Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This is going to be quick, I'm still tired from staying up last night watching the election results but boy was it worth it. We holed up at the house of Colombian friends, drinking too many Negronis (I actually wanted to make Americanos in honor of the occasion but forgot to buy club soda) while I explained our crazy electoral system and why I wasn't freaked out (yet) over the red state-filled map. ("Oh no, he won Georgia too!""Georgia doesn't matter.""But they have lots of electoral votes!""Doesn't matter."

I'd be lying if I told you I got much done today, but I did make a pretty slammin' lunch. We buy sweet plantains every Sunday at the farmer's market; by sweet I mean they are already very ripe and often a little battered, it's not easy to get ahold of green plantains here (though they are the exact same fruit). What this means is that come Wednesday of a hot week, the already ripe plantains get so black they begin to grow a little bit of mold, meaning they need to be used, like, ayer

There is a very popular dish in Brazil called escondidinho, which means "a little bit hidden," and which Felipe and I have gotten a kick out of saying ever since we first moved here. It's so cute! My brother Max always asks me why Spanish speakers send "mensajitos," little messages, as opposed to just normal "mensajes." To me it's mainly just meant to be a gentler way of speaking. (Btw, -inho is the Portuguese version of the Spanish -ito or -ico, and it makes words diminutive/cute. Escondido means hidden, therefore escondidinho...) Escondidinho is a casserole of layers of mashed yuca or potato, typically with a meat or seafood filling-- the filling is escondido

So at any rate, I decided to use the overripe plantains to make escondidinho, something that occurred to me after see Dominican pasteles made from sweet plantain. I filled it with collard greens and okra topped with guiso (Colombian tomato-onion sauce), as that's what we had in the fridge, and mashed the plantains with a healthy dose of mozzarella. 

We ate the escondidinho with a green onion and cilantro aji spooned on top, and I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it was one of the best new things either of us has eaten in a good while. If you've ever had (and loved) sweet plantains with cheese, I can't recommend this enough. It's about as melting pot as can be, an American vegetarian version of a Brazilian dish made with some Caribbean components. Kind of like someone who just got re-elected! Woo hoo! All in all, not a bad 24 hours.

Sweet Plantain Escondidinho 

6-8 very ripe plantains
1 bunch of collard greens, kale, or chard, de-ribbed and chopped
2 c. okra (or other contrasting vegetable like cauliflower, eggplant, string beans), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large tomato
1 bunch of scallions, divided (use half for the aji)
4 oz. mozzarella, grated
olive oil, vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
big handful of cilantro
1 small hot chile

Preheat the oven to 450F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, peel the plantains and remove any funky-looking parts. Salt the water and add in the plantains. Boil until a knife easily goes through one, about 5 minutes. Remove the plantains and mash them while they're still hot, adding 1 oz. of the mozzarella into the mash and stirring it in so that it melts completely.
Place a large skillet over high heat. Splash in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then immediately throw in the greens. Stir them once or twice as they wilt down, then add a good pinch of salt. When the greens are tender and well-flavored, remove them to a plate. Return the skillet to the heat, and once it's very hot add in another tablespoon of olive oil and the okra. Don't stir the okra immediately, just let it brown for a couple of minutes, then add in a pinch of salt and give it a quick stir (I try to avoid stirring okra to avoid sliminess), letting it brown for another 5 minutes, then turning off the heat once it is tender. Stir in the greens.
Chop the tomato and half the scallions. Add them to a small pan with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and place them over medium heat. Cook just until the tomato has broken down and the onion is translucent, ~5-8 minutes, don't let anything brown. Add a small pinch of salt, stir.
Now, layer your escondidinho: grab a 9-inch baking dish or oven-proof skillet, oil it with a bit of olive oil like you would a cake pan, and spread 1/3 of the plantain mash on the bottom, smoothing it with your hand. (You can also make individual escondidinhos if you have small gratin dishes.) Layer in the greens and okra mixture, then spoon the tomato-onion mess on top. Mix the rest of the cheese in with the remaining plantain mash, then spread this over the top of the vegetables, smoothing everything as well as you can with the back of a spoon. Place in the oven and bake until you can see the cheese melting a bit, 10-15 minutes.
Make the aji: finely chop the remaining scallions, as explained here, finely chop the cilantro and chile, and mix them both together with the vinegar, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of vegetable oil, and 3-4 tablespoons of water. Adjust for salt and acidity, then place in the fridge until you need it (this actually tastes better made a couple of hours before).
Serve escondidinho warm, with aji.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm, escondidinho is so good! I'm not sure if this is true, but someone told me they invented it at Academia da Cachaça - could that be true?