Friday, February 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Cheesy Bread. Yep.

Brace yourselves! The post you have all been waiting for!

CHIPÁ!

What is chipá?  I call it cheesy bread.  

According to Wikipedia via Google: "Cheese buns, cheese breads, pão de queijo or chipá are a variety of small, baked, cheese-flavored rolls”.

I have a few problems with this definition:
1.      These are not cheese flavored. There is real cheese (and lots of it) in these bad boys.
2.     Cheese bun sounds like a version of a Danish and, again, these are not “flavored” or Danish-like

In other South American countries there have variations on chipá so I give kudos to Wikipedia for associating them with Brazil’s popular pão de queijo.

I discovered these bundles of joyful deliciousness while dining at Cabaña Las Lilas.  I asked if they had any gluten-free bread and they pointed to the chipá.  I was initially very hesitant because the consistency was like no gluten-free bread I have ever seen.  I double checked with our tour guide, Maria, fearing that maybe my Spanish was rusty and the waiter did not really understand my dietary restrictions.  Maria confirmed that chipá are made from mandioca a tuber also known as cassava, also known as tapioca!  So I devoured these bread balls and thus began my quest for more chipá and for the perfect recipe to recreate while back in New York.

The great thing about being in BA is that there are bakeries - panaderías - on almost every block and if you go in the morning you are likely able to find a bag of 12 fresh chipá for a few pesos.

Now in the States, I've been scouring the web for the perfect chipá recipe.  The first I found that seemed to accurately describe the Argentine version (as opposed to the Brazilian or Paraguayan) was from food.com.  The recipe was very simple – tapioca starch, butter, eggs, lots and lots and lots of cheese.  I used mozzarella, provolone and ricotta salata despite what the recipe suggested.

  
food.com finished product

Eating chipá while watching Nueve Reinas.
How Argentine can you get?

The results were delicious!  Definitely had the cheesy goodness, but the round balls melted into more pancake/cookie like figures.  I was also aiming for that toasted brown outer layer and I think I cooked them too long because they were fairly toasted on the outside which also affected the soft consistency of the inside.  I had no problem eating my first attempt at replicating heaven, but ultimately I wasn't satisfied.

Since the Brazilian pão de queijo seems comparable to chipá, I asked a Brazilian coworker if he had a personal recipe better than what Google was providing.  He responded extremely enthusiastically claiming that he makes batches of hundreds of pão de queijo that he will eat for breakfast lunch and dinner!  His recipe is below.

He recommended using “polvilho azedo” which the internet told me is Brazilian sour manioc starch.  

Using 500g of this sour starch tapioca flour….
2 cups of milk
1 cup of oil (olive oil, non-extra virgin may be better, since it has less taste)
2-3 eggs
1 billion pounds of cheese (or 4 cups).

1. Preheat the over to 375F
2. Bring the milk and oil to a boil.
3. Pour the super hot liquid onto the starch, in a bowl big enough to knead in and mix. The amount of liquid here is important: too much and it’ll get too sticky or liquidy (which is fine if you have the mini muffin pans), too little and it won’t properly scald the starch, leaving it tasting a bit like raw flour.
4. Wait a bit so it’s cool enough to handle and knead until uniform.
5. Gradually mix in the cheese, adding one egg at the time and judging whether it can handle another one. Don’t add all of the eggs at once or you could end up with a super sticky dough that is a huge pain to work with (unless you’re going for the mini muffin pans)
6. Roll them into little balls, place on a baking sheet (or in the mini muffin tins) and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I made some variations on this theme based on what I had available – I used Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour, not the traditional Brazilian polvilho.  Also went for one cup of 1% milk and 1% almond milk which could have messed up something during the oil/milk boiling process.  The dough seemed very wet and sticky so I only used 1 egg.  I put half the batter in balls on a baking sheet and the other half in muffin tins, not mini.  Again, I was looking for the browning on the top so I kept them in longer than 25 minutes.  Also, when I tested one from the muffin tin right out of the oven, the inside was warm but seemed to be the same consistency as the dough and I got scared.

