Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pollo Arvejado, Papas Rellenas con Mozarella, y Ensalada Chilena

Here's a preview of a meal from our cookbook:

Pollo Arvejado, Papas Rellenas con Mozzarella, y Ensalada Chilena

[Chicken with Peas, Stuffed Potatoes with Mozzarella, and Chilean Salad]

Pollo Arvejado is a traditional home dish that Chilean families consume on a regular basis. In fact, this is a meal that Mark grew up eating; his Mama would prepare this staple for his family several times a month. Today, we have brought this meal into our home and it is a particular favorite of our daughter’s. It can be served with most any starch including rice, potatoes, or noodles. For a quick and easy variation (although, admittedly, this isn’t a very difficult or time-consuming recipe as is), you can use boneless chicken breasts and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. It makes an easy one-pot meal for a weeknight.

We almost always eat Pollo Arvejado as a stew with warm hunks of Pan Amasado – literally “bread made by hand” - and Ensalada Chilena, the quintessential Chilean salad. Papas Rellenas – or “stuffed potatoes” – are a special savory starch that, like bread, can be made a couple of days in advance. They can be stuffed with so many different fillings that they are quite versatile as side dishes and can even be eaten on their lonesome as a snack or appetizer. They are a Chilean to-go meal, sold often at roadsides and toll plazas. For variations, try your favorite melting cheese or pino – the savory filling of the Empanada del Horno.

Pollo Arvejado
Whole chicken                                    3-4 pounds
Vegetable Oil                                      2 tablespoons
Yellow onion, diced                           1 medium
Carrots, cut into half medallions        2 medium
Peas, shelled                                       2 cups
Garlic cloves, minced                         3 large
Ripe tomatoes, peeled                         2 small
Cumin                                                 ½ tablespoon
Paprika*                                               ¼ tablespoon
Celery salt                                           ¼ tablespoon
Chicken stock*                                   1 cup
White Wine*                                       1 cup
Cold Water                                         ½ cup
Cornstarch                                          ½ teaspoon
Fresh ground black pepper                 to taste
Salt                                                      to taste

Papas Rellenas
Golden potatoes, peeled and diced     3 large
Eggs, uncooked                                  2
Flour                                                   1 ½ cup
Salt                                                      1 teaspoon
Fresh mozzarella                                 8 ounces                        
Vegetable Oil                                      3-5 tablespoons

Ensalada Chilena
Tomato                                                2 large
Onion                                                  1 medium
Olive Oil                                             1 tablespoon
Salt                                                      1 teaspoon
Oregano                                              1 teaspoon

*Substitutions: Instead of paprika, use cayenne pepper for a kick. Chicken stock and wine can be replaced with vegetable stock or water.

PREPARE: Gather all ingredients and equipment. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a pot of water on to boil. Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. Wash and cut all your vegetables first. Cut the chicken into pieces and remove skin. Choice pieces include the thighs, tenders, and breasts. (Save the bones for making Chicken Stock, p. XX). Dice the mozzarella.

POLLO: Season the chicken pieces with salt and pat dry. Using a large pan with a tall lip, sauté the chicken pieces in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until golden brown without crowding the pan. Roughly two minutes per side. Puree the two tomatoes while the chicken is browning. Press through a strainer to remove seeds. When all the chicken pieces are ready, remove and set aside. Sauté the onions in the same pan and oil until translucent. Add garlic, pureed tomatoes, cumin, paprika, and celery salt. Lower heat to medium and nestle the chicken pieces on top of the onion; add the biggest pieces first to allow the more heat for cooking. Add carrots, stock, and wine. Cover and continue to cook on medium heat for thirty minutes. Add peas. Dissolve cornstarch in cold water and add, stirring slowly, until desired thickening of sauce is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste.

PAPAS: Put potatoes into the pot of boiling water until soft. Add potatoes and eggs to a mixer and beat until mashed. Add salt and flour and mix until potatoes are a thick doughy consistency. Take a large spoonful of the potatoes in your floured hands and press an indentation into the center. Place a couple cubes of mozzarella in the indentation and cover it with more potatoes. Form into the shape of a potato and sprinkle with flour. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a shallow pan on medium. Brown the Papas Rellenas briefly on each side without crowding the pan. Add more oil as needed. Once browned, place onto a greased or floured baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes or until the outside is crisp and the inside is steaming.

