Sunday, January 3, 2016

LIBERIA: THE FOOD


It’s been a wild past couple of weeks. We survived Christmas and New Years, and I only had a minimal hangover. However, I did make my annual New Year’s Eve Feijoada Dinner (on the day before New Year’s Eve because we thought we were going somewhere that night, but we were mistaken). It was so good, even though I didn’t use chorizo this year, and I wish that I had. I got some new knives for Christmas, and I apparently didn’t move my finger fast enough and scraped off the tip of my finger and half the fingernail while cutting the greens. So, that was exciting to say the least. 
Mmmm, I'm very happy this turned out as good as it did.

That being said, I promised my husband I’ll be more careful today. (Success!) I started out with Traditional Liberian Ricebread.  I peeled eight bananas and mashed them in a bowl. Then I added in 1 egg, ¾ c sugar, and 1 c oil. I beat it for about a minute with my hand mixer on low speed. Then I added in a box of Cream of Rice (I didn’t even know this existed, but the one I found is made by the same company that makes Cream of Wheat), 1 Tbsp butter, 2 tsp baking soda (which I had to substitute baking powder), ¾ tsp salt, ½ tsp ginger, and 1 c water. I mixed it on high speed for about three minutes, desperately trying to avoid making a mess. Then I poured the batter into a greased 13x9” baking pan and put it into the 350ºF oven for 50 minutes. I let it cool completely before attempting to cut it. To me, it tasted like a banana cake. The best part was the little bit of crispiness on top and on the edges. Nothing else is needed with this bread. Except maybe a cup of coffee. And because there’s no flour used in this recipe (just the Cream of Rice), it’s a great recipe for those who have gluten sensitivity. 
This was very, very good. I think it would also be good with asparagus.
The main dish for today is Liberian Chicken Gravy. I bought a package of chicken thighs and boiled them in slightly salty water for about an hour. I took them out and cut the meat off the bone and put the meat in a bowl, saving the broth for later. Then I heated up some oil in my skillet and fried the chicken slightly, removing it and putting it back in the bowl. I immediately poured in my chopped onions to sauté for a few minutes before adding in some soy sauce, salt and pepper. (I left out the bouillon cubes since they all have MSG in them, and my husband is deathly allergic to MSG.) I mixed everything well before adding in the flour and stirring, and then adding in the tomato paste and stirring it in as well. Now it came time to add my chicken back in and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Then I added in a little of the chicken broth slowly so that it wouldn’t form any clumps. I added in the string beans and covered for about 15-20 minutes to let it thicken. I served this over rice that I made using the chicken broth. I really liked this, and so did everyone else—even my finicky son who recently claimed he hates chicken. The chicken at this point was so tender, and the beans, although listed as optional, was a great addition to the chicken. The spices were well-blended and flavorful. And I’m glad that I saved some jars for my chicken broth. I can use that this week in another dish. 
A little on the spicy side, just the way I like it.
To go with this, I served this with Collards and Cabbage. In a large pan, I combined my chopped collard greens, bacon, onion, salt, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and water and let it simmer for about a half hour. Then I added in my cabbage wedges with a pat of butter and let it cook down for another 15 minutes or so. At the end of this time, I drained off what water was still left and served it warm. This was a wonderful side dish and definitely reminiscent of Southern U.S. cooking. Even though I cut back a little on the crushed red pepper, there was still some fire on the back end. I loved this tremendously. 
This was the surprise of them all. Definitely a winner!
As a dessert, I made Stewed Mangos with Cloves. I peeled and cut four mangos (which is always harder than it sounds) and put them in a small saucepan. I added the syrup from a can of peaches to it. I was supposed to get six whole cloves, but I forgot, so I added in a little bit of ground cloves and stirred well. I wasn’t sure how much to use, so I used ½ tsp, and it seems like it was the perfect amount. Not too much, not too little. Then I let it simmer for about 15 minutes, only stirring occasionally, before taking it off the heat. I definitely would let it cool a little bit before serving. I tried to taste it too soon and it practically burnt my esophagus up on the way down. But it was a wonderful flavor. It almost reminded me of a peach cobbler. I wish I had some vanilla ice cream to put this on. My daughter tried it on chocolate and said it was good. Maybe I’ll try some and drizzle just a little bit of vanilla-caramel coffee creamer on it. There are several possibilities to go with this. 
My dinner was better than yours.
This was one of those meals where every single dish was excellent. Usually one or two dishes could’ve been better, but this one was absolutely wonderful. All of them. One of my “New Year’s Resolutions” is to stop eating when I’m full, so it really sucked because I totally wanted to go back and get some more. But I know I’ll have some tasty leftovers tomorrow. And as I finish up this post, I know that tomorrow the kids return to school, and our mini-vacation time is over. It’s time to stop staying up until 2 am and sleeping in until 10. I haven’t really done New Year’s Resolutions seriously for the past couple of years, but I do have some goals for this 2016: 1) continue writing my Happiness Log that I started right after the attacks on Paris. Every night, I post to Facebook five things that made me happy that day. 2) Finish the French track on Duolingo and then finish Portuguese and maybe the Russian one that I started. 3) Continue to cook and read and share what I learn with the world. 4) Meditate more. 5) Keep working on my writing and try to get published.

Up next: Libya

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