Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cheesy Goodness!

"Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya!"

My dad sang that the entire month before he took my mom to Aruba. They came back with sun tans, t-shirts, and stories of amazing massages and beautiful beaches. One aspect they neglected to mention was the delicious food!

In case you didn't know, Aruba is an island located in the Caribbean. It's part of the Netherlands Antilles, and is a Dutch colony. The two languages most commonly spoken are Dutch and Papiamento, the latter being a creole language native to the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. The food of all three counties share similar characteristics.


The word "keshi" is the Papiamento rendition of the Dutch word for cheese: "kaas". This extremely cheesy pie-like substance. It actually originated with the Dutch slaves who would stuff hollowed out cheese rounds with random scraps, bake or steam it, and go into a cheesy coma. (Alright, maybe not the last part, but just about.) I had my doubts as always, but it turned out delicious!

Keshi Yena
serves 3-4
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
1 green bell pepper, choppe1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
¼ cup raisins
½ cup cashew pieces
½ cup water
2 tbsp oil
8 ounces Gouda cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil two ramekins or a small baking dish. Line the bottoms and sides of the ramekins with the cheese slices, completely covering them. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook the onion, bell peppers, and habanero for 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the water, chicken, cashews, and raisins; and cook until the water has evaporated. Carefully place the filling inside the cheese crust, top with the remaining slices of cheese, and bake for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and cook for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.


Pan bati is a side dish pancake that the Arubans often eat with soup or stews. I loves to sop up the melty cheese with the pan bati, and I thought they went great together. Who said that pancakes were breakfast food?

Pan Bati
makes about 10
1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ tbsp. baking powder
dash of salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
1 egg
6 tbsp milk

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and milk. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring in enough water to make a pancake batter-like consistency. Oil a skillet and heat it over medium heat. Cook a few tablespoons of the batter at a time. Flip the bread over once bubbles start to form on top, cooking each side until lightly browned.
Cornmeal griddle bread and cheese crusted pie equals deliciousness all around. Aruba did not disappoint! I wish I could have cooked it for my family to see if they had tried anything like it in Aruba. My dad would have probably died because he hates cheese, but my mom and sisters could have joined me in the gooey paradise. Yum!

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