ENSALADA: Slice the onion into thin crescents. Toss with ½ teaspoon of salt and cover with boiled water. Let soak for five minutes; this softens the pungent flavor and aroma. Rinse under cold water and place in a serving bowl. Peel and slice tomatoes and add to the onion. Season with olive oil, the remaining salt, and oregano. Toss to coat.

(p. XX)
Consommé de Ave
[Chicken Stock]

Chicken stock is such an easy thing to make, we don’t know why everyone doesn’t make it. Plus, it feels good to use all of the parts and pieces you would normally toss – such as chicken bones and onion skins. When we make stock of any kind, we begin by saving the trimmed roots, stalks, leaves, peelings, and ends of vegetables about a week in advance. The recipe below asks for the key vegetable ingredients, but you can add other veggies as well – whatever you have on hand that week. Other veggies that work well and add deeper flavor include leeks, scallions, mushrooms, squash, asparagus, bell peppers, eggplant, parsnips, and herbs like parsley and cilantro. Avoid using vegetables that tend to overpower others (or use in small amounts) such as cabbage, broccoli, turnips, artichokes, or beets. After making the stock, we freeze most of it but are always sure to leave a container or two in the fridge for quick and easy access. How much this recipe yields depends on how many ingredients you put into your stock, how long you let it reduce, and how much juice you squeeze out of the vegetables when straining.

Chicken bones                                                1 carcass
Yellow or white onion, chopped                    1 medium
Celery, chopped                                              4 stalks
Carrots, chopped                                             4 medium
Bay Leaves                                                     5-8 leaves
Peppercorns                                                    1 tablespoon
Water                                                              to fill pot within two inches of lip

PREPARE: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Roughly chop your vegetables. Retrieve the chicken bones you set aside from an earlier recipe.

CONSOMME: Put all ingredients into the water. Return to boil. Lower heat and simmer until stock reduces by a quarter. (This may take an hour or more). Let cool and then pour through strainer. Portion the stock into freezer-safe containers.

(c) Hillary and Mark Dodge 2016

Recipe Testing

Testing your recipes is an important part of preparing your cookbook. In our case, we were writing recipes for the sample content to be included in our book proposal. Sample content is usually expected to be around 10 pages and can be a single chapter or a collection of demonstrative recipes. We needed to go with the later approach as we haven't yet concluded our year of research in Chile.

Here are some informal photos of the recipe testing that we did while working on our book proposal:

Here are our planning notes. We wanted to make sure that our sample content featured a variety of plates and styles. We set a goal of testing and writing 10-12 recipes for the proposal. We opted to go with family favorites that we had a lot of experience in reproducing. These favorites will most definitely be a part of our cookbook and most of these we knew by heart. The trick was translating what was in our brains and hands into instructions on paper that anyone could follow to recreate our favorite dishes.

Pollo Arvejado con papa rellenas con mozarella y ensalada Chilena [Translation: Chicken with peas, potatoes stuffed with mozarella, and Chilean Salad. Recipe included here! Yum!]

Making Pan Amasado - bread made by hand.

The bread always looks a little different but man, is it good!
Ta da! The finished sandwich! Chilean Chacarero made with Pan Amasado.
Making the Caldillo de Juan, a mussel-based stew.
Beautiful with a garnish of chopped cilantro. Served in the traditional clay bowls of Chile.
Olivia knows just how good she's got it.
Making the filling for the Empanadas Patagonicas, a variation of the basic Empanada del Horno.
These are truly delightful little packages of deliciousness!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Downsizing

Moving to another house is tough enough but moving to another hemisphere...well, let's just say that I've got a lot of work to do.

I don't tend to think of myself as possession-heavy but I know I have more stuff than I need. Since earlier this year, I've been slowly whittling back belongings (and going through the metric tonne of boxes I had stashed in my parents' basement). This was mostly pleasant work and I got to take a lot of walks down memory road. Plus, I had been promising my parents to empty that side of the basement for years so they were happy too. Most of that stuff was from college and earlier and I hadn't used any of it in over ten years so it was about damn time.

I think if I had to stand up before a group of Hoarders Anonymous members, I would have to admit that my vices are books and clothes and stationary. These would be the hardest to cut back. I would have to dig deep inside myself for the figurative machete of truth and prune the hell out of those jungles.