My Brazilian Version, possibly over-cooked

The final product was still delicious, but I haven't mastered that light, fluffy, cheesy consistency of the chipá in Argentina.

While writing this post I found this recipe: http://authenticbraziliancuisine.blogspot.com/2010/03/gluten-free-delicious-pao-de-queijo.htmlI will try that next.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Steak!

When in Argentina, eat meat.

It seems that on every block there is at least one parilla (Argentina steakhouse/grill) emanating the incredible smells of steak, chorizo, and melted cheese.  Tourist-trap steakhouses exist as do fancy Peter Luger status steakhouses.  Up until this trip I had only been to local parillas and was more than content with my $15 (or less) all you can eat meat extravaganza.

As part of my UJA Mission to BA, we got a special treat and had lunch at Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero.  On TripAdvisor there are 2,502 reviews and 83% of reviewers recommend this steakhouse that boasts of using their own meat from a farm in rural Argentina.  I was prepared to be blown away by this luxury steakhouse.  And, in the end, it was fine.  My favorite parts of the meal were the appetizers and the chipá (post coming soon!)...and the Malbec.  

Provoleta - Grilled Provolone Cheese with Roasted Veggies
(photo courtesy of J.H.)

Appetizer Platter - Caprese Salad, Blue Cheese Spread, Zucchini with Butternut Squash, Smoked Salmon
(photo courtesy of J.H.)

Seeing that we were a group of 40, we didn't get to choose our cut of meat and everyone received bife de chorizo.  Perhaps that was the downfall.  Or maybe it was the lack of flavor in the meat (gasp!).  But all in all I would rather go to the neighborhood joint for cheap and delicious meat than splurge at Las Lilas.  
Disclaimer: of course, if I have the opportunity to go back to Las Lilas (and on someone else's peso) I won't immediately say no.  However, if you ask for a recommendation for a steakhouse in Buenos Aires, Las Lilas will (likely) not be included.


One highlight of the meal was the little plastic cow figuring that say "estoy jugoso" denoting how my meat was cooked -- "juicy" a.k.a. rare/medium rare.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.

My sister lives in Buenos Aires.

She has fully adapted to the porteño lifestyle.

I went to visit her (my 3rd time in Argentina) and I realized why she moved from New York.


BUENOS AIRES IS SPECTACULAR.




The weather.  
I was there during the Argentine summer and despite a day of humidity and some morning sprinkles, it was in the high 70s for the whole week. My first time in Argentina was during their winter and it was chilly, but not unbearable like today's blustery 27 degree NY winter.

The food.  

Meat. Bread (yes, even gluten-free! Get ready for a future post on chipá).  Cheese.  Also, hearts of palm, avocado, fish.  Not to mention my two favorite beverages: Fernet and Campari!

The people.  

The sense of friendship and community in Buenos Aires is overwhelming.  When you meet someone new (even if it's in the local dietética - health food store) you give them a cheek-to-cheek kiss.  When you walk into the office in the morning you make the rounds and say "Buen día" and give a kiss to each and every person.  This is a county of people that makes everyone feel like family. 
[This is not Utopia. I'm sure there are people that are less friendly, but I didn't find them.]   

Although Buenos Aires felt relatively familiar, I discovered lots of new things and in the week that I've been back in the States, I have been searching for ways to incorporate the Buenos Aires onda (vibe) into my daily life.  This is post #1 of...a few? many? that will chronicle my attempt to blend the two and live what I loved about Buenos Aires in New York.





Enjoy.  Disfrútate! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

See below...

More on Bodega Negra from TimeOut NY.  Just out today!

"Bodega Negra Nightlife impresario Serge Becker imports London’s sex-shop-themed Mexican cantina, scrubbed clean for the Dream Downtown: He’s swapped the seedy original’s neon lights and peep-show silhouettes for copper-trimmed tables and mirrored panels. For his third venture at the hotel—joining Melvin’s Juice Box and La Esquina—Becker taps chef Michael Armstrong (Morimoto) to roll out Yucatán-inspired tacos (soft-shell crab), quesadillas (habanero and roasted tomatoes) and large-format dishes (whole suckling pig). Banked by a wall of antique tequila barrels, the amber-lit bar stocks 90 bottles of the spirit, employed in cocktails like the Chamomile Daisy (chamomile-apple agave, lemon) and a hibiscus-infused Paloma. 355 W 16th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-229-2336) "

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/food-drink/restaurant-and-bar-openings-february-6-12-2014?cmpid=NY+Wed+020514

I told you UrbanDaddy was a trendsetter....

