Comfort food Peruvian style

Mar. 13, 2013 @ 05:26 AM

I’m cold. Yesterday was miserable. It’s so rainy that it made me feel like I’m back in northern Europe with my children in Belgium.

While over there I found great comfort in their Ecuadorian nanny’s cooking. Her name is Charro and she speaks Spanish, but not English. She cooked all the family’s meals with a South American flavor and flair. I picked up many of her recipes during my visits.

Charro accompanied and stayed for a month with my family when they moved back to the states in January. I had my grandson interpret for me when I asked what is the difference between Ecuadorian and Peruvian cooking. Since Patterson is just six, I’m not sure I got the essence of that question answered.

She said Ecuador and Peru at one time were one country. The coast of both use a great amount of seafood in their recipes. She uses white fish, rice, beans and fried potato combinations for the children’s lunches. For dinners, she changes to chicken, black beans and rice for variety.

My reason for an explanation of these differences is that I found a Peruvian restaurant close to Monroe. I was searching for food to give the same lift from the dreary weather as Charro’s had. Her dishes were simple but had a comforting effect.

I found one in Indian Trail, Genaro’s Rotisserie Chicken and Grill. It’s a Peruvian restaurant with dishes close to Charro’s daily fare. The prices are very reasonable and affordable.

Genaro’s is located in the strip of shops next to Indian Trail’s super Walmart. The place is small and open to the cooking area. The wait staff is friendly and accommodating.

Duillio Macchiavello,owner, told me he imported his charcoal rotisserie grill from Peru.

Fred ordered a fish dish. I had the 1/4 chicken, spicy black beans, rice and fried plantains. Then I just had to have the tres leches cake. We also tasted the native puffed corn kernels.

I learned Charro’s spicy black bean recipe in Brussels. After my Gernaro’s visit I compared its chicken, rice, and black beans with hers and came up with my own compilation of the chicken and rice. The recipe I made follows.

I believe what made Genaro’s chicken so delicious was the grilling. I had Fred grill my chicken which was rubbed with the spices made into a paste with a little oil. If you are not up to that just rub the chicken with the spices and brown in your sauté or frying pan.

South American Chicken and Rice     

6 chicken thighs, washed, and patted dry

6 chicken drumsticks the same

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

Oil or butter to brown, (from 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup)

2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves picked from stems and chopped

2 cups uncooked white rice

1 white onion chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3/4 cup frozen peas

4 roma tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon achiote* powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

Season the chicken with a mixture of crushed garlic, achiote, cumin, coriander and salt.Rub on the chicken pieces. Heat the butter or oil in a large pan. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels.

Add the chopped onion, celery, tomatoes to the pan and cook stirring for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Mix in the rice, peas and carrots. Add chicken and any left over spice mixture. Bring back to a boil and cook, covered on medium heat for about 20 minutes.Lower the heat and cook until rice is done, about 10 minutes.Test for your taste.Add chopped cilantro.

Place rice on the plate. Arrange chicken pieces on top. This dish can also be served with avocado slices, fried plantains and the spicy black beans.

*achiote powder is used mainly for color. You can substitute saffron or paprika. Not quite as good. This spice is ground Annotta seeds. Those might be easier to locate but hard to grind. I found my achoite powder at an Indian food market. I’m sure its probably available in the multitude of Mexican markets around the area, if not in the larger, more gourmet grocery stores.

Monroe resident Jeanne Howell has attended cooking schools in San Francisco,

Atlanta, Charlotte and Monroe. She and a partner are working on a cooking video project. She may be reached at 704-221-1905 or jeannehowell20@gmail.com.