Which is precisely what I've been doing. Here is the plan of attack:

Stage 1 - Cut into the Closet
Stage 2 - Break up the Books
Stage 3 - Slash the Stationary

There's a term we use in the library world, called "weeding." Some folks may balk at the concept of pulling books off the shelves but it's actually quite beneficial to the health of a library. Weeding means to remove books and other materials that are outdated, worn and torn, and simply no longer of interest to the community. (Those are usually books that haven't been checked out by a customer in a year or more.) Librarians weed a collection to make it more relevant to their community. By getting rid of the junk, they end up with shelves full of the good stuff. And that's how I'm going to look at downsizing my stuff.

It doesn't have to be painful. It should be part of my journey. After all, I don't' define myself by my stuff. Clearing out all the clutter will give us more space to breathe, relax, and live life to the fullest.

Join me in the following posts, Cut into the Closet, Break up the Books, and Slash the Stationary, to see how I tackled each stage of my personal downsizing process.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Burden of Possessions, Part 2

Ok, so we don't have it all figured out but we have finally decided upon some direction.

 (Caption: our front yard at the end of our two-day yard sale in late May).

Here is what we're going to do:

1. Allow our daughter to keep nearly all of her stuff. That includes furniture, toys, and her army of stuffed animals. We figure that aside from the furniture, all of her stuff would fit into about 4-5 boxes. Here's why: keeping some normalcy and familiarity will help Olivia cope with this big change. It will help ease her into our new lifestyle.

2. Mark and I will both downsize our personal possessions. These include clothing, hobby-stuff, and any other individual-specific gear. Here's why: During a typical month, we really don't use a lot of the stuff we have boxed up in the basement or packed onto our shelves. We probably use only about a 25% of our stuff on a regular basis. Why keep stuff we don't use? 

3. Attack the contents of our house one room at a time.

The Kitchen: The majority of what we chose to keep is in the kitchen. Big surprise, right? The stuff we won't keep includes items with motors or other moving pieces. This is due to the voltage difference between US appliances and Chilean power supply. Stuff with motors would likely burn out in Chile. Some of these things we will need to order ahead of time while others, we will purchase in Chile. Examples include: our KitchenAid mixer (ordering in advance because it's cheaper in the US) and our toaster (buy in Chile).

The Living Room: We will keep our TV and gaming systems. We will sell all furniture.

Our Bedroom: We don't have much in our bedroom other than my beloved bed. I really do love that thing. However, I don't think we will be able to take the bed with us - even tough we only have a single (really nice) mattress on the floor. We will just have to buy a new one in Chile. Our mattress is seven years old, after all, purchased with our wedding gift money. Other than that, are our clothes and bedside tables.

The Basement: We will keep all of our camping and sports equipment. These things are expensive and in good repair. Although used seasonally, these things were purchased to last a lifetime. We can continue to use these for a long time. Other basement contents include a freezer which we'll be giving to my parents and boxes of personal stuff which we'll be downsizing per #2 above.

The Bathrooms: Most of this stuff will go.

The Office: We will go through our file cabinets and shred all old documents and all utility bills that will no longer matter after we sell the house. We will retain tax documents, school loans (ugh), title info our our cars, insurance policies, and anything else of lasting import.

The Garage: This is Mark's space so he'll need to tackle this one alone. Inside the garage, is his workbench and cabinets which he'll give to my parents, oodles of tools, and his beloved wood collection. Much like how we handled the kitchen, Mark will be selecting which tools he can take to Chile and which will live in my parents' garage while we're gone. This will be difficult for him because he has worked so hard on this space.

4. With all the stuff we decided not to take to Chile, we will have a yard sale. Anything that doesn't sell will be donated. Anything we can't donate will go into the front yard with a "Free" sign and will hopefully magically disappear before the end of the week. And finally, the step we both hate the most, anything we can't get rid of any other way will go to the dump.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Affirmation

So this past Monday was our 7-year wedding anniversary. And both Mark and I FORGOT for the second year running!


Last year, it was my mom who chirped "Happy Anniversary" to me over the phone and left me mentally searching for what she could be talking about. This year it was my sister who so kindly reminded me that it was an important day.

I called up Mark and we both laughed at how quickly the time had gone and how bad we were at remembering dates. We even specifically chose May 16th because it was four days before Mark's birthday, believing that this would help us remember every year. No such luck.