Standard Fare gone FANCY

UrbanDaddy fills up my GMail promotions tab with lots of useful information. I glance at the "Perks" but focus most of my energy on the happenings they highlight in NYC.  That could be a restaurant opening, a bar with a new cocktail menu, or a fun event that will soon be taking place.  Their content is relevant and if you act upon it, you may feel like a trendsetter.

This happened to me just over a year ago when UD highlighted Rogue and Canon and I made my way over to try the Peanut Butter Cheeseburger.  (Quick Review:  Absolutely delicious!  I went bun-less and was still so happy with the flavor of the meat and loved the juxtaposition of the cheese, chunky PB, and pork belly.  All the flavors meshed well and the cocktails were on par with the burger.)  Shortly after visiting Rogue and Canon during its first week in business, I started receiving emails from other sites "in-the-know" in NY recommending a visit to R&C.  I felt really cool.

So this brings me to a more recent UD post on Bodega Negra in the Dream Downtown.  I have not yet been and I'm not sure when I will go, but this new fancy taqueria takes some standard fare tacos and adds a luxurious spin to them.  UD highlights three -- Peking duck, Soft-shell crab, and Lamb barbacoa.  I love lobster tacos and I love barbacoa tacos so I think the latter two will quite quickly fit into my repertoire.  This establishment also has locations in London and after perusing those menus I am quickly scanning my calendar to determine when I can make my first (and probably not last) visit to Bodega Negra.

Anyone want to go on a taco adventure?

Tacos in Texas

I've been told there are good tacos in Texas.  Tex-Mex, I imagine.

I think I should try these tacos.  Maybe in Austin??

https://generalassemb.ly/win/sxsw?rid=bWFkZHlibG9jaEBnbWFpbC5jb20

And going to SXSW would be pretty cool as well!

Monday, February 3, 2014

BLD. Chilaquiles.

I love breakfast.

Yes, it's the most important meal of the day, but it's also something that can take on so many shapes and forms.  I'm a big egg person so that tends to be the base of my breakfast, but I'm happy adventuring into the land of pancakes (gluten-free, of course), yogurt parfaits, and other interesting creations.

When breakfast and Mexican food come together, I jump for joy.

A favorite Mexican dish of mine is "chilaquiles".  El Centro (http://www.elcentro-nyc.com/) describes Chilaquiles as a "casserole" of tortilla chips and other goodness.  It's not a taste for everyone -- some see it as soggy chips, but I find chilaquiles to be like Mexican comfort food and the perfect dish to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So, when my favorite meal of the day joins one of my favorite dishes, I cannot resist.

This recipe from PureWow for Breakfast Chilaquiles (to get rid of all your Super Bowl leftovers) is spot on.  A bit elaborate for a weekday breakfast, but I will soon be enjoying these chilaquiles with the Sunday Times (The New York Times, that is).

Buen Provecho!

Chilaquiles Verdes

Ingredients


3 cups (about ½ bag) tortilla chips
1¼ cups salsa verde
½ cup grated queso fresco
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Jalapeño slices, for garnish
Finely chopped red onion, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

1. Make the chilaquiles: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss the chips with the salsa verde to combine. Pour the mixture into a cast-iron (or other oven-safe) skillet. Sprinkle with the queso fresco and bake until the salsa is heated through and the cheese is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Fry the eggs: Heat the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet. Add the eggs and fry to desired doneness (see Finishing Touches, below), then season with salt and pepper.
3. Divide the chilaquiles between two plates, then top each with a fried egg and garnish with cilantro, jalapeño, red onion, sour cream and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.


Read more: Chilaquiles Verdes | Recipes - PureWow