Jose Garces’ new book, ‘The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru,’ (Lake Isle Press, 2012), makes a grab for your heart while you’re licking your chops.
Forget about Garces’ Iron Chef and Food Channel fame, and the fifteen restaurants (fifteen!), and the super-duper celebrity chef endorsements, or you’ll make the mistake of thinking this is just another glossy collection of recipes by a big-deal chef riding a wave of fame into your kitchen. Because besides being a good cookbook, ‘The Latin Road Home’ embodies the spirit of food and cooking – its sense of place and the intimacy of feeding the people we love, and being fed by them.
The Mexican foods we love in the United States are in fact familiar staples throughout the southern hemisphere. And a lot of the fun of The Latin Road Home is watching a Mexican favorite evolve – a spice here, an ingredient or new technique there — through the kitchens of Spain, the Caribbean, and on to the kitchens of Peru and Ecuador, all personal touchstones for Garces. His own family is Ecuadorian with many Peruvian friends; Spain was his first stop after culinary school; his wife’s family is Cuban; and Mexican food is a sentimental favorite from his Chicago childhood. The recipes all look wonderful, but it’s Garces memories that make you want to turn on the stove and set the table.
The recipes are clearly written and easy to follow with good notes to help you with techniques and shortcuts. “Sources” in the book’s appendix will help you sort out what’s what, where to find it, and what to substitute if you can’t lay your hands on a particular item. Bottom line: you can master an old favorite, or try something new and get it right – and make your own “road home” along the way.
Crema de Quinoa de Zuleta
Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn
Recipes reprinted with permission from “The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba and Peru” (William Morrow, 2012).
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 small russet potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- Kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ Spanish onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
- 1 Tbsp achiote paste
- 1 ½ cups quinoa (any color)
- Kernels cut from 2 ears fresh white sweet corn or 1 cup thawed and drained frozen white corn kernels
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh chives or cut into 1 ½ inch strips
- ¼ lb smoked bacon, cut into strips, cooked until crisp, and drained
Sliced avocado, for serving
Ají Costeño (recipe follows), for serving
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the vegetable oil to 375F in a Dutch oven over medium heat, using a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature.
- Fry the potatoes in batches, turning in the oil until golden brown and very crispy on all sides, I to 2 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried potatoes to the baking sheet to drain and cool. Season to taste with salt. Alternatively, fried potato matchsticks from the snack aisle from your local supermarket will work as well.
- Heat the butter and olive in a stockpot over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the achiote paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and corn and cook, stirring often, until the grain is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and cream and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer the chowder uncovered until the quinoa is very tender and the liquid is reduced by one-quarter, about 45 minutes.
- To serve, to serve, fold in the parsley, chives, bacon and fried potatoes. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with avocado and serve ají on the side.
Equadorian Hot Sauce
Makes one cup
- ½ red Fresno chili, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
- ½ plum tomato, finely diced
- ¼ Spanish onion, finely diced
- 2 scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp agave nectar
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except for the salt and mix well. Remove half of the vegetables and set aside in separate bowl. Pulse the remaining half in a food processor only until the vegetables are finely chopped; it should not be a smooth sauce. Fold in the reserved vegetables. Season the sauce to taste with salt. Chill before using.