Category Archives: South American

Revuelto Gramajo

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At its most basic, this dish is a plate of scrambled eggs with ham, onions, and fried potatoes mixed together. Commonly served in cafes and bodegas all over Argentina, the  presentation varies widely. But that is merely a reference point.

There are many different stories about the  culinary origins of this dish. It truly is a ‘scrambled story‘, pun intended……

One version claims that its creator was Arturo Gramajo (1838–1914), a colonel who served in the Argentine military  and was later  appointed minister of war in 1877.Cao101.jpg

Legend has it that Colonel Gramajo  who was aide to General Julio A. Roca   and accompanied him for years during the late 1870s  in the  campaign to conquer the “desert”, or the Pampas. The colonel, a roly poly sort, was a bit of a gourmand, a bit of a dandy, and, apparently, a fairly accomplished cook.

There are three versions of his part of the legend. The first, and seemingly most common, is that prior to heading out into the battlefield, Colonel Gramajo had been accustomed to starting his days with a couple of fried eggs, a slab of ham, and some potatoes fried with onions – or at least that’s more or less what it amounted to. Sounds like a typical North American diner breakfast. Preparing all of the items in a tent, in inclement weather, became a bit of a chore, but being unwilling to give up his beloved morning platter, he simply fried up the onions and potatoes in a skillet, threw in some chopped up ham, and scrambled in a couple of eggs. Not as pretty, but the lack of technique certainly got the job done.

Version two of the story is quite similar, but asserts that the person who was accustomed to said breakfast was General Roca, who  was a food lover, became bored with standard military fare and so it was for his breakfast that this field ration was created by the Colonel.

And,  in version three, also involving Artemio, has it that this all happened post-war in 1880, when he was  billeted or ensconced at his “club”, El Club del Progreso where  the Rio Bamba a public restaurant was housed in the club. One day, a bit hungover, he wondered into a completely empty kitchen at the Rio Bamba, only to find that the cook had left some potatoes, ham, onion and eggs in the pantry. Perhaps he was feeling that  the detailed work of cooking the components ingredients separately was just too much to take on with a hang over. With these simple ingredients he decided to combine  them all  in his own special way; Mixing ham, shredded potatoes browned in a pan with very little oil and a pinch of butter and adding eggs to the preparation. Delighted with himself, Gramajo took his creation straight to the top by serving it to his boss, the twice-president-of-the-nation General Roca. The result, a egg tousled dish, which was christened scrambled Gramajo, by the owners of Rio Bamba.

 And, voila! the King of Argentinian minutas was born.

Now we move on to version four, which not only takes us to a different country, France but bringing in a different Gramajo, Arturo, a socialite, and some what of a playboy. This  Pasaje de la PiedadGramajo was born Arturo Gramajo Cardenas (1860-1934) and  was an Argentine lawyer  who served as a diplomat  in France and Great Britain and took over as mayor of the City of Buenos Aires during the last stage of the presidency of Victorino de la Plaza, from February 1915 to November 1916.Mayors of Buenos Aires have been hand-picked by the President, pending Senate approval, much like U.S.Supreme Court justices for most of Argentine history. Only in 1996 did porteños obtain the right to elect their top position.

Gramajo is credited with the idea of Pasaje de la Piedad, the passage of the Mercy , an architectural housing that created small u-shaped streets for carriages, just to satisfy the whims of his wife.The land on which the buildings and the passage rose were inheritance of his wife, Maria Adela Atucha Saraza (1833?-1885?), and she insisted on the project, which was under construction for a two decades between 1888 and 1900. And their spectacular mansion was also built in the area. Gramajo also had the role of President of the Commission that gathered funds for the erection of the Church of Our Lady of Mercy, facing  his property. The street, Pasaje de la Piedad is right off of the present day street Bartolome Mitre between Parana and Montevideo, and is addressed at 1525-1573 on that street. But I digress.

