Notes: Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Veracruz-Style Red Snapper) is a classic fish dish from Veracruz, Mexico. It combines the use of olives and capers give something of a Spanish-Mediterranean flavor to the Mexican preparation. Traditionally, a whole red snapper is used, gutted and de-scaled and marinated in lime juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic. A sauce is made of onions, garlic, tomato, jalapenos, olives and herbs, and the fish is baked with the sauce until tender.
The dish is traditionally served with Mexican-style white rice but we wanted to change the rice to represent Costa Rica. We chose to make a version of arroz guacho because the flavors go perfect with the Veracruzano. One big characteristic of the arroz guacho is that it still has a lot of liquid when finished. Our version has less liquid than a traditional recipe.
Preparation: Pargo is seasoned and put into a pan with white wine, fish stock, olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers and glazed onions. The pan is covered and placed into the oven until cooked. Meanwhile arroz guacho is warmed up on the stove until just heated through. When the fish is finished the guacho is placed in the center of a plate and the fish on top. The other ingredients in the pan are placed on top of the pargo as garnishes.
Country: Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras
Notes: The cake consists of a cake soaked with three types of milk: evaporated milk , cream of milk and condensed milk, which give it its name. It is usually accompanied with a meringue of egg whites and with maraschino cherries and sprinkled with cinnamon powder. Usually the recipe does not have butter and therefore has a spongy texture. The decoration may vary depending on the region or the taste of the diner. You can use fondant, chantilly or meringue .
It can be prepared in different ways, for example you can add chocolate to the decoration or add dulce de leche (cajeta / manjar / arequipe), or some alcoholic beverage ( rum, brandy, anise, etc.) to the mixture of the three milks.
We have specialized ours to have espresso to the milks mixture. We then top ours with a merengue and toast it tableside with Flor de Cana rum.
Preparation: The cake is baked off in individual portions and left to cool. The cakes are then soaked in the coffee and milk mixture until very wet. The merengue is spread on top and then tableside the flor de cana is heated and then lit on fire. While the rum is on fire it is spooned on top of the merengue which starts to blacken the merengue.
Country: Costa Rica, Mexico
Notes: When cooking meat, it is important to know how often the muscle was used by the animal. A good way to think about it is that the more the muscle is used, the better it will taste but the tougher it will be. If a muscle is not used very often it’s going to be very tender but doesn’t have the same taste as muscles that are used more often. The tongue has a lot of flavor because all a cow does is eat grass all day! So, very gentle and moist cooking is the way to go to make it super tender. The most popular way to cook it is to place it in seasoned liquid with aromatics and then simmer it on low until tender. In Mexico, the most popular way to eat it is to shred it up and put it in a taco.
Here in Costa Rica, another popular way to cook a classic dish is to make Lengua en salsa: tender beef tongue in a savory tomato-based sauce. For us here at Alma, we have mixed the two popular ways to serve it together, taking the Costa Rican version and making it into a taco and topping it with escabeche.
Preparation: Beef tongue is slow-cooked in broth with aromatics until tender. The tongue is then diced and cooked on the plancha until it gets a brown color for extra flavor and then it seasoned with cumin salt. Tomato sauce is spread on a fresh tortilla and the tongue is placed on top. Finally, a garnish of escabeche is put on top of each taco.
Story: The flautas, also called flautines, is a Mexican dish. They are tacos made of rolled golden corn tortilla. Its name derives from the great similarity that these have with the musical instrument (the flute) of the same name to be rigid (crisp) and thin. They can have different fillings such as shredded meat, picadillo, potatoes, beans and cheese, among others. They are served accompanied by any sauce, lemon, lettuce or cabbage, with tomato, and sometimes sour cream. We use a filling of shredded chicken cooked with achiote and tomato.
Preparations: Chicken Tinga is rolled in a golden corn tortilla and then fried. Black bean mole is put onto the plate and two crispy tacos are placed on top. Finally, it’s topped off with sour cream and cabbage salad.
Story: In contemporary Mexico, Tacos Barbacoa generally refers to meats, whole sheep or whole goats slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves, although the interpretation is loose, and in the present day, they may refer to meat steamed until tender. This meat is known for its high fat content and strong flavor, often accompanied with onions and cilantro. In Northern Mexico, it is also sometimes made from beef head, but more often it is prepared from goat meat (cabrito). In Central Mexico, the meat of choice is lamb, and in the Yucatan, their traditional version, cochinita pibil (pit-style pork), is prepared with pork.
