January 30, 2013

Roasted pork leg, a Honduran favorite

Record breaking sales of pork, apples, and grapes

To show you how popular Christmas pork is in La Ceiba, this article in the local Ceibeño section of La Prensa reported that an estimated 72,000 pounds of pork were consumed by Ceibeños during Christmas week and that another 30,000 pounds were expected to be sold during New Year's week.

The other article reported that grapes and apples, other popular holiday food items, experienced a 30% increase in sales this year and a 15% increase in price compared to last year. I always thought the grape and apple tradition was odd given the wonderful tropical fruit available here, but maybe because they are both imported, that is why they are considered a special treat for the holidays. The article notes that grapes and apples are more in demand for Christmas, while tamales and torrejas (a donut-like dessert soaked in a sugar syrup) are more in demand for New Year.

The article notes that chicken is the more common fare for Ceibeños, though pork and beef are eaten year round, particularly in the form of pork chops (chuletas).

Below is a translation of my Honduran sister-in-law's recipe for roasted pork leg that she was kind enough to share with me the first time that I made one. I'm going to be so bold as to call it 'Honduran style' because it is, uh, from a Honduran living in Honduras, but I don't claim that there is only one Honduran style – anymore than there is one 'American style' chicken soup recipe. ;-) So if this isn't the way that your Honduran mother made it, please leave a comment to share other Honduran versions. I'd love to read about variations.

January 29, 2013

La Gringa's Roast Pork Leg Recipe

roasted pork leg recipe
Roasted Pork Leg – minus a few test bites by Chef El Jefe

I promised a roasted pork leg recipe and I'm not only providing you with the recipe I used this year, but also my sister-in-law's authentic Honduran recipe, as a well as a modified version of her recipe. Those latter two recipes will be in the next article. (I promise! Unfortunately, my sister-in-law's recipe was misplaced for a time, hence the delay in posting.)

Roasted pork leg leftovers
For my recipe version below, I winged it by picking and choosing what sounded good from three recipes I found online, since none of my cookbooks have a recipe for whole fresh pork leg. I was looking for a sort of Caribbean flavor and I think it was achieved with lots of garlic and fresh ginger, as well as the bitter orange juice. I can tell you that it was served to Hondurans and they all loved it. The proof is shown by how much they ate!

Because I was winging it, I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of unused marinade. El Jefe loved the flavor so much that a week later he went out and bought a smaller pork roast to cook on the grill with the leftover marinade. The proportions of this recipe have been reduced so that you shouldn't have a lot of excess marinade. Before you start marinating the meat, in a separate bowl, set aside about 1/3-1/2 cup for basting in the first couple of hours. After that, there should be enough pan juices to use for basting during the rest of the cooking time.

Speaking of cooking time, please use a thermometer and your own judgement. The USDA has lowered the recommended 'safe' cooking temperature for pork from 160ºF down to 145ºF with a 3-minute resting time, but remember that a pork leg is a huge hunk of meat with a large bone running through it so the temperature is going to vary a lot in different areas of the meat. While trichinosis has been mostly eliminated in the US, I have no idea the status in Honduras so I'd rather play it safe like Hondurans do. Knowing that most of my guests would have been appalled at pink meat, I preferred to ensure that the leg was fully cooked and tender.

January 28, 2013

Recycling the roof

purple accent plant
Love that purple accent color
I like a nice, neat edge on the lawn, don't you? A barrier of some sort is the best way to maintain that. In Texas, I used the dark green steel edging that you can make nice curves with but when we first started landscaping here in La Ceiba, the only edging material available was plastic. Later Ace Hardware came to town and they had it, but the price was outrageous for the quantity that we needed plus by then I'd learned enough to be sure it would have rusted away in no time in this climate.

river rock bed edging
In a few areas where the rain tends to wash away the soil, we used river rocks (left over from construction) to edge the beds and hold the soil in. I really like the natural look but it's not the easiest thing to mow or edge around and I thought doing all the beds with rocks might be a little overpowering. Most of the lawn was just manually edged with a weedeater each week. Over the years without any sort of barrier edging, the shape of the lawn area had shifted and needed to be redefined. Grass died out in some areas and overtook the flower beds in others.

moses in a cradle and teja lawn edging
I did things backwards. A few weeks before, we had a good worker so I took advantage of that to re-outlined all the front beds. I marked the curvy, flowing lines that I wanted with a trail of flour. We pulled up grass sprigs where grass shouldn't be and planted them where the grass should be. He dug up old plantings of Moses in a Cradle and replanted them all around the edges of the lawn. (See Rhoeo spathacea in this 2006 article to read how four tiny pots of this became miles of plants.) The undersides of the leaves are a deep, dark purple which I love.

purple accent plant
Since everything is so green all year round, I really like the look of dark purple as an accent in the garden. Several months ago we took cuttings from another dark purple plant (name, anyone?) and planted some here and there. This plant also made a nice contrast to the green grass and green plants. Moses in a Cradle spreads like crazy here so we always have excess that we can dig up from somewhere to replant in a new location. It does much better with this tough love rejuvenation every few years anyway.

Though it looked very nice, I soon realized that this wasn't a smart move. Edging the lawn with a weedeater would be very difficult if not impossible without chopping off the leaves of the Moses in the process. Tattered plants outlining the lawn was not the look I was going for. We talked again about using river rocks or making a permanent concrete edging of some sort. I don't think I could ever commit to a permanent edging. (Plants grow. Plants die. I change my mind.) Then I remembered the teja (clay roof tile) edging I had seen in San Pedro.

January 9, 2013

La Ceiba, Honduras, airport sign translation

translated sign at La Ceiba, Honduras airport
Oops. Bad translation
These photos were taken while waiting at the La Ceiba airport back in 2008. Hopefully they have corrected the translation since then because some of those forbidden items are pretty confusing. I wonder why they left out grenades from the English translation. Maybe they weren't sure if it should be hand grenades or pomegranates.

sign at La Ceiba, Honduras airport
Original sign in Spanish

January 1, 2013

New Year's Day Lucky Blackeye Pea Soup Recipe

Lucky Blackeye Pea Soup for New Year's
New Year's Day Blackeye Pea Soup
It brings luck!

There is a tradition in Texas that if you eat Blackeye Pea Soup on New Year's Day, you'll have good luck all year. Once I got started, I got all superstitious about it and couldn't quit. I was never a big fan of blackeyed peas, but I enjoyed this soup most every New Year's Day. When I first came to La Ceiba, it was dry red beans or canned black beans or nothing, but over the years, the variety of available beans has grown and we can get several kinds of beans and lentils now, mostly of the Goya brand.

Goya Balckeye Peas
When did a pound become 14 ounces?
I used to make this soup with smoked ham hocks which gave it a nice smokey flavor. Then I discovered Andouille sausage, which I absolutely love. The flavor goes very well with blackeye peas but we can't get either one here and I don't much like (or trust) Honduran sausage, having heard some bad stories. So trying to think of something to make a bean soup satisfying to my meat-lovin' husband, I decided to try plain, unsmoked pork hocks. El Jefe got a butcher to cut them but there was virtually no meat at all on them. Then J somehow left the bag of hocks out of the fridge all night. Yuck. I discovered them in the morning and the smell was off so out they went.

smoked pork chops and veggies
Smoked pork chops
El Jefe was desperate for meat in his soup. The only smoked meat I've seen is expensive imported hams or smoked pork chops so I said to go buy a couple of those if he had to have meat and I'd cut them up and add them to the soup. He came home with five pork chops, so... "Now we are having meat soup with beans!", I complained. Heheheh! Hondurans love their meat!

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