Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Mastering the Art of Dominican Cooking
Here's where I admit that it would probably be a tragedy to live here two years and never learn how to cook Dominican food. But, here's also where I don't lie - if I were in India or Italy or Thailand I would perhaps never leave the kitchen…well, okay I kind of don't do that anyway, but for different reasons. Anyway, I would be like Julia Child and her French cuisine and spend every moment making sure that I returned to the US under the banner of Best Gringa Cook of All Things Indian (Italian or Thai) in the World. Here I'm like, "Okay, rice, beans, green plantains. Got it." But seriously, it would just be lame to not master these dishes whether I adore them or not. And, like I have said before, I don't exactly dislike Dominican food, I just don't find it to be especially interesting.
Today I set out to buy a Dominican cookbook. This experience was so…Dominican. Dominicans are, by and large, friendly. This does not, however, negate a fact of life here - everything is done with a certain level of attitude. Dominicans seem to be best at sticking it to each other, but they don't sugar coat things for you just because you're a foreigner (unless you're in the Zona Colonial - where all of a sudden you can pay with dollars and eat wrap sandwiches all while speaking your apparently flawless Spanish). Typically, if you ask for directions you'll most likely get, "Pa'lla" and a pointed finger. People will roll their eyes at you (the teenager, in-your-face kinda' way) if you ask for a receipt. It is not unheard of for cashiers to tell you tough luck to paying your phone bill because if you don't have correct change down to the peso I have no time for you. Evidently, the same attitude can be applied to recipes. I ended up using the favorite Dominican dish mofongo as my cookbook meter.
Here's a translation of the recipe pictured below:
8 fried plantains, green
1 ¼ fried pork rinds or Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) well toasted
salt to taste
Preparation: Mash the fried plantains and the chicharrones in the same pilón (wooden mortar and pestle) you used for the garlic, add salt and a little bit of oil.
Now, I know exactly what mofongo looks like so I could figure this out, but seriously, what if you were making this recipe in say, Muncie, Indiana? You would be like, green bananas? Pork rinds? Mortar and pestle?!! So, I figured I would just go to my best FS friend Amazon.com and order up a nice Dominican cookbook in English. It turns out that there are a couple of English language Dominican cookbooks out there! However, they have less than stellar feedback. Apparently, non-Dominicans had trouble figuring out the recipes. Go figure.
But, I am not giving up. It's my new commitment. Once a week, until I get bored, I will make one Dominican dish. I have already mastered tostones - fried green plantains. Maybe I'll whip up a batch tomorrow. Then, on to mofongo.