Vote for Your Favorite Argentine Recipe!

The Seashells and Sunflowers Argentine Recipe Contest is drawing to a close. We've seen (and drooled over) all three finalists' entries, and now it's up to you, the readers, to vote for your favorite recipe! The winner will earn bragging rights and a delicious food prize from Argentina.

Before voting, please refresh your memory with a quick visit to each of the mouthwatering entries:

Cecilia Maza [La Calera, Province of Córdoba, Argentina]
Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread

Aledys Ver [Zwolle, Netherlands]
Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Norma Torres [New York, New York, USA]
Matambre Arrollado | Argentine Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak

[If you can't see the poll embedded in this post, please click here.]

Voting ends on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at noon (Argentina time).

Good luck Cecilia, Aledys and Norma!

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Matambre Arrollado | Argentine Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak

The third and final entry in the Seashells and Sunflowers Argentine Recipe Contest comes from Norma Torres of New York, New York, USA. Norma, a Latina blogger of Puerto Rican descent, offers up her take on Latin cuisine at her blog Platanos, Mangoes and Me! In the wake of an unfortunate blog meltdown, she's back and better than ever at a brand new Wordpress blog. Please take a moment to visit her blog and say hello.

Norma submitted a recipe for matambre arrollado, a very popular dish here in Argentina. As always, she put her personal spin on this classic recipe, with pleasing results. Norma also provided some background information about matambre, which I've paraphrased below:

Matambre, a cut of beef that Americans know as flank steak, is the meat that covers the ribs just under the hide [a photo of the cut]. The word "matambre" comes from a contraction of two Spanish words: matar (to kill) and hambre (hunger). So, matambre essentially means (and rightfully so) "hunger-killer."

A typical Argentine cut, matambre may be prepared in a number of ways including grilled with a touch of salt, topped with tomatoes and cheese (matambre a la pizza), or stuffed, rolled and cooked – either on the stove-top or in the oven – and enjoyed as a cold cut or as an appetizer at parties or get-togethers.

I served Norma's matambre arrollado this afternoon at a family lunch, and all in attendance gave their seal of approval. The meat turned out tender and nicely seasoned, with the vegetables providing eye appeal and additional flavor.

Matambre Arrollado | Argentine Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak by katiemetz, on Flickr

Matambre Arrollado | Argentine Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak

Ingredients

2 beef flank steaks totaling about 3-1/2 lbs. [I used a large cut of matambre.]
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and pepper to taste 
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
3/4 lb. fresh baby spinach
5 hardboiled eggs, cut in wedges [I kept mine whole.]
6 carrots, quartered lengthwise and blanched
1 large onion, julienned
24 oz. (3 c.) beef stock
2 tsp. dried thyme [I used 1 tsp.]

Directions

Place the flank steaks on a cutting board, and trim away the silver skin and most of the fat from the meat. With the short side closest to you, butterfly [how-to video] the two flank steaks (cut through the meat horizontally from the long side or follow the technique shown in the video). Using a meat mallet or a heavy pan, pound the steaks between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Place the flank steaks in a non-reactive bowl with the vinegar, oil, one clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate the steaks for about 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Lay the steaks side-by-side with the long sides nearest you; overlap the short sides by about 2 inches. Sprinkle the steaks with salt, pepper, parsley, and the other clove of garlic. Distribute the spinach all over the meat, and then place long, evenly-spaced rows of carrots, onions and hardboiled eggs across the steaks [I lined up the whole hardboiled eggs in a row, end-to-end, along the edge nearest me since I wanted them in the center of the matambre.]

Firmly roll the flank steaks, starting from the long side, and tie with kitchen twine. Close up any loose seams with toothpicks. Place in a roasting pan with the beef stock and the thyme. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a preheated 375ºF oven. After 1 hour, remove the pan, turn the meat over, and re-cover with foil. Return the matambre to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove the beef stock and save for future use, if desired. Allow the meat to cool, and then loosely cover and top with weights. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator the next day. Slice and serve the matambre with ensalada rusa.

Matambre Arrollado | Argentine Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak by katiemetz, on Flickr

Stay tuned for contest voting instructions – coming up in the next post!


Previous Posts about the Recipe Contest:

Entry #2: Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Entry #1: Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread
Finalists for Argentine Recipe Contest
Argentine Recipe Contest

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Bureaucrazy

The Urban Dictionary defines "bureaucrazy" as "any process or organization that sacrifices intelligence and rational thought in favor of administrative red tape." If you've been following my posts about obtaining Argentine residency, by now, you've probably come to the conclusion that this country's bureaucracy indeed qualifies as a "bureaucrazy."