The story has it  that as a wealthy playboy who loved good living, Gramajo was stayingGramajo-Arturo-Doctor.jpg at the Hotel Ritz in Paris when he got a little peckish. However, it was late and the kitchen was closed and he  insisted on preparing his own breakfast, he looked over what was lying around, basically throwing together a scramble of whatever looked good sitting on the counter and created the revuelto Gramajo: scrambled eggs mixed with ham and fried matchstick potatoes. While it’s not impossible that a 20-something Arturo would have been cavorting about in Paris in the early 1880s he wasn’t yet a particularly well known figure in Argentine society, at the time. The dish became popular after his return to Buenos Aires. Given that the revuelto was all the rage in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and has continued to be a staple of local cuisine since, it just seems unlikely that something a young dandy threw together one morning in a Paris hotel after a night of carousing would become a dining hit back home within moments. Of course, even that story is up for debate. Some claim that Coronel Artemio Gramajo who served with General Roca decided to break the monotony of army fare and created the dish that bears his name. In the best of all possible worlds, it could have happened, but to me it makes more sense that the influence of military leaders like Roca and Artemio  Gramajo would have had that impact  on  Argentine cuisine upon their return from the military campaign.

Slide1.JPGAnd then there  is Francis Mallmann, author of Seven Fires,  who tells an origin tale that is close to his heart. He claims that the dish was was created by Arturito Gramajo,  another Gramajo and husband of the famous tango singer Elisita Gramajo. Mallmann’s grandmother, or Tata, told him that she was once courted by Gramajo all the way back in 1919.

But the time lines do not add up  here……………..hmmmm.

Romantic stories aside, which ever story  you believe will in, will   most likely be the one each foodie can relate to for him or herself. And in casting myself in the  “Doubting Thomas” role here,  one would have to question where  would General Roca and Colonel Gramajo get the eggs, potatoes and ham in the desert in the middle of war in the 1870s which would have been be so expensive to transport to the battlefield in that era. So there is a possibility that the the creator  of the Scramble was Arturito Gramajo,  another wealthy dandy of the 1930s and possibly the son of Arturo Gramajo, whose life came to abrupt end.   Arturito died from eating a poisonous mushroom that he had gathered in his field and had cooked for his friends. And since then, suspicions about his wife … sole heir to an immense fortune were never obviated or ruled out.

And  with most oral histories and in particular, culinary histories,  there is a kernel of truth,  but like a game of telephone, the myths are created and in all likelihood, we will probably never know, “the real story”.

As for the preparation, in the  early 20th Century a Scrambled  Gramajo was typically made ​​with thinly sliced ​​potatoes, ham (according to taste, raw or cooked),and onion. Many restaurants  chefs and home cooks alike, have made ​​more elaborate versions of this simple dish choosing to  add other ingredients to the base preparation, such as chicken,  turkey, green peas, bell peppers, garlic, olives, bacon, mushrooms, hearts of palm, avocado, seafood, or parsley. Sometimes, a little heavy cream is add to the eggs to ensure a velvety texture and creaminess to the dish.

But  the only true recipe contains scrambled eggs, ham, julienne potatoes  sprinkling of salt and pepper and nothing else. According to purists, if you add peas or anything else, you are already talking of the transformation of scrambled eggs that are not the real authentic  Gramajo.

Whether it was a colonel, a  mayor or playboy who created the Revuelto Gramajo, it’s one of the heartiest plates on traditional Argentine menus.

 

 

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

4 red potatoes, about 6 ounces each, scrubbed
1 medium onion, finely c hopped
Vegetable oil, for frying
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 thin slices  air-dried ham , coarsely chopped, (jamón ibéricos, serrano or proscuitto)
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
Ground black pepper to taste
Sliced scallions, for garnish

 

Directions:

Peel the potatoes. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the potatoes into a fine julienne. Put the potatoes soak in cold water to eliminate starch, for 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to 360°F. Add the potatoes, in batches if necessary, and cook for about 2 minutes, until golden. Remove with a slotted skimmer and drain on paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in the same cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the ham and crisp for about 15 seconds. Remove to paper towels to drain.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of butter and add the onions. Saute until translucent and remove for the skillet side aside on a clean plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in  the same skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the cream and pour them in. Add the potatoes, onions and ham and scramble—if necessary, lower the heat so that eggs do not brown. Use a wide spatula to to gently fold the ingredients into the eggs. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and garnish with scallions and  serve immediately.

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Merluza a la Romana

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Traditional Spanish food is influenced by the Greek, Roman, Phoenician and Moorish settlements over the centuries. With the immense variety of Spanish food recipes, there is enough to satisfy every one. And Merluza a la romana (battered fried hake) is  popular dish Argentina that just happens to be of Spanish origin and it  one of the  various minutas served daily through out the country.

What are minutas, you ask? Well, think of them as Argentinian “fast food”. They are a reliable set of dishes that are simple, popular, quick-to-prepare. These short-order dishes are served as a sit-down meal, with china plates and waiter service and often available at all hours.

