29. Nov, 2014

My favourite dishes: Americas

Every so often, I like to put my feet up and edit my Bucket List or make a Top 20 list of some sort – be it rugby players, rock albums or movies. This evening my thoughts turned to the world of food. What if I had to compile my dream Five Course Menu from each continent? I got cracking, and in the end the list became so long I decided to divide it into three. My favourites from the Americas are:

North America:

  • Brioche Lobster Rolls. A classic New England dish, it consists of a lobster salad made (mainly)  with claw meat and gherkins, tarragon, lemon zest, lettuce and mayonnaise which is scooped into hollowed-out brioche (sweetbreads) and garnished with chopped chives. Tasty and filling!
  • Boston Clam Chowder. This dish is New England on a plate, and will satisfy even those who do not generally like seafood. Think of it as Vichyssoise with clams instead of leeks. Done properly, it should taste creamy up front, with a lingering aftertaste of essence-of-seawater – much like a firm oyster. The chowder is extremely hearty and very filling, and consequently starter portions are served in a cup or mug. A plateful should only be tackled as a main course!
  • Maryland Crab Cakes. This dish is traditionally made with the meat of blue swimming crabs from Chesapeake Bay, and often eaten as the “patty” in a bread roll. The flaked crab is combined with Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon Mustard, Mayonnaise and egg yolk, then rolled in crushed Saltine crackers and deep fried. Crustacean lover’s Nirvana...
  • BBQ Pork Ribs with Deep-fried Pickles. Slow-cooked pork is paradoxically a key element in both Old South cuisine and Soul food. The pork is mild-cured using salt and brown sugar, then marinaded in a sauce that is more sweet than sour and then slow-cooked for several hours over a  smoky wood fire – usually in an enclosed oven or barbecue to enhance the smokiness. A suitably tart side dish is deep-fried pickled gherkins or green tomatoes.  
  • Key Lime Tart. An iconic dish from the Florida Keys, it consists of a filling made with lime juice,  condensed milk and egg yolks in a crust of crumbed crackers. It is then garnished with lemon zest to give it additional “jump in mouth” freshness. 

Latin  America:

  • Lenguado Ceviche. The simplest of dishes to make, but very, very tasty.  Lenguado (Paralichthys olivaceus) or Chilean Flounder is sliced thinly and marinated for a few hours in lemon juice and chopped onion, with coriander leaves and parsley for extra flavour.
  • Cold Avocado Soup with Pepitas. A cold soup flavoured with hot Poblano Chilli, it is made with onion, avocado, chilli, chicken broth, coriander leaves, parsley, oregano, lime, cumin and yogurt. It is garnished with pumpkin seeds sautéed in lime and chilli.
  • Grilled Congrio Dorado with Papas Duquesas. The Congrio is actually not a Conger Eel as the name implies, but a Cusk – a close relative of South Africa’s beloved Kingklip. It is just as tasty, but the flesh is much more delicate.  It is equally mouth-watering  fried, grilled, poached, steamed or as a ceviche. A great side dish with grilled congrio is Papas Duquesas (Chilean Potato Puffs) – a Latino take on Duchess Potatoes. Its centre of mashed potato and Parmesan cheese is coated with bread crumds and deep fried until crisp.
  • Rack of Patagonian Lamb with Chimichurri sauce. The spring lamb from the Far South defies all the old stereotypes. It has the most subtle of aromas, contains little fat and melts in the mouth. Consequently it should be cooked no more than medium rare.  Its flavour is enhanced by serving it accompanied by Argentine-style Chimichurri sauce – a bright green sauce with considerable “kick”. It is made from chilli, garlic, coriander seeds,parsley, oregano, and salt & pepper immersed in lemon juice and olive oil.    
  • Plátanos Calados. A Colombian favourite, the dish consists of very ripe plantains simmered in a thick sauce of brown Muscovado sugar, cloves, cinnamon and lemon juice. It is normally served with creamy white cheese.

I hope these thoughts stirred your creative juices, or at least your wanderlust. Next time I’ll share my European and African favourites with you. Until then, bon apétit!