Between Meals: Mendoza

A somewhat sleepy, smallish city, Mendoza is the capital of the Argentine wine world. It's vying for the Bay Area for my favorite place on earth... absurdly cheap wine-tasting, gorgeous scenery, delicious food, exciting bike rides and a relaxing nightlife scene. It is truly a magical place.

Especially if you have such lovely travel companions! The placard says, "Virgin of the grape."

The town of Mendoza is built around a series of plazas, all of which are lovely (though someone MUST tell them that dyed-blue water isn't fooling anyone)

We biked to two wineries, a restaurant and a chocolate/liqueur factory, which you can see on this map if you scroll down to Maipú.

First we took a tour of the La Rural winery, which included a lot of giant steel silos and clumps of fermenting grape skins...mmmm. After lunch at Almacen del Sur, we headed to Tempus Alba for a "tasting," which, as you can see below, was actually 12 FULL glasses of wine for the four of us.

As if to confirm that Mendoza is truly a utopia, on the bus ride home, we chatted with an inquisitive and cherubic 5-year-old named Gimena, whose head-to-toe pink crochet outfit matched her rosy cheeks. Stupefyingly beautiful and amazingly fun, it was a day I'll never forget.


Lesson 17: Tarts

After weeks of non-stop savory, savory, savory, finally we had our first...

 I am a connoisseur of raw dough. I've spent many years refining the technique of snatching inconspicuous pieces of pie dough when my dad's back is turned. Today, my skills must have been a little rusty, though, because my pastry professor caught me munching and wagged her finger at me with a face that clearly meant, "How pathetic!" Hm. A little embarrassing.

In spite of my fixation on dough foraging, I managed to glean some tidbits that will help make your dough superb, whether you're a mature adult who possesses this new-fangled thing called "self-control" or a...hedonistic glutton.

1. unlike with breads, you want to avoid the formation of gluten, which makes the dough hard; so we had to keep kneading to a minimum
2. there are three types of tart dough:
- sucrée (sweet dough)
- sablée (crumbly, cakey offshoot of sucrée made with the butter creamed first instead of "cut" into the dough)
- brisée (all butter basic pie dough; used for both sweet and savory tarts)

We also talked about variations on a basic fruit tart, which I decided to practice today at home...
- you can replace part of the flour with another dry ingredient like cocoa or almond flour
- you can add essences or chocolate to the pastry cream after you've made it
- you can infuse the pastry cream with citrus or spices as you heat the milk

I tend to think normal fruit tarts are too sweet and soggy, so I decided to add some salt and some crunch to these babies.

And so, I present two jazzed up fruit tarts (all made with sucrée dough and pastry cream):

1. Mango Mint Tart:
- I put whole mint leaves in the milk I used to make the pastry cream (but fished them out before mixing in with the rest of the ingredients)
- after assembling, I put more chopped fresh mint on top
- I also added toasted and slightly salted pumpkin seeds (I would probably add some other kind of nut in the future, but nuts are sooo expensive in Buenos Aires...)

2. Kiwi Ginger Tart
- again, infused the milk with a small piece of fresh ginger that I then discarded
- on top, I put minced ginger that I fried in a little bit of salted butter

I'm saving these pretty things for some other pretty things- Genna, Caroline and Nicole- who arrive starting TOMORROW! 
Tarts for some not-tarts! 


Lesson 16: Focaccia and Potato Bread That Tasted Like Focaccia

We used oil instead of butter as the grease in these puppies. But the method was the same: corona of flour, liquid and grease in the middle, KNEAD!

I tricked my group members into doing all the hard work so that I could take pictures. Nice, eh?

At least they look happy while doing all the backbreaking labor.

Nice work, ayudantes. Tasty results.

Not sure what these are supposed to be- savory cinnamon rolls mayhaps?- but they were delectable.

Now, I can't move. Like every Monday night. Monday nights are supine nights round these parts.


Lesson 15: Babe

Yup, we did it again. Another favorite animal goes under the knife.

Here's where our neatly wrapped pork chops come from:

To make things like these:


Lesson 14: Under the Sea

Moules frites:


Seafood creamy stew-like thing with veggies:

Octupus before:


Between Meals: Drummers at San Telmo

Every Sunday. Super cool.