I see this as a testament that we've been burning the candle at both ends for too long and also as a ready affirmation that what we're doing this next year is the right thing for our family. We should NOT be forgetting the day we became a family!

Fun fact: Our beautiful cake was baked for us by the talented and all-around good person, Adele Lind Nichols. It was a vanilla and buttercream layer cake with passionfruit puree and fondant. So damn good! Adele has competed in a couple of Food Network cake challenges and we were honored to have her design our very special cake.


Also, she baked the very cute little owlie cake for our daughter's first birthday, as seen below. It was chocolate because there is no question of serving any other flavor to the wee child.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Burden of Possessions

Owning stuff is heavy - mentally and emotionally heavy.

As we prepare for our journey ahead, we find ourselves required by shipping container constraints and project objectives to lighten our load.

Here's why:

1. We are moving to the other side of the globe to travel up and down a country that stretches over 4,000 miles. We will be carrying our belongings with us in the back of our car and camping and renting along the way (although some stuff will be left in storage in Santiago).

2. To get to Chile, we are sending everything we own (or nearly so) across the ocean via a 20 foot shipping container. For perspective, a 20-ft shipping container can hold 48,000 bananas, 200 full size mattresses, 50-60 refrigerators, or 400 flat screen tv's (source). Okay, I know that's not helpful - I just really enjoyed finding those numbers. For real perspective, a 20-ft. can hold all the contents of a 1,200 square foot apartment.

3. We live in a 2,400 square foot home and own a Subaru Tribeca. Our car will fill up roughly two thirds of that container. Which leaves approximately 12 square feet left for all our stuff. "Our Stuff" can be defined as everything we've purchased, collected, or been gifted over the course of our lives.

To put it simply, we need to get rid of a lot of crap.

We've gone through our house several times at this point, discussing what we will take and what we will leave. But these conversations are tough. Deciding to downsize the stuff we've accumulated over the years is both freeing and a little bit terrifying. I mean, do we really want to put ourselves in a position where we have to start all over again?

I'll let you know when we figure it out. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the vague sense of unease and anxiety that we are currently feeling.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

So You Want to Write a Cookbook?

How does one get a cookbook published, you may ask. If I were to write a recipe for such a thing, it might look something like this:

Cookbook a la Gourmet Family

Ingredients

professionalism, a ton
subject specialization, 2 quarts
interesting concept, 1 gallon
fresh approach, 2 pounds
writing skills, 3 cups
market knowledge, 3 cups
author platform, 1/2 pound

Preparation

1. Put on your big girl apron and Be Professional At All Times. If you don't know what that means, look it up. Ask an author or publishing professional you know. Read journals. Go to conferences. 


2. Add subject knowledge and let brew. Do you know something about your subject? Are you an expert? Do you have a unique experience or approach? Are you willing to go the distance to learn your subject really really well? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may qualify to write about your subject. You don't have to be a Master Chef to write a cookbook but you probably need to know the lingo and have some personal experience or connections.

3. Make sure you can write well. If not, practice, practice, practice. If your writing is rusty, take a class or join a writing critique group. Ask a friend or colleague to take a look at your work before you submit it somewhere. Don't assume your writing is perfect and doesn't need work. Remember, writers are called "writers" because they write and they write a lot. Writing a lot equals practice. Good writing will go miles further than passable writing.


4. Learn about what it takes to publish a book. This part requires some time and patience. In order to know your market well, you need to perform research. If you don't know the first thing about the publishing industry, take a look in the Writing Reference section of your local bookstore (or the 800s at your local library, via the Dewey Decimal System). There are also some great articles in such magazines as Writers Digest and The Writer. One of my favorite online journals about writing in general is LitReactor.com. But there are tons of other ones out there.

Aside from the process of publication, you'll also need to know about your market. You'll need to find out such things as how many other books have been published in the past year that are similar to yours? What makes yours different? Which agents and publishers deal in your topic? How do you pitch an idea to them? What should your book proposal include?


5. Build your platform (and remember step 1). This is your area of expertise. What makes you uniquely qualified to write about your topic? Where have you published or presented on your topic? If you aren't already a celebrity or a head chef, this make take some doing. Consider building your professional network and online presence by creating professional profiles and connecting with others. Ask questions and interact for starters.