The tradition of minutas was invented to offer standard, affordable fare to working men. Siesta culture may be long dead in Buenos Aires, but, to this day, many workers still take the time out in the middle of the day to go to their local cafés for a hot meal, even on stiflingly humid summer days.

The minutas menu varies little, and almost always usually includes these usual suspects:
Pasta– ravioles or tallarines (thick spaghetti), with a meat or tomato sauce
Merluza a la romana (battered hake) –  the only fish dish that is commonly available
Revuelto Gramajo – a pile of thin match stick potatoes with ham onions, and eggs
The ubiquitous milanesa (beef schnitzel), sometimes served “a la napolitana”
Bife (steak), churrasco (thin cut of grilled steak) or pollo (chicken)- served with of mashed potatoes or french fries

For this recipe, hake was not available in my neck of the woods, but I was able to find barramundi or Asian sea bass. Barramundi have a mild flavor and a white, flaky flesh, with varying amount of body fat. In the U.S., barramundi is growing in popularity. Monterey Bay Aquarium has deemed U. S. and Vietnam-raised barramundi as “Best Choice” under the Seafood Watch sustainability program.

If you are unable to find hake, another white firm-fleshed fish such as cod or haddock can be used in this recipe as great substitutions.

 

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the Mayonnaise:
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ Tablespoon horseradish
2 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

For the Fish:
Six 4 ounce Hake fillets
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 Eggs
Olive oil, for frying
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions:
For the mayonnaise, combine the egg yolk only and mustard in a bowl and whisk until well mixed.

Gradually whisk in the oil, a little at a time, until completely incorporated and the mayonnaise is thick and silky smooth. Note: When the whisk is lifted, the mayonnaise should hang off but not fall. Whisk in the lime juice and add the horseradish, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the fish, pour about an ½ inch of olive oil into a large cast iron skillet, placed over a medium heat.

In a shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs.

Pat the fish with paper towel to remove excess moisture.Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge each piece of fish flour, shaking off the excess and then coat well in the beaten egg. Place into the hot oil and fry for about four minutes on each site, depending on the thickness of the fish, until golden-brown. Remove the fish from the oil an drain on a paper towel lined platter.

To serve, take 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise and streak the center of the serving plate with the back of a spoon. Place the fish on top and garnish with lime wedges.

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Milanesa a la Napolitana

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The milanesa is a dish common in Latin American countries where generic types of breaded meat fillet preparations are known as a milanesa.

As with much of Argentine cuisine and culture, the roots of the Argentine milanesa are traced back to Italy. The milanesa was brought to the Southern Cone of South America by Italian immigrantspict--political-map-southern-cone-southern-cone-political-map.png during the mass emigration called the Italian diaspora between 1860-1920s. Its name probably reflects an original Milanese preparation, cotoletta alla Milanese, a thin steak or veal chop, dipped in breadcrumbs and friedwhich is similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel.

Generally, a milanesa consists of a thin slice of beef, chicken, veal, or sometimes pork, and even eggplants or soy. In its most basic form, the Argentine milanesa is a simply breaded, thin slice of prime beef from the peceto(round roast cut) or the nalga (eye of round). When selecting your steaks, make sure to look for steaks with little fat and no sinew, which makes the milanesa curl up as you cook it.Ask your local butcher to thinly cut the meat for your milanesas to about 1/4-inch. Once you get them home, soak them in the fridge for an hour or so in a mixture of beaten egg, a splash of milk, a sprinkle of salt, and some finely chopped parsley and garlic. Add a touch of oregano or dried chilies if you crave a spicy taste. When you are ready to cook, dip cutlets in the breadcrumbs (or occasionally flour). I personally like to use Japanese Panko breadcrumbs. You can use whatever yo unlike, as long the breadcrumbs are dry.

Traditionally, milansesa are shallow-fried in oil, one at a time. Some people prefer to use very little oil and then bake them in the oven as a healthier alternative.

There are a million if not more recipes and variations for milanesas. If you wcaballo.jpgant the pure and traditional milanesa experience, squeeze lemon over the crispy hot delicacies and serve with creamy mashed potatoes or fries. But if you want to go a bit fancy, serve it a caballo – on horseback – where a fried egg tops the delicious concoction.

