Sunday, July 2, 2017


Things have been going pretty good for the most part. I finished reading the first book of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and just started American Gods by Neil Gaimon. We’re working on getting the house fixed up so we can move in. Hopefully, we can move in by fall. And I just realized this week that my kids go back to school at the end of the month. I’m going to have to plan on some kind of day trip or something.
I haven't made a yeast bread for a while. This was wonderful!
But for today, we’re escaping to Panama, at least in my kitchen. Too bad it’s not in real life. The first thing I made was pan micha, a bread popular in Panama that I believe has its roots in France. I started with dissolving a tsp of sugar in ¼ c warm water along with a packet of yeast and sat that off to the side for 5-10 minutes. Then I mixed the yeast mixture with 2 Tbsp of melted butter, 2 c of warm milk, and 3 Tbsp of confectioners/caster sugar. Once all of that was mixed together, I slowly stirred in 3 c of flour. Once I got everything all mixed together, I wrapped the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours. After this time was up, I dumped the dough on a floured surface. It rose pretty well, but it was so sticky that I had to add a ton of flour to it to make it workable in any sense. It was so elastic and smooth, but it was hard to manipulate. I was supposed to form a rectangle and tri-fold the dough, like I was folding a letter, but it was too stretchy and sticky to do that. I somehow managed to just pick the whole thing up and plop it into a greased bread pan, and then I brushed it with olive oil, smoothing it out trying to make it look nice. I covered this with plastic wrap again and let it sit for another hour to rest in a warm place. It’s best to wait until it rises it’s just above the edge of the bread pan, which mine did. So I preheated my oven at 375ºF, and put a baking sheet with a cup of water in it on the bottom shelf. I attempted to carve my design into the top of my bread with a knife (it was still so sticky that my knife didn’t go through as well) and sprinkled just a little bit of flour on top of the bread before putting it into the oven. I let this bake for about 30-35 minutes. Once it was a golden color, I took it out and let it cool. Although I thought it was one of the more difficult breads I’ve made in a while, the crumb was very nice. It was soft on the inside, yet there was a nice crust on the outside. I probably could’ve left it in for another minute or two. I did forget to do the egg wash, which would’ve really brought out the color in the crust, but it’s all good. I loved this bread. The flavor was just plain enough to warrant topping this bread with just about anything.

I really liked this. And why haven't I had/made sofrito before?
My main dish for today is Panama-Style Ropa Vieja. I asked my daughter to translate ropa vieja, and she sat there for a minute, working it out in her mind. Then her face contorted, and she recoiled, “Old clothes? You’re serving us old clothes?” Legend says this shredded beef dish got its name because the person originally making it had run out of meat and used shredded flannel instead. (And that’s what happened to the grunge movement.) Anyway. The recipe calls for skirt steak or flank steak, but I used beef that was thinly cut for carne picada. I realized later that this was not exactly what I intended to buy, but it ended up working in my favor. (In my defense, the kids were being kind of annoying.) So, I browned my beef in a pot and then covered it with water (or stock if you have it, which I didn’t). I let it simmer for an hour, making sure the water didn’t all cook out. During this time, I made the sofrito sauce. For this, I fried my onions in oil for a few minutes before adding in some minced garlic and diced green peppers. When the peppers were soft, I added in part of a can of diced tomatoes, diced red and yellow bell peppers, some peas, cumin, and black pepper. (I cut a jalapeño pepper to be added later.) After cooking down for 5-10 minutes, I added in a little bit of oregano and salt and garnished this with jalapeños and green pimento-stuffed olives. After the time was up for the beef, I would have normally shredded the meat at this point, but the carne picada was already pulled apart. Once it was shredded, I added in some chopped carrots, onion, and celery (make it easy on yourself—use mirepoix mix like I did). I also added in some minced garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. After letting it simmer for a few minutes, I added in my sofrito sauce and let it simmer for another 20-30 minutes. I served this as a stew on top of some white rice. I thought this was really good. I actually think it would’ve been better if the jalapeños had cooked down in with the meat, but not everyone’s a fan. Outside of the chopping and waiting, I thought this was a pretty easy dish to make.

I liked this little salad. The great thing about this is that you can kind of add whatever you want.
To go with this, I made Salad Primavera, a nice green salad. In a jar, I combined a little red wine vinegar (in lieu of sherry vinegar) with a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and minced garlic. I shook the jar to make sure it was all combined. Then I cooked some of the asparagus, drained it in cold water, and cut it into 2-inch sections. I took the asparagus and combined it in a bowl with some spinach leaves, some spring mix salad, peas, julienned red and yellow bell pepper, some red onion, parsley, and basil. I poured in the dressing, and tossed everything together to coat it all well. I finished this dish first, not realizing that I should’ve waited to add the dressing to the salad until just before we were to eat. By the time all the other dishes were done, several hours later, the spinach was kind of soggy. But it tasted good, and it was a nice complement to the spiciness of the ropa vieja.

This one was a good one. Es muy delicioso!
We had talked about visiting Panama one of these days. (I really need to renew our passports and get some for the kids.) Technically, we can just drive there. According to Google maps, we can drive to Panama City, Panama in just a quick 77 hours. The trip would start out in the US and go through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and then Panama. It’s only a little less than 3900 miles from Indianapolis. If we drove 12 hours a day, it would take us roughly six and a half days to get there. So, technically, if I took two weeks off of work, we could drive to Panama City, spend one day there, turn around and come back. Isn’t it more about the journey anyway?

Up next: Papua New Guinea

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