Thursday, March 11, 2010

Santo Domingo Xenacoj and a Bonus!

During this week we have visited some other towns that belong to the Sacatepequez Department, and with the remaining visits, this one and the one I am getting ready for tomorrow, we will finish the first chapter of our journey: Guatemala Modern and Colonial.
The "Colonial" official classification is almost entirely dedicated to Antigua Guatemala; however, for what I have seen, every town, even the smallest ones in Sacatepequez, were tremendously impacted during the colonial times, being these, the towns surrounding Antigua, where we can find much more authentic expressions, where we can start to experience the syncretism that has occurred between the ancient Maya beliefs, credences, traditions, and folklore, with the Catholicism as has been practiced since the Spanish colonial times.
Since we already are on our way out from Sacatepequez, before entering the Pan American Highway to continue our journey next Monday to the next chapter: The Living Maya Culture, I want to invite you to make a stop in Santo Domingo Xenacoj. 
The magnificent textiles produced by women in this town, make this one, a valuable visit. The photos I am using today are from Arte Maya Tz'utuhil.

And last but not least, here is the bonus: my very own Black Pepian recipe. Give it a try, it is good!

Black (darkened) Pepian
This is kind of a soupy dish that is a whole meal by itself. The most traditional way to serve it is in a clay bowl with “tamalitos blancos” on the side. The common and modern way to serve it, is with white rice (like rice pilaf) on the side and fresh hot tortillas. Speaking about tortillas, in Guatemala, even in the modern Guatemala City, tortillas are still made by hand in clay comales. For presentation, I like to garnish it with some toasted sesame seeds.

Recado Ingredients (“recado” is the name in Guatemala for almost any thick sauce used in the traditional cuisine)
1 lb of fresh Roma tomatoes
½ lb of fresh miltomatoes (also known as tomatillos)
1 large onion (about 1 cup)
1 fresh bell pepper, seedless
1 dried “guaque” chili (also known as guajillo), seedless
1 dried “pasa” chili (also known as pasilla), seedless
5 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon of whole pepper corns
½ teaspoon of whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup of sesame seeds
½ cup of pumpkin seeds, peeled

Other Ingredients
2 lbs of meat (chicken, turkey, pork, or beef; my personal choice are boned ribs), cut in pieces about 2 inches
1 lb of new potatoes
2 “güisquiles” (also known as chayotes), cut in long strips (a little bit thicker than a finger)
½ lb of fresh string beans (if possible, tied together in small bunches of 4-5 units)
- culantro (also known as cilantro)
- green onions
- garlic

Preparation
I usually start by cooking the meat in a dutch oven or a pressure cooker (for tenderness) with about two quarts of water, culantro, green onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once the meat is cooked, I remove the pieces and set them aside; degrease the resulting broth and separate about 2 cups for the recado.
In a pot with the rest of the degreased broth, I cook the potatoes, the güisquiles, and the string beans bunches, until they are tender but firm. Never overcook the vegetables!
While (or before) the vegetables are being cooked, without adding oil or water, roast  all the recado ingredients (in a non-Teflon pan over the stove, or in a cookie sheet protected with aluminum foil in the oven, turning them occasionally to allow all the ingredients to roast evenly) and blend them together with the reserved broth (I usually grind the roasted ingredients in the food processor without adding the broth to obtain a more homogeneous paste and then finish the recado in the blender with the broth). Roasting the recado ingredients will not just enhance the flavor, but also will make the recado looks dark.
Once the recado is ready, add it to the pot with the vegetables and incorporate the meat. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes to let all the flavors mingle and get the meat hot.
Note: If you think the recado needs to be thickened, toast a couple of tortillas and grind very fine before adding to the recado. You may also use plain breadcrumbs. I would suggest you to avoid the use of flour or corn starch, because you will be adding only extra carbs and modifying the consistency of the recado.

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