Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ecuador and Emily!

So a few weeks ago, I was looking back over the 80 Plates blog and saw I had a couple comments--my first comments ever! I was so excited! I opened the first and it was from my friend Emily. I've known Emily for nearly 5 years, although we haven't hung out a whole lot, mainly because I've been down here and she's up north, but thanks to the magic of Facebook, we've reconnected! So her comment read that if I ever wanted Ecuadorian recipes, I should let her know. I dropped her a line that, yes, I would love to have some and would she want to be a guest chef? She said she would, so we made plans and this weekend she came down and we caught up, hung out, cooked, and ate! :-) I was doubly excited about this, because Ecuador is a country I hold very dear to my heart. My family hosted an exchange student from Ecuador from 1995-1996 and he is still very much a part of our family. So to taste a dish that my brother Franc might enjoy was very exciting indeed.

Emily's mom married an Ecuadorian fellow back in the day and put together a cookbook with a bunch of recipes from all over Latin America. Emily brought it with her, and as you can see, we all had a nice giggle over the old school Print Shop cover of "La Cocina Hispana". Emily selected two of her favorite recipes, Pollos Borrachos (Drunken Chicken) and Tia Nicolina (Corn Casserole) and a new one to try Crema de Chocolate (Chocolate Mousse). She has generously agreed that I can share the recipes here, so at the end, I'll post the recipes for you to try if you want to! Emily also generously provided all the groceries and when Leah got crabby from her cold, Emily did most of the cooking. Emily is officially one of my heroes of 2009!

We decided to start with the Crema de Chocolate since it needed time to rest after being made. The recipe calls for just 5 ingredients, so it's super simple to make. I got to work melting chocolate and butter together while Emily separated the eggs. She was really excited to get to use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and I was somewhat surprised that it didn't find its way into her bag at the end of the night--it was love at first mix! :-)

After the chocolate was melted and the whites were whipped with some sugar, we tempered the egg yolks with a bit of the warm chocolate so we wouldn't make scrambled eggs. Eventually, Emily had about half the chocolate in with the eggs and the eggs were good and tempered and not scrambling, so we put the chocolate-egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the chocolate and cooked it again for a couple of minutes. Once it looked right, it was time to add the egg whites!

We folded the entire thing together until it become a wonderful mousse. Emily topped it with a bit of orange peel (I didn't know they sold that in jars in the spice aisle!). It was then supposed to chill for several hours, but we only had about an hour and a half till supper time, so we decided to put it into the deep freeze.

Then we moved on to Tia Nicolina, the corn casserole. This was not a terribly difficult dish to make, mainly because Leah started throwing a total hissy fit in the midst of the preparations and Emily took over :-)

I helped with the food processor bit, though! I processed 2/3 of the corn into shrapnel which was fun. I think processing frozen things is good for sharpening the blades too, so that was a bonus. (Or at least, my manual suggests occasionally chopping up ice cubes in there to keep the blades sharp.)

Emily meanwhile beat butter in a dish until it was fluffy, and then added cornmeal, brown sugar, cream cheese, and salt to the corn I had processed and the whole corn that had been left alone. It was really starting to smell just fantastic! She let the mixer do the hard work towards the end, and I don't blame her one bit! That's what that stand mixer is for!

Once that was completed, it was time to assemble the casserole! Emily explained that what would typically be done was that the casserole dish would be lined with corn husks, the filling would go into the husks, and then the husks would be folded over top of the casserole and that would be how you would bake it. She declined to do that this time, so we went ahead and used aluminum foil in place of the corn husks. To assemble the casserole was quite simple. She poured in one half of the corn mixture, and then spread green chilis over top of it. Then she sprinkled a half pound of Monterey Jack cheese (can't be bad!) and covered it with the remaining corn mixture. Voila, it was ready to bake for one hour!

The final piece of the Ecuadorian puzzle was Pollos Borrachos, or Drunken Chicken. Emily describes this as her ultimate comfort food, the thing she goes to when she needs a taste of home. Again, I was more or less forced to take a back seat in the kitchen by my cranky daughter, but Emily was an awesome sport about it and said she really enjoys cooking so she was happy to do it. (Leah is back in training to become human this week! You're in my army now, Kosior!)

