January 6, 2013

A Visit to Lasater Ranch–Una Visita a la Estancia Lasater


LasaterRanch

 A couple of Sundays ago, we were honored to get an invite to the Lasater Ranch, where our gracious host, Alex Lasater (above) treated us to an outstanding day on the prairie.  Lasater Ranch is located on 30,000 acres of wide-open range.  (Cue 'Don't Fence Me In' music here.)  The property actually circumvents the tiny township of Matheson, CO and is home to a small herd of about 200 head of cattle. 

I first discovered Lasater's grass-fed beef at Whole Foods, where I was happy to see a locally raised and produced grass-fed product.  Alex himself was there to educate consumers about the benefits of his beef (vs. the usual factory-farmed version, which is prohibitively pumped full of antibiotics and grain-fed). 

The beef-raising tradition on the Argentine pampa dictates grass-fed; it's the difference that gives the beef served in the iconic steakhouses of Buenos Aires its world-renowned reputation and puts a smile on the face of the porteño.  I'm delighted to see that tradition being followed here, and Alex Lasater, himself something of a renegade, has a "take it or leave it" attitude about what he does.

Like a fish swimming against the current, Lasater cattle aren't treated with pesticides or antibiotics, grain-fed, or in beauty contests at the Stock Show. (Lasater cattle do not compete in the end-of-show auctions in which steer go for upwards of $100,000 or more each). 

The 'gals', as they are affectionately known on the ranch, are raised from birth to be used to humans, gentle enough to be fed by hand (which we spent plenty of time doing, as seen below, much to the delight of Esteban and Nora, who thought it was great fun.) Alex called the herd to us with a soft "Hooooooo!" and they came right to us.


Lasater_ranch

The ranch is also part wildlife preserve.  Looming cottonwood trees are the nap spot of porcupines, who nestle into the crooks to doze during the day while sneaking close to the house to rob the russian olive trees by night.  Nestled near the roots of the trees are a small herd of white-tail deer rest and graze, while in the savannah-like open air of the prairie, a herd of antelope race at breakneck speed until out of sight over a knoll.

Wind-blown, we returned back to the ranch house, a sprawling southwestern-style hacienda built by Lasater's grandparents.  There, in the gentile elegance of a dynasty of ranchers, we dined on burgers and beef brats, sipped red wine, and relaxed amongst the books, artwork and family photos in the sun-drenched living room.  Alex Lasater's thoughtful and purposeful manner defies the stereotype of the rancher: educated, cultured and well-traveled, he is determined in the value of what he does and in sharing that philosophy with others. 

As the day came to a close, we said our goodbyes, and part of me was sad to leave what Alex calls his "perch on the prairie".  Idyllic for a visitor, I was nevertheless reminded of the tough work that is ranching, something few have the stamina for or are cut out to do.  But am I glad Lasater does–and that we have his quality, grass-fed beef within easy reach.  Finally, I can feel good about what I've got on my table, and we're closer than ever to getting the flavors of Argentina at home.  (For more photos of our day and the ranch, please visit our Facebook  page!)


Lasater_ranch_girls

December 21, 2012

Classes in January! Clases en enero!

WOW.  Or perhaps I should say GUAU.

So many exciting projects to keep me busy are brewing this winter and spring, but most exciting of all are the events and classes!  Will you be there?  I hope so!

Take a look at the Supper Club page for details on that project (this really deserves it's own post, but we're opening our doors in the style of the popular puertas cerradas of Argentina-intimate, authentic meals in our home–and our first date is Jan. 26th!)

And check out the Schedule page for updated classes and events for the winter and spring!  Some January highlights:

A 6-course wine and tasting menu (I've partnered with sommelier Ashley Hausman) at Colorado Free University

Cold Weather Comfort Foods of Argentina at The Seasoned Chef…

A FREE class at Whole Foods on making the perfect Beef Stew…

And there's more to come…stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2012

Pancitos Dulces–Mini Panettones


Holiday2012 002

I had quite a different post planned out when I baked these tiny pan dulces.  One about the thrill and warmth of the season, giving, the tradition of these yeasty sweet breads, and my two little ones just bubbling with excitement.  And then the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, and those cozy, Christmasy feelings got stolen away like a gust of freezing winter air blowing through an open door.

