Hallacas Centrales - ( Steamed Banana Leaves with Chicken and Meat Filling )

Classic Latin American Recipe

Makes: about 25

Dough Ingredients:
3 cups Dried White Corn
6 cups Cold Water (or substitute three 1 pound- 13-ounce cans of hominy)
l/2 cup Lard
1 tspn. Annatto (achiote) Seeds
1 tspn. Salt

Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 — 2/lb. Chicken (cut into quarters)
2 cups Cold Water
l/2 cup Olive Oil
1 lb. Boneless Loin of Pork (cut into 1/3-inch cubes)
1 lb. Beef Chuck (cut into l/3 inch cubes)
1 l/4 cups Green Peppers (finely chopped)
1 1/4 cups Onions (finely chopped)
1 tbls. Garlic (finely chopped)
4 Medium Tomatoes (peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or substitute 1 1/3 cups chopped, drained, canned Italian plum tomatoes)
6 tbls. Capers (drained and rinsed in cold water)
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tbls. Ground Cumin Seeds
1 tbls. Salt
1 l/2 tspn. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley (finely chopped)
1/4 lb. Fresh Pork Fat (cut into l/4-inch dice)
3/4 cup Seedless Raisins
25 Pimiento-Stuffed Olives
3 Whole Banana Leaves
25 ten-inch Squares of White Parchment Paper (or substitute 50 ten-inch squares of white parchment paper)

Procedures for Dough:
If you are using dried corn, combine it with the water in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Drain off any excess water. Put the corn through the finest blade of a meat grinder and then put it through a food mill or a coarse sieve. If you are using hominy, drain it well and put it through a food mill. Melt 1/4 cup of lard over moderate heat in a small skillet, add the annatto seeds and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the lard through a sieve and discard the seeds. With a spoon or your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of lard with the corn. Add the strained lard and 1 teaspoon salt, and knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until it is very smooth.

Procedure for Filling:
1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the chicken and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender but not falling apart. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set the stock aside for another use. Remove the skin from the chicken with a small knife or your fingers. Cut or pull the meat away from the bones. Discard bones, and cut the meat into strips l/8 inch wide and 1 to 1 l/2 inches long.

2. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over high heat until a light ha/c forms above it. Add the pork and beef cubes, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is lightly browned on all sides. Transfer the meat to a plate. Reduce the heat to moderate, and add the green peppers, onions and garlic to the oil remaining in the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes until the tomato juices evaporate and the sauce becomes a thick puree. Return the meat to the pan, add the capers, sugar, cumin, 1 tablespoon salt and black pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Stir in the chicken strips and parsley, and set the pan aside off the heat.

3. In a small skillet, cook the pork fat over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until it has rendered most of its fat. Do not let the pork brown. Using a fine sieve, drain the bits of pork fat and set them aside.

To Assemble:
Shape 3 tablespoons of the dough into a ball and place it in the center of a banana-leaf square or piece of parchment paper. With the fingers press the dough into a rectangle about 6 inches wide and 7 inches long diagonally on the leaf as shown in the pictures opposite. Place 3 tablespoons of meat filling on the center of the dough and dot it with 2 or 3 pieces of pork fat, 4 or 5 raisins and 1 olive Construct the hallaca. Both the banana-leaf and paper-covered hallaca can be wrapped for the second time in paper.

To Cook:
When all the hallaca are filled, wrapped and tied, place them seam side down in several layers in a large colander. Place the colander in a deep pot and pour enough water into the pot to come to just below the bottom of the colander. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Steam the hallacas for I hour, keeping the water at a slow boil and replenishing it with additional boiling water as it cooks away. With kitchen tongs, transfer the hallacas to a heated platter. They may be served at once or refrigerated overnight with no loss of flavor. Reheat by steaming them again for 30 minutes.

To Prepare Banana Leaves:
If you are using banana leaves, cut away and discard the center ribs of the leaves with scissors, and carefully tear the leaves into 10-inch squares, following the veins of the leaf. (The leaf shreds easily if pulled against the vein.) Wash the squares in cold water, rubbing them with a cloth or sponge in the direction of the vein pattern. Dry the pieces gently with paper towels.


Other Related Links:
Classic Latin American Recipes

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