Anyone who's ever come face-to-face with uptight government paper-pushers will get a kick out of this hilarious video, but I think there's a whole new level of appreciation to be had if you've specifically dealt with trámites (government paperwork) here in Argentina. Incidentally, the video was filmed in Spain (it appears that Argentina comes by its horrendous bureaucracy honestly).

[Click here if you're unable to view the video.]

Thanks to my friend Beatrice Murch for sending this video my way.

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Patagonia From My Window

I'll wrap up my series of posts about Patagonia with images instead of words. Let's look out the window of the bus as the scenery rolls past. Goodbye for now, Bariloche.

Limay River | Río Limay, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr[Near El Anfiteatro (The Amphitheater)]

Along the Limay River, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr[Poplar trees (álamos) lined up along the Río Limay]

Río Limay, Provincia de Neuquén, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Out My Window, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Valle Encantado - Leaving Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr[This photo and the following two feature Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley), an area dotted by volcanic rock formations, located about 40 miles northeast of Bariloche along the Río Limay.]

Valle Encantado, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Valle Encantado, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Passing through Piedra del Águila II, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr[This photo and the last one show rock formations visible from the highway in the small town of Piedra del Águila.]

Passing through Piedra del Águila, Patagonia, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr


Enjoy the previous posts in my Patagonia series:
Back from the Wilds of Northern Patagonia
Bariloche: Circuito Chico and Cerro Catedral
Bariloche: Lago Moreno, Bosque de Arrayanes and Isla Victoria
Bariloche: Cascada Los Alerces and Cerro Tronador
Lakes Crossing: Bariloche to Puerto Varas
Exploring Puerto Varas, Chile
Bariloche: Cerro Otto

Visit my Patagonia sets here and here for more photos on Flickr.

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Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

The second entry in the Seashells and Sunflowers Argentine Recipe Contest comes from Aledys Ver of Zwolle, Netherlands. Aledys originally hails from Córdoba, Argentina, and you can read all about her life on her blog From Argentina to the Netherlands, for Love!

First, a note from Aledys about this recipe:

"I thought that I would send you the recipe for budín de pan, a dessert that for me not only says 'Argentina' but also, 'Aída', my granny, who used to make this in the campo (countryside) for us kids when we were visiting during our holidays.

"This version of budín de pan is to be made in the oven, but you can also make it over an open fire, like my own grandma used to!"

A great way to use up leftover, stale bread, many countries boast a version of the economical yet tasty dessert, bread pudding. Argentine budín de pan differs from American bread pudding mostly in terms of texture. The Argentine version features a smooth texture, rather than large chunks of bread, since the bread cubes are completely broken down when mixed with the custard. In addition, budín de pan usually sports a topping of caramel, just like flan.

Aledys' Argentine-style bread pudding has a moist, creamy texture rich with the flavors of raisins, vanilla and lemon zest. The caramel sauce that gets drizzled on tableside makes this dessert truly decadent, but if you're in a hurry, the pudding shines on its own. I also whipped up a bit of sweetened cream to serve with the budín de pan (I'd already made a disaster of the kitchen – what was one more bowl?). I can honestly say that that this version has turned me into a bread pudding convert!

Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Argentine Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce by katiemetz, on Flickr

Aledys normally uses a lovely pudding mold with fluted sides [click here for a photo of her budín], but I used a bundt pan. Next time, I will probably double the recipe because the bundt pan holds a much larger volume than the pudding mold. Any oven-proof baking pan or dish will work for this recipe, but the baking time may vary depending on the pan you select.

The original recipe left a lot up to the cook's imagination, as Argentine recipes are wont to do, so I put a number of notes in the recipe to clarify amounts and steps.

Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Así Cocinan Los Argentinos/How Argentina Cooks

Ingredients

For caramel coating:
1 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. water
dash of fresh lemon juice

For bread pudding:
3 tightly-packed c. stale white bread, crusts removed, cubed [I used 12 slices of bread.]
2 c. boiling milk
3 eggs
3 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
grated lemon zest or vanilla extract or both [I used the zest of 1 small lemon and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.]
seedless raisins to taste [I used 1/2 c.]

