June 15, 2010

6/15: New Zealand v Slovakia, Cote d'Ivorie v Portugal, N. Korea v Brazil

Dilemmas, dilemmas. After searching endlessly for a Pavlova in a Houston restaurant to represent New Zealand in our World Cup Dining Guide, I realized that most people don't actually know what a Pavlova is! This gorgeous meringue and whipped cream fruit tower named after the famed Russian ballerina has somehow fallen off our culinary radar. I've been looking forward to making it ever since.
Unfortunately, New Zealand is playing on the same day as Portugal, my favorite country for baked goods. What to do? Create a menu of just desserts? 
Even better, Portugal and Brazil playing on the same day provides a unique opportunity to address two national cuisines in a single dish!
It's also quite handy that modern Portuguese cuisine is heavily influenced by the cultures of its former African colonies and vice versa, so the Ivory Coast and Portugal compliment each other well. Feijoada, a stew of beans and pork is a typical Portuguese dish, although far more well-renowned is the Brazilian version where the Fava beans are replaced with black ones. Here we combine the traditional Feijoadas of Portugal and Brazil with the quintessential Ivoirian snack of fried plantains.
Comprised of over 60 unique ethnic groups, the Ivory Coast has varying regional cuisines, but is united by common cash crops that are remnants French rule. A the leading producer of cocoa and third largest producer of coffee, you may wonder why I did not choose an Ivoirian dish based on these staples. I never buy cacao or coffee from West Africa, which has not only destroyed much of the region's rainforest but employs one of the largest child and slave labor forces in the world. So here's my plug: buy fair trade cacao and coffee! Although it would have been ironic if we'd paired Ivoirian slave cacao with North Korean flavors. But no irony can justify the horrendous flavor profile of such a dish!
Instead, the pungent sweetness of the plantains should compliment North Korean kimchi, as it is known to be of a softer, less garlicky flavor than its southern counterpart. North Korean cuisine is known for its cleaner, milder tastes. Kimchi, the most well-known of all Korean foods, is a pickled vegatable dish served as a banchan (side dish) in countless variations in nearly every Korean meal. It will serve us well here since we can spice up the same kimchi later and call it South Korean. Never fear, the only thing totalitarian about this dish is that it's totally tasty :) 

Feijoada with kimchi-plantain banchan

1/2 lb dried fava or great northern beans, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 lb black beans, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 lb carne seca (spicy dried beef)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Bay leaf
3/4 lb chourico/linguica, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 dried red chili
Chicken stock/broth
In a large pot, cook bacon until it starts to crisp. Add chourico and cook until lightly browned. Add onions and cook until golden, then add bay leaf, garlic and chili. Add remaining ingredients, adding the broth gradually to desired texture. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and chili.
Photo: 1.bp.blogspot.com

Banchan: Pyongyang style kimchi; fried plantains
As kimchi must pickle over the course of a few days, we're picking ours up at the local Korean grocery. However, I've posted a recipe so as to explain what is involved in making kimchi at home
1/4 C coarse sea salt
1 head Napa cabbage, cut into small wedges
3 cloves garlic
1 in piece of ginger root
2 T Asian Fish Sauce
1 Asian radish, peeled and grated
1 small bunch green onions cut into 1-in pieces
1 T Korean chili powder
Dissolve the salt in a 1/2 gal container. Mince the garlic and ginger or combine in food processor with the fish sauce (once again, I call on my immersion blender). Combine the radish, onions and garlic mixture in a bowl with the chili powder. After squeezing and patting as much water as possible out of the cabbage, stuff the leaves with the radish mixture and stuff into the brine. Let sit for 2 to 3 days.

To prepare the fried plantains, simply slice two ripe (blackened) plantains and fry ~3 min until golden. Ivoirian plantains are typically fried in palm oil since olive oil is too expensive, which you are welcome to try, but I would not recommend it for health or flavor reasons. Toss the plantains with kimchi and serve in the closest thing you can find to a cute little banchan dish.

New Zealand vs. Slovakia
The Pavlova is said to have originated in the 1920's during one of the dancer's visits to New Zealand. More than just a meringue, the Pavlova is low baked, leaving a soft inner texture and traditional decoration with exotic fruits such as passionfruit and kiwi. In honor of its origins, we've decided to go with kiwis.
In order to create a Slovak element to our Pavlova, we've served it atop a traditional Slovakian pastry colorfully named "Bubbly cake." Slovakia seems to have taken the spicier, tastier end of the Czech republic split in the culinary department and offers some tantalizing dishes. I hope to revisit the Country later on in the tournament. Their desserts are typically built around some sort of pancake or coffee cake and topped with a fruit sauce such as blueberries. The name, "Bublanina" dervies from its bubbling batter during baking. Yes, Bublanina's batter bubbles during baking - say it three times fast! We've adapted the recipe to include less sugar so as to better compliment the Pavlova topping and left the blueberry sauce for final serving atop the meringue. Also, TX blueberries are in season.
Dances with Bublanina
Prepare the Bublanina:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs divided, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and stemmed
Place rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter or lightly coat with cooking spray a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, sugar and yolks until light and fluffy. Add liqueur, if using, orange zest and salt, mixing well. In a clean medium bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Alternately fold in egg whites and flour into butter-egg mixture. Turn batter into prepared pan and scatter blueberries evenly over top. Press down into batter with a spatula. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cut into 6 equal pieces.

Prepare the Pavlova:
4 egg whites at room temperature
1 C of Castor sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 C cream
Fresh kiwis, sliced
1 T fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 275F. Line a baking tray with foil and draw a 7 inch circle on the foil (don't tear the foil). Set aside.
In a clean, medium-sized metal bowl, beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks. Gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, until your egg whites form glossy stiff peaks.
Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.
Now gently spread the meringue in the circle on the foil to make a circular base. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher then the center so you have a very slight well in the middle.
Bake the meringue ~1:15 or until it goes a very pale, pinkish color.
Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.

Blueberry Sauce
1 pints fresh blueberries, washed and stemmed
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 T sugar
Reduce berries in a saucepan until sauce is desired consistency.

To assemble the Dances with Bublanina:
Arrange the Bublanina on a cake plate and top with the meringue.
Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it forms peaks and gently spread the cream to the top of the meringue with a spatula. Arrange kiwis on top and drizzle blueberry sauce to serve.

Prefer to eat out instead? Our Houston Dining Guide tells you where and why.

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