I feel deflated.  Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and scared.  I don't feel like 'doing' Christmas this year at all.  I am sick and tired of hearing of yet another massacre.  I attended Columbine High School in the early 1990s.  I grew up in the Columbine area, a sleepy suburban community I returned to and live with my family today. I worked in Aurora the majority of 2010 and 2011, writing a guidebook of the city's ethnic restaurants.  My son turns 6 in two months–the age of most of last week's victims.  I simply can't disconnect from these occurrences and ignore them–they all hit too close to home. Like everyone, I can't get it out of my mind, can't stop wondering about the implications of last Friday.

I am at a loss as to think what the future will hold and how I can protect Esteban and his baby sister.  I find myself terrified at the unpredictability of it all.  I wake up at night and crawl into his bed, just to hold him close, if only for one night, just to have him safe with me for that time.  The future feels so uncertain and anything could happen. 

I feel there is no law or policy that can change what I see: we have become a culture in which many of our young people don't value life–not the lives of innocent children, nor the lives of their own family or themselves.  What message are our children getting when occurrences like this are becoming commonplace?  And what can we do to change the feeling of fear of our fellow citizens?

Today, I am going to be the change, at least in one small part, in what I have control over.  We will spend this chilly evening making edible gifts (fudge, peppermint bark, and these little pan dulces) to give to our neighbors, friends and teachers.  We will overcome the grief, the hurt, the fear, and reach out to the people around us and say, "I'm with you. I care about you. I believe in you."  I will teach my children to care for each other, for our family and our community.  I will teach peace.

I believe in us, in humanity.  I believe that when tragedies happen, turning to tradition can provide stability and comfort.  I believe that embracing the season's most wonderful things may help restore our faith in each other just a little bit more.  I won't go so far as to say 'Let peace begin with Pan Dulce,' but it's a start–a tradition that connects us to something greater, a part of our family's heritage. 

What holiday traditions do you think will help in the healing? Please share your thoughts below–what traditions will you keep to make the season bright?  May peace and warmth be with you and yours this holiday season!


26429-DSC_1289

(This photo was taken right after Nora was born!  She's 15 months old now, and getting the two of them in the same picture, being still, is almost impossible!  I love the warmth of this photo, it is just what the holidays are all about for me.)

Pan Dulce

Pannetone

makes 1 large or 6-8 small breads

I make this sweet Christmas bread every year.  Last year I posted about the homemade candied peel I used, and this year, instead of baking the bread in an empty coffee can, I purchased paper molds from Sur la Table.  The bread rises and is baked right in those papers, no pan needed!  They are fairly inexpensive, and look fancy for giving–just add the bow! 

This year, I also did some more digging to perfect my recipe, and found the instructions at The Baking Pan very helpful, though I kept some of my own original recipe, too.  The triple-rise takes more time but yeilds a much lighter dough.  Leftovers make a delicious bread pudding (so easy–I just taught this at Whole Foods!) or French Toast.  Use the leftover egg whites to make Turron, Chocolate Mousse or Merengues.  Enjoy!

Sponge:

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup flour

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast.  Stir until the yeast has dissolved and let sit until the yeast has foamed, about 10 minutes.  Add in the flour and mix well.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Dough:

1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature (you can set them in a bowl of warm water to do this quickly)

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup warm whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 3/4 cup flour, plus a little more for kneading

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar.  Add in the eggs and yolks and beat until combined.  Add in the sponge, warm milk, and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add in 2 cups of the flour and mix until combined, then add flour a quarter cup at a time until you have a soft but not sticky or dry dough.  Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook, kneading on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.  Turn the dough out onto the counter and form a ball, then place in the greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough.  Cover with a towel and let rise about 3 hours or until doubled in size.

Fruit:

1 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons rum

1 cup candied peel

zest of half an orange

zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place the raisins to soak in the rum for 30 minutes. Drain (a bit of liquid can remain) and mix together with the zests of orange and lemon, the candied peel, and the lemon juice.

Prepare your panettone mold either by lining with parchment paper and greasing with butter or cooking spray, or if you are using a paper mold, simply place it on a baking sheet. Punch the risen dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Add the fruit and knead it into the dough until the fruit has been evenly distributed throughout.  Form the dough into a ball (or several little balls) and place it into the pannetone mold.  Cover and let the dough rise again in a warm spot for about 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brush the egg with egg wash (optional) and bake for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 350.  Continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until a long bamboo skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack.  Dust with confectioner's sugar and slivered almonds if desired. 