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Caramelize the sugar according to the instructions given here. As soon as the sugar caramelizes, pour it into your baking mold and swirl the caramel around to coat the bottom and sides of the mold. Set the mold aside to cool and allow the caramel to harden. [Note: the sugar can also be caramelized directly inside the baking mold, but I had more success making it in a separate saucepan.]

Preheat the oven to 325º/350ºF [depending on your choice of baking method].

Place the cubed bread in a large bowl. Pour the boiling milk over the bread, making sure the bread is completely soaked. Mash the bread with a fork to create a smooth, uniform paste. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly (you don't want the eggs to get foamy) with the sugar and a pinch of salt, and combine with the bread and milk mixture.

Add the raisins, grated lemon zest and/or vanilla extract, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the caramel-coated baking mold.

Bake in the oven at a medium-low temperature (~325ºF) for about an hour or bake in a bain marie (water bath), covered with aluminum foil, in a moderate oven (~350ºF) for about 45 minutes. [I chose the water bath method.]

You can check if the pudding is cooked through by inserting a knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, it's done. The pudding should also be springy to the touch, and it will have pulled away from the sides of the mold a bit.

Remove from the oven, and cool the mold on a wire rack. Once the pudding is completely cooled, run a knife around the edge of the mold to loosen it. Unmold the bread pudding onto a serving platter. Do not attempt to unmold the pudding while still warm or it will fall apart. Serve at room temperature with caramel sauce [recipe below].

Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Argentine Bread Pudding by katiemetz, on Flickr

Salsa Caramelo | Caramel Sauce

Note from Aledys:

"Be careful when handling the caramel, since it dries out very fast and it is difficult to remove. Do not attempt to taste it while you are preparing it – yes, I did ( I was about 12 years old, I must say) and it was very painful."

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. boiling water
simple syrup made with 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract [optional – I added it]
1 Tbsp. butter [optional – I added it]
1 Tbsp. cornstarch [optional – I added it]

Directions

Caramelize the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When quite dark, carefully add the boiling water, stirring so that the caramel dissolves in the water. Add the syrup, made apart previously or add the sugar and water and boil until thickened. At this point, add the vanilla extract if desired. If you want a smoother, shinier sauce with more body, whisk in the butter and cornstarch. Be sure to boil the sauce for a minute after adding the cornstarch to get rid of the raw cornstarch taste. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool. Pour the caramel sauce into a sauce boat to serve at the table.

Budín de Pan al Caramelo | Argentine Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce by katiemetz, on Flickr


Previous Posts about the Recipe Contest:
Entry #1: Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread
Finalists for Argentine Recipe Contest
Argentine Recipe Contest

Read More......

Argentine Wedding Superstitions about Rain

Argentine Wedding Superstitions about Rain, cartoon from La NaciónWant to avoid rain on your wedding day? Here are various Argentine superstitions and customs that supposedly ward off the storm clouds.

1) Stick a knife in the ground.

2) Sprinkle salt in the shape of a cross in the garden or yard.

3) Bury an egg in the ground.

4) Take eggs to the Sisters of St. Clare of Assisi, the patron saint of good weather, and ask that the nuns pray for a rain-free wedding day and a happy marriage. This custom originated in Spain and was later adopted by Argentine brides looking for a way to ensure sunny skies on the day of their nuptials. Argentine brides also deliver eggs by the dozen to the Benedictine Nuns of St. Scholastica (patron saint invoked against rain and storms) and the Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelite Nuns.

Should you require an umbrella on your big day, don't fret. The Argentines believe that rain on your wedding day brings good luck.


Speaking of weddings, if you want to get all the details on a super lux wedding in Buenos Aires taking place this coming weekend, check out the blog of the fabulous Andi Perullo at My Beautiful Adventures. Congratulations to the bride and groom! ¡Felicitaciones a los novios!

[Photo credit: La Nación]

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Argentine Residency: Update #1

Paperwork by kozumel, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]A little over a month has lapsed since I began the process of obtaining Argentine residency through marriage. On Monday, I received a phone call from one of the immigration officers, and I perked up immediately. He asked me to come in the following day to pick up my residencia precaria [link in Spanish], a document granting temporary residency while my permanent residency request is in process. During my previous visit to the immigration office, the officer had held out the possibility that my residency paperwork would be fully completed within one month, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that was wishful thinking. Obtaining the precaria represented a small victory, but as is usually the case with paperwork in Argentina, there was also a problem.