Milanesa napolitana is a variation of the breaded fried steak dish that is popular in Argentina and Uruguay. Milanesa a la Napolitana did not originate from Milan or Naples – it’s thought to have been invented in the 1940’s at a Buenos Aires restaurant called “Nápoli”.

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                                                                       Sandwich de milanesa.   Photo Credit:  Ian Carvell, 2015

Milanesa napolitana is also very  similar to veal Parmesan, but with South American touches – after the steak is breaded and fried, it’s topped with a slice of ham, tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella cheese, and served with french fries.Leftovers make great sandwiches, especially when paired with a soft but crusty roll, just like the lunchtime classic – the sándwich de milanesa. For a basic sandwich, add tomato and lettuce, and you are good to go. Milanesa completa is the slightly souped up version with lettuce, tomato, cheese and ham.

 

Serves 6
 
Ingredients:

6  thinly sliced skillet steaks, such as top round
3 eggs
Dried  oregano, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2  cups panko  bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 slices of deli ham (or proscuitto)
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
Lemon wedges, for serving
Fresh chopped  or sliced tomatoes,  for garnish (optional)
Oven baked fries, for serving

Directions:
Whisk together the eggs, parsley, milk, garlic and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.Place the steaks in the egg mixture, cover with plastic wrap and leave the steaks soaking for 30 minutes to one hour in the fridge. The more time the better.

In another shallow pan, stir the Parmesan cheese and garlic into the bread crumbs and set aside.

Remove the steaks from the egg mixture and one by one, dredge the steaks in the crumbs, turning and pressing firmly until they are well coated.

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet, and cook steaks for several minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Drain steaks on paper towels. See the Cook’s Notes for the oven baked cooking method.

Place the  cooked steaks on a  baking sheet. Turn on the oven broiler. Top each steak with a slice of ham, 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with oregano  over the cheese and place steaks under broiler until cheese melts.

If desired, top the finished dish with chopped  or sliced tomatoes and serve warm, with fries.

 

Cook’s Notes:
Alternative Oven Baked Cooking Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush   a baking sheet with oil and heat it up in the oven.

Place the milanesas on the prepared baking sheet and place the steaks in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn over the milanesas and spread on a layer of 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce, a slice of ham, 1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese and  sprinkle with oregano. Turn on oven broiler. Place steaks under broiler until cheese melts.

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TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Fugazetta

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In 1893 Don Augustin Banchero arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina from Genoa, Italy and opened one of the country’s first pizzerias. The Banchero family, who now have four branches, claim to have invented the fugazza con queso, and this cheese and onion pizza, has since practically become part of the Argentinian staple diet. Fugazzetta is a variation of the popular Argentinian treat, and is very similar to Italian-style.

What makes it different?  Well, fugazzetta is a double crusted version of fugazza, stuffed with cheese and topped with the same sweet onions and slices of green olives. Fugazzetta de verdura has all of this plus a layer of sautéed spinach and vegetables. Fugazetta is more than a  century-old Argentine pizza and it has actually been listed as a food of ‘patrimonial value’ by the Argentine Parliament.

The fugazetta reminds me of the pissaladière , a  savory caramelized onion tart with black olives, that originated from Nice in Southern France, taking  its name from pissala, a pungent anchovy paste that gives the flatbread its distinctive flavor. May I will make that one day and post the results.

Traditionally topped with a copious amount of provolone cheese, finely shredded raw onions, green olives, and dusted with a bit of oregano and red pepper flakes, fugazetta  is a wondrous creation, that is completely vegetarian.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
*For the Pizza dough:
1 teaspoons Rapid-Rising Dry Yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 Tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 to  2 cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Extra olive oil, for Brushing the crust
*(Or a good-quality store-bought crust.)

For the Toppings:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Vidalia onions, halved, thinly sliced
4 cups shredded Provolone Cheese (or Mozzarella)
3/4 cup Green Spanish  Manzanilla olives, sliced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 1 tablespoons of warm water and add it to the mixture. Pour in the olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise over a gas pilot light on the stovetop or other warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/4-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, coat a small saute pan with olive oil, add the onions, and cook over low heat for 30-45 minutes until the onions are deep brown and caramelized. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, then cook for another few minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Uncover the dough. Brush the crust with a bit of olive oil, then Scatter the provolone cheese, caramelized onions, olives, oregano and red pepper flakes over he surface of the dough.  Bake on the bottom rack for 10 to 15 minutes.

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TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor