalada – Tostones or patacones are made of green plantains fried twice. A very popular beach snack topped with salads or cheeses. I thought this would be a good start of the meal. The plantains are lightly fried, then smashed and fried again until they are toasty and crunchy. I made a salad with market greens, dressed with a simple lemon vinaigrette and topped with avocado crema. The greens and acidity from the salad cut through the richness of the fried plantain; the crema was a beautiful and smooth finish to the bite.
Salpicon de Carne – This is a cold dish made with beef that has been cooked until very tender, then is marinated overnight in a vinaigrette with mustard and pickled vegetables. I cooked the meat in a pressure cooker the night before to guaranty it was super tender. Made a vinaigrette with store bought Gardineria, following the famous recipe by Armando Scannone, a legend on Venezuelan cuisine; and adding my personal touch with whole grain mustard, hot peppers, and quick pickled vegetables (carrots, onions, cucumbers) to serve it with. The cold meat was served on top of boiled potatoes, with pickled vegetables and drizzle with the vinaigrette.
Cachapa con Cochino – extremely popular in Venezuela, Cachapas are corn cakes usually filled with cheese and served with a side of pork or other meats. I used fresh corn and Venezuelan corn flour to make the cakes. The pork was marinated with garlic, Worcestershire, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cooked in a frying pan with enough water to cover it, until the water evaporates, at that point the oil from the marinade and the natural fat from the pork start frying the pieces of meat, creating a crunchy flavorful crust while it is tender and cooked perfectly inside. I served the corn cakes topped with the pork and a pickled slaw: carrots and kohlrabi, to add the Wisconsin flare.
Arroz con Pollo – A dish that does not go unnoticed in the Latin culture is for sure one of the staples in Venezuelan homes. A simple, one pot meal that is full of Latin flavors. I start with annatto oil to get the beautiful color on the rice, a sofrito, chicken thighs, rice, and finished by adding Wisconsin grown snap peas and carrots. It was a full warm dish to end the savory part of the meal. I have the recipe here for you.
Postres Criollos – For dessert, I created a sample of 3 traditional sweets. Majarete is a coconut pudding, traditionally Venezuelans make their coconut milk from shredded coconut. I went the easy route and bought coconut flakes and coconut milk in a can. It still had all the authentic flavors I remembered. I also made a passion fruit mousse; easy to make ahead; it was sweet and tart, smooth and creamy. One of my favorites. Lastly but not least a lemon-yogurt cake, to give the trio a nice bite from all the smoothness of the other two desserts. I also made a passion fruit and coconut sauce to drizzle on top. It was the perfect end to a lovely taste of Venezuelan food.
Once again BIG THANKS to the Woodman family and Wayne Harris from 6AM Marketing for purchasing the dinner, donating to Centro Hispano, opening their kitchen to me, and being great diners.
Until next year…
To read about last year’s dinner click here.