The immigration officer stated that I now needed a criminal background check from Interpol to complete my file. Mind you, I'd already submitted the FBI background check and the criminal background check from Argentine authorities. Not to mention that I've done a lot of reading about the process to obtain Argentine residency, and I don't once ever recall stumbling upon anything listing an Interpol background check as one of the requirements. However, with Expect the unexpected being the unofficial motto of the residency process in Argentina, I dutifully headed to the office of the Policía Federal here in Necochea to request the report.

The police officer who initially greeted me politely tried to brush me off onto the folks at the Prefectura Naval. When I explained that I'd just come from the immigration office at the Prefectura and that they'd specifically sent me to the Federal Police, much confusion ensued. After consulting with three different people, the officer finally decided that, yes, he could take my fingerprints and request the Interpol report on my behalf.

Should you require a criminal background check from Interpol as part of the process for Argentine residency, here are the documents you'll need to present:

  • Passport [photocopy of the entire document, including blank pages]
  • Original birth certificate with an apostille prepared by the state issuing the certificate plus a translation by an official Argentine translator [photocopy]
  • Certificado de matrimonio (marriage certificate) [photocopy]
  • Two special forms that you obtain from Migraciones 

You will be fingerprinted at the Policía Federal, free of charge.

Once you've been fingerprinted and you've presented all the necessary documents, an officer will sign and stamp one of the special forms, which must be returned immediately to Migraciones. The report from Interpol will later be automatically forwarded to Migraciones (the officer did not know the timeframe involved).

Honestly, I don't know if the Interpol criminal background check constitutes a brand new requirement that was introduced just within the last month, or if it's all part of the elaborate wild goose chase they like to send people on just for kicks. After some digging, I did find this thread on a TripAdvisor forum mentioning an Interpol background check as a requirement for the pensioner visa, but otherwise I came up empty-handed. I'd be interested to hear about others' experiences.

I also received the disappointing news that the small immigration outpost at the Prefectura Naval – conveniently located just across the river in Quequén – will no longer process paperwork of this type, so I'm now back to traveling an hour and a half to Mar del Plata, with its dismal immigration office, to take care of any future issues.

[Photo credit: kozumel]

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Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread

The first entry in the Seashells and Sunflowers Argentine Recipe Contest comes from Cecilia Maza of La Calera, Province of Córdoba, Argentina [Twitter: @Cecilia_Maza].

This recipe for tarta de cebolla y queso was culled from a notebook with collected recipes from Cecilia's grandmother. Cecilia explained that where she once lived, in San Antonio, Province of Misiones, this dish would make frequent appearances at family gatherings and other informal events, not only in her home but throughout the region. This recipe has been a part of Cecilia's life for as long as she can remember, and now she's sharing it here with us. Thank you, Ceci!

Admittedly, I was thrown by the title of the recipe. Since the recipe claimed to be a tart, I was expecting something similar to a quiche studded with onions and bits of melted cheese; however, it soon became apparent that I was preparing a bread batter. When the tarta emerged from the oven, I found the texture to be rather like a moist, dense, savory quickbread. Whatever you call it, the result proved tasty!

This recipe screams simplicity. You won't need to go in search of any bizarre, pricey ingredients, and it's a snap to throw together. I would serve this alongside a soup or stew, or eat it alone as a snack.

Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread by katiemetz, on Flickr

Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread
Yields 12 medium-sized portions

Ingredients

1 medium onion, diced
2 c. flour
7 Tbsp. (100g) butter, softened
2 eggs
4 oz. (120g) queso cremoso, cut into chunks [or substitute 1 c. coarsely grated mozzarella cheese]
approx. 1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. cream
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste [my addition]

Directions

Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

In a medium skillet over medium heat, sweat the onions with a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of water. Cook the onions until they are soft and translucent and the water has completely evaporated.

Place the onion, flour, butter and eggs in a large bowl. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon and slowly add the milk, adjusting the amount, as necessary, until the ingredients come together in a uniform mixture with the consistency of thick cake batter. Add the cream, [salt and pepper], and the cheese, and stir to combine.

Butter and flour a baking dish [I used a 9x9 ceramic baking dish]. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown.

Cut into small squares or rectangles for appetizer-sized portions or serve larger portions. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tarta de Cebolla y Queso | Onion and Cheese Quickbread by katiemetz, on Flickr


Previous Posts about the Recipe Contest:
Finalists for Argentine Recipe Contest
Argentine Recipe Contest

Read More......
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