In a Dutch oven, Emily heated up some oil and sauteed some onions and parsley that she had chopped up, along with some sesame seeds that she had not. What cracked me up about her cooking style was that she said she needed a tablespoon of seeds and when they got away from her and more like a quarter cup went in the pot, she shrugged and said something to the effect of, "That's how I roll." I have to get on board that train--I would have been attempting to pick out sesame seeds and somehow measure them!

Once that was done, Emily added a pile of chicken thighs. They had to be browned on all sides, so it took a while. Leah decided Emily needed help, so she guarded over the ingredients while Emily cooked.

Once the chicken was cooked up nicely, it was time to add spices. These were cinnamon, bay, cloves, and to make the chicken drunk, Emily added white wine. She said sherry would be more traditional, but she didn't have any on hand and white wine works fine. She also added vinegar and a bottle of olives, because she loves olives--only 16 were called for total, but she tossed in all of them, juice and all!

And then it was time to let everything do its thing and cook!! When it emerged from the oven and from the stove top, none of us could wait to dig in. The chicken made the kitchen smell so warm and inviting. I usually am not too sure if I'm going to like a savory dish made with spices I typically associate with baking, but one sniff and I knew I was going to love this chicken. The corn casserole was also smelling fantastic!

Our happy dinner party...

Michael's ceremonial first bite and my plate...

Oh. My. God.

It was amazing beyond all expectations. The chicken tasted so warm and happy and I can definitely see why you could find comfort in it. It tasted like home at the holidays. The corn had a real zippy flavor and was cheesy and warm and melty and crunchy. I had 3 helpings. I couldn't help it! It was so good!

It was with great sadness we finished but excitement in that we knew the crema was waiting for us! We removed it from the freezer and it was looking just fine. We dished it up and served it with a little bit of light Cool Whip--you know, because we are calorie conscious! :-) The chocolate was smooth and rich and heavenly--you would NEVER know that it had been made with eggs. It was like the best chocolate mousse I've ever tasted, and I usually make mine with heavy cream. It was a lot denser than a typical mousse. The only thing we all agreed upon was that we couldn't really taste the orange peel. Emily suggested that next time she makes it, she's going to add the orange peel in with the chocolate when it's melting to try and infuse the flavor throughout the chocolate and I think that will probably work!

Muchas gracias, Emily, I so enjoyed our visit and your cooking lesson! I'm super excited that Emily has volunteered to come back and teach me to make empanadas for Mexican night :-) Keep an eye out for a future episode starring this talented gal!


As promised, here are the family recipes we prepared.

Crema de Chocolate

8 ounces sweet baking chocolate
1/3 c. butter
4 eggs, separated
2 T sugar
Finely chopped orange peel

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt chocolate and butter together over low heat, stirring constantly. Beat together egg yolks, and gradually stir about half the chocolate mixture into the yolks. Return all to saucepan and combine all chocolate with egg mixture. Cook and stir for 2 more minutes until thick and glossy. Cool to room temperature.

Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in chocolate mixture and chill for several hours. Serve topped with chopped orange peel and whipped cream.

Pollos Borrachos (Drunken Chicken)

2 3 lb. broiler fryers, quartered
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 c. oil
3 onions, sliced
1/4 c. chopped parsley
2 T. sesame seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/4 t cloves
1 c white whine OR sherry
2 T vinegar
16 green olives

In large pan or Dutch oven, heat oil. Saute onions, parsley, and sesame seeds till onions are soft. Add chicken and cook over medium heat until brown on all sides. Add spices and cook a minute or two. Add alcohol, vinegar, and olives and simmer covered for 45 minutes until chicken is tender.

Tia Nicolina

3 cups frozen corn or 12 ears corn on the cob, corn removed
1 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 t salt
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 oz. green chilies

Heat oven to 375. Puree 2 cups of corn in food processor in several batches. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in cornmeal, sugar, cream cheese, and salt. Stir in reserved corn kernels and corn puree. Blend in cream. Pour half corn mixture into baking dish lined with corn husks. Smooth top. Cover with chilies and cheese. Add remaining corn mixture and fold husks over top of casserole to cover. Bake 1 hour.


  1. I guess you could say that 80 plates was brought to you by the letter E on Saturday.

    I just busted up laughing while reading this. I had an awesome time on Saturday too. Glad I could be part of 80 plates.

  2. OMG, that all looks and sounds so good, I'm sorry I missed it! Thanks for including the recipes, I'll have to put them in my book.