Our version here at Alma is marinated in an Adobo made from Guajio and Chipotle chiles and then slow roasted in the oven.
Preparation: Local goat is marinated in the Adobo sauce over night and then slow roasted in the oven until very tender. When this is done, some of the mixture is placed on fresh tortillas and garnished with radish, avocado puree, green onion and cilantro.
Story: Tacos de pescado (“fish tacos”) originated in Baja California in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. They are often found at street vendors, and they have many regional variations. Our variation includes tempura batter to make our fried fish, shrimp or cauliflower very crispy on the outside. Tempura batter is actually a Japanese recipe that results in one of the lightest crispy batters you can use.
Preparation: Fish, shrimp or cauliflower is dipped into tempura batter and then fried until very crispy. This is placed on a flour tortilla and then topped with fresh cabbage and chipotle aioli.
Story: The “Arrachera” is the name given in Mexico to a particular cut of beef which is packed with flavor but needs to be cooked delicately to make tender. It can also be called entraña in Guatemala and Argentina, entrécula in Spain, skirt steak in the United States and onglet in France. In its raw form it is a very fibrous and innervated meat, so you must make it tender by the way you cut it after it is cooked or by using a marinate for the meat, which consists of seasoning the meat with certain spices and ingredients such as vinegar. This will make it softer while giving it a better flavor.
Encebollado in its simplest definition means a technique of cooking with onions. It can also be the name of a number of dishes. Maybe the most popular example of this would be Encebollado as the name of a fish stew in Ecuador where it is the national dish. For us here at Alma this means that our Arrachera cut of meat and onions are cooked together to order for our tacos.
Preparation: Thin slices of Arrachera and onions are cooked on the plancha until tender and then mixed with salsa verde. The mixture is then placed on a corn tortillas and topped off with queso Bagaces.
Story: Pozole, which means “hominy”, is a traditional stew from Mexico. It is made from hominy, meat (typically pork), and can be seasoned and garnished with shredded lettuce, chile peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa or limes. Pozole is typically served on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the new year.
Since maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of maize (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars, because the ancient Americans believed the gods made humans out of masa. According to research by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, on these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with maize, and the resulting meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the Conquest, when cannibalism was banned (including here at Alma de Amon), pork became the staple meat as it “tasted very similar” to human flesh.
The three main types of pozole are white, green and red. Here at Alma we serve red pozole made from one or more chiles, such as guajillo, piquin, or ancho. When pozole is served, it is accompanied by a wide variety of condiments, potentially including chopped onion, shredded lettuce, sliced radish, cabbage, avocado, limes, oregano, tostadas, chicharrón, or chiles.
Preparation: All of the ingredients are placed in a pot and stewed on low heat for a long amount of time. This lets the meat become very tender and allows for the deep flavors to develop. When ready it is garnished with radish, cilantro, lime and white onion.
Story: Sikil P’ak (Sikil = Pumpkin Seeds and P’ak = Tomato) is a puree that originates from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The recipe is ancient and simple to produce but the flavor is bold and complex. The process involves grinding roasted pumpkin seeds into a flour and using a molcajete to make a puree with charred onions and tomatoes, chili’s, cilantro, orange juice and sesame seeds.
Sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent results. High-end restaurants have been using sous vide cooking for years to cook food to the exact level of doneness desired, every time. The technique is popular because of easy-to-use sous vide precision cooking equipment called a circulator. The circulator heats water to a specific temperature that you choose which is determined by what you are cooking. Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.
Preparation: Sikil P’ak puree is spread over a crispy corn tortilla in a thin layer. The Octopus is slow cooked for hours in sous vide until is is tender with olive oil, garlic and herbs. When finished, the Octopus is then grilled, cut into bite sized pieces and coated in the Ancho puree. A salad is mixed together of Palmito, Tomate cherry, Cebolla morada, Pina, Naranja and Culantro Coyte. The salad is placed on top of the crispy tortilla holding the Sikil P’ak puree and then finished with the octopus pieces.