 

November 27, 2012

Suckling Pig in a Clay Oven at Grandpa’s House–Lechón al Horno de Barro en la Casa de los Abuelos

Horno-de-barro

Fire is primal–the first and most basic way to cook.  Since the beginning of time, it gives man the power to control his food.  It is also by far (smokers, barbecues, ovens and other technology be damned) one of the most effective ways to release flavor.  Fire is warming, hypnotic, yet dangerous.  It strikes a deep chord in us–of hearth, tribe, warmth–that we gather around it, even watch videos of it, complete with crackling sounds, to create a homey atmosphere during the holidays.

Horno de barro

At my in-laws' house, the  horno de barro–the clay oven that is an Argentine backyard staple, is right next to the brick parilla. In it, all manner of delicacies are prepared–grilled meats, rescoldo vegetables, even pizza, bread, and empanadas.  But the most revered of all is the lechon–the suckling  pig.

Lechon-horno-de-barro

 Lechon is a classic rite-of-passage meal.  A company's coming or holiday meal.  And one that Esteban thoroughly enjoyed making with his abuelo and papi while visiting. 

This summer we plan to build a clay oven in our own backyard stateside.  I'd love your ideas and suggestions.  What are your family's traditions surrounding the horno de barro? Do you have one at home?  How did you build it, and did you run into any issues (zoning, HOA)?  Thanks for your input, and looking forward to your stories!

Lechon_horno_de_barro

November 20, 2012

Homemade Tarta Dough (and Corn Tarta)–Masa para Tarta Casera (y Tarta de Choclo)

Tarta dough 006

When I started this blog years ago, the foods of Argentina were foreign to me–I blindly tested a recipe, often without much of an idea of what the end result was supposed to taste like.  After all, I was making the dishes in an attempt to replicate the flavors coming from my suegra's kitchen to make comforting and familiar meals for my new husband.  The recipes were pieced together from my mother-in-law's emails and my husband's descriptions.

Now, though I'm happy to take the occasional shortcut of canned corn or pre-made dough to get dinner on the table before 9:00pm on a school night (or because real ears of corn are out of season) I've become familiar enough with the recipes of my husband's querida patria that I can make the whole thing from scratch in a reasonable time frame.

One of the things I'm happiest to have mastered is this dough.  It's a simple and quick dough for tapas for empanadas or for tartas with any filling, (like Pascualina, Chard or Butternut Squash) in this case Tarta de Choclo. The recipe was inspired by Laylita's Empanada Dough for Baking.  What I originally liked about it was the use of butter rather than the lard found in most traditional Argentine dough recipes; for two reasons: as an American, I found it hard at first to get over my fear of lard (which is long gone, now) and also grasa de ternera aka beef lard or tallow can be mighty hard to come by.  In Denver, I only know of one small family-owned butcher that carries it, and it's an hour from where I live. 

Now I've made this dough so often I feel like it's my own.  I've perfected my rolling technique so that in just over an hour I can crank out 3 dozen tapas  for empanadas and store them in the freezer, or use them right away.  It takes some practice learning to handle the dough, but the recipe is just what a good baked pastry crust should be–flaky when baked and easy to fill and seal beforehand.

The Tarta de Choclo recipe here is more or less like the filling for the Empanadas de Humita but with the time-saving trick of using frozen corn kernels rather than grating the cob, as corn is out of season.  


Tarta dough 007

Masa Basica para Empanadas y Tartas Con  Manteca 

Basic Empanada and Tarta Dough Using Butter

adapted from Laylita’s
Recipes

3 cups all-purpose
flour

1  teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted
butter, cold and cut into pieces

1 egg

5-7 tablespoons water

Put the flour and
salt in the bowl of the  food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the butter and process until the dough and flour have combined and look like rough sand.  Add egg and water, one tablespoon at a time and process
until a clumpy dough forms. After the 5th tablespoon of water has been added, process until a ball has formed.  If the dough is too dry and won't unite, add the additional water.  If it is too wet and sticky, add a bit of flour.  Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor. Form a disc, wrap it in plastic, and chill in the
refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Rolling it out:

by hand:

For Empanadas: Roll out the dough
into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds
or a small plate).  Follow the directions below to fill.

