Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Peruvian Dinner

Two and a half years ago I took a mission trip down to Lima, Peru. We worked in two different neighborhoods to run a Vacation Bible School, and we spent one day cleaning up and working on an orphanage.



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Peru is a geographically diverse country. There are miles and miles of beautiful coasts (filled with chicken coops for some reason), mountains, dessert, and rain forest. I was able to experience the ocean and dessert on my trip. It was beautiful.
 
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The Peruvian people are friendly and welcoming. I was so excited to try out my Spanish because this was my first time in a Spanish speaking country. Looking back, Peruvian Spanish was so much easier to understand than Dominican Spanish.

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My trip to Peru was an amazing experience that I will never forget. My only regret was eating the chicken that led to me having an awful bacterial infection. I was sick for weeks, and the effects lasted for months. Let's just say I will never eat any chicken from Peru again. My fear of getting another piece of infected chicken did not prevent me from trying a Peruvian chicken recipe, though. In my own kitchen I was able to make sure it was cooked thoroughly.


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Because Peru is so geographically diverse, the food is very diverse too. The popular fish dish called ceviche can be found near the coast, cuy (guinea pig) is a specialty in the Andes, and the rainforest yields a variety of produce. Potatoes and rice are staples, and aji peppers are used frequently to spice things up.
 
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This chicken stew is called seco de pollo (dry chicken) because you brown the meat first without any liquid and then later add in the broth. It was not bad, and was all of our favorite part of the meal.
 
Seco de Pollo
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large golden potatoes, cut into chunks
2 large carrots, cut into 1” cubes
3 aji amarillo peppers, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups chicken broth
½ green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp oil
salt and pepper, to taste
 
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan, cut each breast in half, and add the onions. Cook until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir the bell pepper, garlic, and aji peppers to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes before pouring in the chicken broth. Bring the broth to a simmer with the cilantro, carrots, and potatoes. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through and the carrots and potatoes are tender. Stir in the peas and cook for 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro and seasoned to taste.
 
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Peruvian rice is made by sautéing garlic in a little oil before adding in the water and rice. Harper loved it, but Syd was not a fan of the garlicky flavor.
 
Arroz
2 cups rice
4 cups water
¼ cup oil
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Pour in the water, cover, and bring it to a boil. Add the rice, reduce the mixture to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on or until all the water is absorbed. Season to taste and fluff with a fork.


 
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These boiled potatoes served with a cold cheese sauce are very popular in Peru. I remember seeing them in restaurants, and Sydney even ate the sauce once. They were not awful, but the fact that the dish is served cold threw us all off a bit.
 
Papa a la Huancaína
1 cup evaporated milk
16 ounces queso fresco
½ tsp turmeric
6 saltine crackers
3 aji amarillo peppers, seeded and diced
3 tbsp oil
6-8 small golden potatoes
1 leaf lettuce
black olives
1 boiled egg, peeled and halved
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine the milk and peppers into a high speed blender. Blend until creamy. Add the queso fresco, turmeric, oil, and saltine crackers. Blend until creamy. Cover the potatoes in a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Allow the potatoes to cool and then peel them. Cut the potatoes in half and place them on top of the leaf of lettuce. Pour the sauce over top, and garnish with the olives and egg. Season to taste.
 
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None of us left our Peruvian table hungry, but I will not be cooking any of these recipes again. At least I can assure you that it was pretty authentic since we ate similar things in Peru.
 

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