Lesson 13: Potpourri Miscellany

Thursday was a mish-mash of dishes, one a meaty Argentine riff on an Italian classic and the rest our further attempts to mimic classical French cuisine.

Question: how do you know how to match a pasta with a sauce?
Answer, from Marcella Hazan:
- for lighter sauce, like pesto or olive oil with tomatoes or chopped vegetables, use long, thin pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine
- for thicker sauces, like bolognese, use thicker pasta shapes like tagliatelle or funny-shaped pastas like orecchiette
- here's a nifty guide, cross-listed by both pasta shape and sauce: http://www.chow.com/stories/11099/?tag=main_body;feature_story
- and if you want to plummet into a food-induced coma, make cappeletti and agnolotti (both sort of like backwards tortellini) with the Argentine version of bolognese, which was really more like a hearty beef stew.

The pastas (filled with potato purée and crisped bacon):

The sauce- not for the faint of heart: pancetta, chunks of beef and pork, garlic, onion, carrot, boiled/peeled tomatoes, herbs, tomato paste, red wine and tomato purée.

The finished product:

And if you REALLY want to partake in death-by-over-consumption, go straight from pasta class to cooking technique class and make some creamy, buttery chicken dishes!

Mine: grilled chicken with maitre d'hotel butter (mix and then chill butter, parsley, lemon juice, curry, paprika, salt pepper) and french fries.

Gui with his masterpiece, stuffed chicken with mushroom sauce:

A chef's quest for perfection never ends:


Lesson 12: ORGANS

I tried my hardest not to be grossed out by this. But I decided that given that I'll be dissecting organs in a few short months, the last thing I want is for memories of sautéing them in butter to pop up in the anatomy lab. But just in case you were wondering what deep-fried brain looks like:

Or liver with port sauce:

Or kidneys with dijon sauce and a jaunty rice pilaf:



Between Meals: Iguazu Falls

Go now, and avoid the lunch rush if you can:

Coatis! South American relatives of raccoons. They are quiteeee aggressive, but the babies are pretty precious.

Also, bring bug spray:

And a camera. Can you spot the pot of gold!?:

Special thanks to the guest photographer.

Lesson 11: Arroz (Rice)

As a child of the 1980s, the movie Beethoven played on a continuous loop in my house. Although Saint Bernards still hold a special place in my heart, my main takeaway point from the movie was that the name Ryce is synonymous with being a plucky teenage girl coveted by boys with extremely discriminating taste...

At 23, I've missed my chance to follow in Ryce's footsteps, but all is not lost: in honor of my childhood idol, I've now expanded my rice recipe repertoire!

Up first on the docket: paella. I know that this recipe- which uses (horror of horrors!) store-bought rotisserie chicken!- will disappoint the food snobs, but it's easily-scalable (I've tripled and quadrupled it to great effect) and a crowd-pleaser. So there.

For the gourmets out there (Dad, Jim), though...

Brown 1 inch-ish chunks of chicken in olive oil:

Remove chicken and sauté veggies (pepper, onion, garlic). Next, add 100 grams of rice to the veggies in order to "narcar" it (I can't find an exact translation of this word anywhere, but from our prof's description I think it roughly means "impregnate"...) with flavor. Add chicken stock so that it covers the rice by about an inch! Add salt, pepper, pimentón (paprika), saffron and curry!

Let it cook at medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pan so all sides cook evenly, but try hard not to stir or otherwise jostle. Add chicken at the very end to reheat.

NEXT: dulce de leche arroz con leche.

Oh man. We ate this in class so fast that we had to teach my professor what "to scarf down" means (for the Spanish nerds, bufanda abajo!). I came home from school last night and made this again it was so fun and so tasty. BEWARE.

Pour some sugar into a pot and heat until caramel colored:

Like this!:

Add milk and bring to a boil. Add rice and boil for 20ish minutes, being sure to stir occasionally to keep the rice from burning:

Add lemon peel and cinnamon a few minutes before the rice is cooked through and serve!:

We also made...

Mushroom risotto:

Guiso (Really good and worth a try. The name means an Argentine stew, but technically this was essentially rice and chicken cooked in tomato sauce, though it can be made with sweet potatoes, peaches and beef instead):

And fried rice (with a wok!):

Happy noshing!

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