For Tartas: Divide the dough in half and form two discs.  Roll into two shells that fit the size of your tarta dish. Use one for the bottom, add preferred filling, and use on the top.  Seal the edges together using a repulgue.

Use immediately or
store in the refrigerator (2 days) or freezer (3 months) to use later. If freezing, the dough can be set on wax paper on the bottom and on the top on a baking sheet and flash-frozen for 15 minutes, then removed from the cookie sheet and stored in a large ziploc bag and stored flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.

using a pasta linda or pasta maker:

For Empanadas: Set up your pasta maker as you would to roll out pasta.  (Mine is an attachment for a Kitchen-Aid mixer.) Roll out a small portion of the dough (a ball about the size of your fist) until it is thin enough to fit through the machine's largest setting.  Run it through the pasta maker twice, so that a long, uniform strip of dough has been formed. Change the setting to 2, and run it through again.  Set the setting to 3  and run it through again.  Now set it on the counter and begin cutting, probably 3 or 4 tapas can be made from each strip with a large round cutter.

Remove the cut discs of dough to a sheet of wax paper and arrange in a line. Fold the top half of the wax paper over the top of the tapas.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Cut the paper between each tapa with scissors, additional tapas can be stacked in between so that each tapa is seprated by wax paper.  Place the stack in a tupperware or ziplock bag.  They can be used within two days in the refrigerator, or frozen in batches of one dozen in the freezer and used within 3 months.

for Tartas: Set up your pasta maker as you would to roll out pasta.  (Mine is an attachment for a Kitchen-Aid mixer.) Roll out a small portion of the dough (a ball about the size of your fist) until it is thin enough to fit through the machine's largest setting.  Run it through the pasta maker twice, so that a long, uniform strip of dough has been formed. Change the setting to 2, and run it through again.  Set the setting to 3  and run it through again. 

Once you have two or three strips of dough, place them together on the counter, overlapping at the seams about 1/2 an inch.  Gently press the seams together to create one large piece of dough, then cut it to the size of your tarta dish.  Repeat with the remaining dough to make the top.

Tarta de Choclo–Corn Tart

3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1 large white onion, diced

1 large (32 oz) bag frozen corn
kernels, or 5-6 cups fresh kernels cut from the cob

¼ cup corn starch

½ cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ cup roasted red peppers, diced

Defrost the corn kernels to room
temperature and drain. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high
heat.  Add the chopped onion and cook
until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add
in the corn kernels and heat through, 5-7 minutes.  Mix the corn starch into the whipping cream
and add the mixture into the corn and onion mixture, stirring to combine.  Add in the salt, cheese, and crushed red
pepper and taste.  Adjust seasoning as
needed. Stir until slightly thickened and cheese has melted.  Blend 1/3 of the mixture using a blender,
food processor or hand blender.  Return
the pureed portion to the remaining corn mixture.  Fold in the roasted red peppers. Let cool
enough to be handled.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

For making Empanadas: 

Lay out the tapas four at a time on a clean countertop, lightly dusted with
flour. Put out a small glass of water for sealing the empanadas, along with a
small glass with one beaten egg, for brushing over the empanadas before
baking.Place a heaping tablespoon of the corn filling in the center of the
empanada shell. Moisten the edge on the top half of the shell with a little
water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet
and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a
half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling
firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges by twisting the edge like so:  Using your fingertip, fold one corner of the
empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing
firmly each time. Move around the edge of the empanada and you'll get a spiral
pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead. Place the finished empanadas on
the baking sheet, and then gently put a few holes in the top of the empanada
with a toothpick to release the heat and prevent the empanada filling from
popping out. Paint the top of each sealed empanada with the beaten egg so that
when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Put the empanadas in to bake
for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Take out and let cool slightly before serving,
and eat very carefully while hot!

For making Tartas:  Line the tarta dish with one tarta disc.  Pour the cooled corn filling into the shell. Place another shell on top.  Seal with the repulgue method or using a fork pressing around the edges. Cut a few vents round the top. (They can be decorative as desired, if cutting small shapes using cookie cutters, this must be done before the top is placed on.) Put the tarta in the pre-heated oven and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.