Keep in mind that we don't have a cookbook published yet. So take this recipe with a grain of salt. (After all, salt is to taste.) Although, having been in the industry both from the perspective of a purchaser (Librarian) and as a professional (Writer & Editor), I do know something about what it takes to get a book into the world. So, if you're going to use this post as a piece of advice, keep those things in mind.

More on the individual steps later.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why a Chilean Cookbook?

So of all the countries on this amazing planet, why Chile? And why a cookbook?

In answer, I offer you three perspectives.

The Chef: Mark

Mark: "After living in other countries, Chile included, I've discovered that one of the things that differentiates Chilean food is the family focus and the freshness of the ingredients. Growing up in Chile, we would buy a week's worth of food at a time so everything was fresh. Preparing meals was a family affair - everyone worked to make everything from scratch. It was a great time. Too often these days (and especially in the U.S.), everything is eat and go. Family talk and discussion is a dying art.

"I'm returning to Chile to show off my country to the rest of the world. It's my inheritance and some sort of legacy for my kid. I want to get to know Chile and its culinary scene better and bring my family along."

The Writer: Hillary



Hillary: "I'm passionate about three things: family, books, and food. Through the years, with Mark as my guide, I've really come to appreciate good food and have become quite the foodie and home cook. I love opportunities to experience new things - especially different cultures - and am eager to share the wonders of the world with our daughter.

"Chilean food and culture have become a fascination for me and I long to share Chilean food culture with all the folks out there who haven't experienced it yet. Plus, I'm a big proponent of the family table as center of the home. We need to revive the art of connecting over a good meal."

The Wee Child: Oli


Oli: "I don't know. [What do you like about Chile?] I like about Chile, um, to speak Spanish and have Chilean food. [What type of Chilean food do you like most of all?] Sushi. [Sushi is Japanese food.] I only want Sushi at Chile. [What makes you happy about Chile?] I want to go to Chile. [Why do you want to go to Chile?] I just do.

Ok, aside from the sentimental, we have numerous pragmatic reasons for writing a cookbook on Chile. Let me break it down for you bullet-style:
  • We've got an "in." With family and friends, we have connections that will come in handy during our travels up and down the thin country.
  • Chile is a fascinating country of extremes (and all the variances in between). It is one of the longest countries in the world and encompasses a multitude of climates and ecosystems. It has over 4,000 miles of coast, the Atacama desert in the north, the Andes mountains in the East, and Patagonia in the south. It even includes the South Pacific island of Easter Island!
  • Its people are varied and contribute to the country's rich cultural heritage. Chile is home to indigenous peoples, colonial descendants, and post World War immigrants.
  • Chile is a wine-lover's paradise. Chilean wine production dates back to the mid-sixteenth century when conquistadors introduced European Vitis vinifera vines to their budding South American colonies. Chilean grapes were among the only survivors of the phylloxera epidemic that killed off most of France's vineyards in mid-nineteenth century.
  • Haven't you ever noticed that 95% of your grocery's fruit and vegetables are imported from Chile? There's a reason for that. Their produce is good, real good. 
That oughta wet your appetite for now. I'm sure you'll grow to love Chile as you learn more about it through our posts over the next year.

Adios! Hasta luego!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Here Goes...Something

Ok, so talking with my staff wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. They took the news amicably and seemed genuinely excited about my upcoming travels with my family. Everyone agreed; no one in their right mind could pass up an opportunity like this.

Following the announcement that I would be relocating to Chile to write a cookbook, the questions came flowing quickly behind. How did you get this opportunity? When are you leaving? How long will you be there? Are you selling your house? What about all your stuff? Where will your daughter go to school? What's Chilean food like? What's Chile like? Who will take the photos?

I gave the quick facts as best I could but their questions got me thinking. There were several ways I could answer their questions. Chatting in person, of course, is always fun. But telling a story is much much more fun. And this blog will be the perfect way to do that.

So in the spirit of adventure, my husband and I have decided that this blog will be a tell-all of sorts. We'll go into all the details of our process for planning and executing this great big adventure. Each week before departure, I will write about the steps we took to make this dream a reality. Post departure, I'll write about what you'll expect (and hopefully be excited for) - our travels and the food we eat along the way.

So bon voyage...well, in two months, anyway...and hope to see you back here soon!