Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dominican Republic

Note: I cooked and wrote this quite a while ago, but just got it edited.  I decided to keep it as it was at the time.  There will be life updates next time.  Don't worry, I have cooked since this one.

Background: Explored and claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1492.  Part of the greater island of Hispaniola, the western third was recognized by the Spanish as being French controlled in 1697 and became Haiti.
Location: Caribbean
Area: Almost 50000 sq km; 132rd largest in the world
         Slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire
Religion: 95% Roman Catholic
Population: Over 10 million; 85th largest in the world
Capital: Santo Domingo
Suffrage Note: Married people can vote regardless of their age
International Disputes (I find the phrasing here interesting, so I kept it wholesale):
Haitian migrants cross the porous border into the Dominican Republic to find work; illegal migrants from the Dominican Republic cross the Mona Passage each year to Puerto Rico to find better work
Source: CIA Factbook 

Two Caribbean countries in a row!  And let me assure you, it was easier to find recipes for the Dominican Republic than Dominica.  Websites that have "Dominican" recipes?  Yeah...that would be the Dominican Republic.  Just in case you were wondering.

I gave Kevin a lot of choices for Dominican Republic, and he ended up choosing one that I would describe as Caribbean Shepherds Pie, or Pastelon De Papas.  I was more than happy with this choice.

The first thing that Kevin noticed was the time estimate.  Pretty sure that should be 1 hour of bake time, not one minute.  Anyway!  I started the potatoes before the meat, because I know that that can take a while.  And yes, I actually peeled them ahead of time for once.
The beef wasn't too hard to make.  These are all ingredients I regularly have around our place  I did not use fresh parsley, but other than that I'm fairly certain it was as-is.
A word of advice: if you make this, use a bigger pan than I did.  Adding the water and tomato paste really tested the limits of my pan.  I was also surprised at how watery it became.  I was expecting something a bit more solid, even after boiling off some of the excess water.
I just let it keep cooking as I worked with the potatoes.  And this is where I ran into some issues.  One, cold milk plus butter does not mix very well.  Two, apparently when I transposed this recipe into the meal planner I use, I forgot to include the egg yolks.  Then, when the directions mentioned egg yolks, I was confused.  I swear, it wasn't there before.  Even Kevin looked to try to help me interpret.  Therefore, I wasn't sure whether they should be included or not.  I ended up using one egg.

Should have used a bigger bowl...  I'm not so great at estimating volume.
Once I added in the milk, it got much more runny than I would have expected.  More like a potato soup, almost.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but definitely on the creamy side.
There are not many things that I can claim I really know in the kitchen, but I feel like mozzarella cheese may be one of them.  We go through a lot of it, plus cheese is one of the main food groups for someone who used to live in Wisconsin.  So I feel okay giving this advice for the second time on this blog: use whole milk mozzarella.  The flavor is great, and it melts correctly.  All of the yummy and awesome stuff is still in there.  Unfortunately, you have to buy it in block form, but that is where a food processor makes life good.
After that life lesson, it is time to layer everything!

I really wasn't sure how long it should bake, since it said until golden brown.  I ended up checking it every 10-15 minutes.  I wouldn't recommend that because you will drive yourself crazy.  Unfortunately, I don't remember how long it ended up being.  Luckily, everything in there is already cooked, you are just trying to get it to come together.

And I even served it with a green salad!
Dominican Republic was quite good.  Everything blended quite well without you being aware of each individual ingredient.  The flavors were nice and it was filling.  In fact, the claim that this is 6 servings seems a bit ridiculous to me.  There are four pounds of meat and potatoes alone, not to mention the cheese and other ingredients.  This will last you much longer than you thought.

The biggest issue was that it was runny.  The combination of the still a little runny meat plus the super-creamy mashed potatoes left things a bit mushy.  I don't think this got in the way of the flavors, but just the overall eating experience.  This could be easily fixed by using a little less milk and water.

Originally I had planned on making a plantain side with this dish as well, but with life being so up-in-the-air lately, it obviously didn't happen.  Luckily we have some more visits to the Caribbean in the future that should give us some chances.

And no, I don't know how she got hers to be so pretty compared to mine.

Next time: East Timor