Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto is a dish served in Costa Rica for any meal. It can be served with breakfast as a side dish with pancakes or eggs, made with the rice and beans of last night's meal. It can be served for breakfast with a fried egg on top (called "gallo pinto a caballo"). It can be served for lunch or dinner, as is or with sausage cooked in with it. But what is it? Translated literally, "gallo pinto" means "painted rooster". This rice and beans dish was a common dish served to Costa Rican (or Tican) farmers when they came home from work. Black beans on white rice looked like a spotted rooster, and the name stuck. (Some other Latin American countries claim fame to this dish as well, all under different names).

I made this dish in Costa Rica and in the United States, and I looove it. I plan on making a batch of it when I get up to college to eat for any other meal I don't feel like cooking for. Just tasting it brings me back to Costa Rica. This version can't replicate exactly what my Tican family made for me, but it's pretty darn close.

Gallo Pinto
Recipe by Jean Avila Valverde, Translated and Adapted by Annette Kolnitys

Ingredients for Rice:
1 1/2 cups of rice, already cooked
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Boil the onion and bell pepper. Prepare chicken broth, if necessary. Then, combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook until most of the liquid has boiled off. (You can also use a rice cooker, but I don't have one). Cover and place in fridge overnight (or just leave in your rice cooker). Apparently, this is an important step - if you don't prepare the rice the day before, you just end up with soggy gallo pinto.

Ingredients for Gallo Pinto:
Rice (prepared as above)
2 cans of black beans
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce*
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 cup of chicken broth
1 pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 small roll of cilantro, well chopped

Saute the onion and bell pepper. (I skipped this step - I added too much the day before in the rice, and didn't feel like I needed any more for the beans). In a big pot, add the vegetables with the two cans of beans (including the liquid that comes with the beans) and the chicken broth. Mix well and heat at medium to medium high heat. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and sugar and stir. Cook until the broth has mostly cooked off. Then add the rice and lower the heat (medium-low) for about 10 minutes. Lastly, add the cilantro, mix well and cook for two more minutes. Serve hot.

*In Costa Rica they use a sauce called "salsa inglesa", which is produced by a Costa Rican family company. They use this sauce in many of their dishes, as it adds a lot of flavor. The closest substitute we have for it in America is Worcestershire sauce.*

I served this plain to my family the first time - they all had been "bleh" about the whole beans-and-rice-for-dinner thing, but were pleasantly surprised. It also makes a great next-day dish. Just put some mozzarella cheese on it, nuke it in the microwave and add cool sour cream. Yum. You can also serve this on tortillas, with cheese, with avocados - the possibilities are endless!

That weird white cheese is one of two main cheeses they had in Costa Rica - American cheese (you know, the processed stuff) and "queso blanco" or "white cheese". It was pretty close to mozzarella cheese, except maybe more spongy.

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