Celebrating Mayan foods from a Guatemalan Chef

4:55 PM, Jul 31, 2013   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Mayan culture is known for more than influencing our western calendar system. It's also known for several tasty dishes.

Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, a Guatemalan-American chef, will be sharing some of her favorite Guatemalan recipes Thursday, Aug. 1st, 2013, starting at 6 p.m., as part of the Science Museum of Minnesota's exhibit, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.

It's adult night at the Science Museum of Minnesota, welcoming those 21 and over to grab a drink, enjoy the museum, and experience innovative programming called Social Science.

Amalia joined KARE 11 News @4 to whip up a couple of her favorites from her cookbook,  Amalia's Guatamalan Kitchen:


(pronounced ho-CON)

It's a dish from Huehuetenango, a department located in western Guatemala, and the surrounding region. The recipe varies slightly from family to family. This is my simplified version. It is not only easy to make, but also hearty and delicious. The sauce has a vibrant green color. You can also use it for other grilled meats such as beef, pork, or chorizo.

(Serves 4 to 6 people)

4 to 6 skinless chicken thighs, visible fat removed
1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
1 small whole onion, peeled and t-scored
1/2 cup cilantro (unchopped, stems and leaves included)

1 cup trimmed green onions cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups tomatillos (about 10 tomatillos), husked and quartered
1/2 cup seeded, chopped green bell pepper
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (3/4 to 1 cup)
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro (stems and leaves)
1 whole Serrano pepper, seeds and veins included (optional)
2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock

1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Adorno (Garnish)
Fresh cilantro sprigs

1. Cook the chicken in the stock with the onion and cilantro in a medium saucepan until the chicken is tender (20 to 30 minutes).

2. While the chicken is cooking, cook the rest of the ingredients (except the seasonings and garnish) in a separate saucepan. Bring to a quick boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered until the vegetables are soft (5 to 8 minutes).

3. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a dish and set it aside. Reserve the onion, cilantro, and stock.

4. Combine the vegetable mixture with the onion, cilantro, and stock. In a blender or food processor, purée the mixture until it's smooth. Pour the purée back into the pot and add the chicken. Stir and cook for 5 minutes longer. The sauce should look smooth, velvety, and bright green.

5. Season the stew with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

6. Serve the stew garnished with cilantro sprigs.


(Plantains with Chocolate and Chile Sauce)
Recipe by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard (AmaliaLLC.com)

This sauce varies from cook to cook and has many uses. Traditionally Guatemalans eat it with pan fried sweet plantains. I use it not only for grilled plantains, but also for Tamales Negros (sweet Christmas tamales with mole sauce) or as a base for a chicken or pork stew. Mole can be made days in advance. It freezes well in Ziploc freezer bags. You can thaw it quickly and easily by submerging the bag in cold water. Then transfer the sauce to a skillet to heat it through. Add water to bring the sauce back to the desired consistency, if needed.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup quartered Roma tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
1/2 cup husked, quartered tomatillos (about 3 large tomatillos)
2 pasa (ancho) chiles, seeded
3 pitted prunes or 1 tablespoon raisins, soaked in very hot water
1 tablespoon ground pan-roasted pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon ground pan-roasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons canola oil

Sazón (Seasonings)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup Guatemalan chocolate

Para Espesar (Thickener)
2 tablespoons crumbled champurradas (or crumbled María cookies)

1. Heat a skillet for 2 minutes over medium heat, then add the tomatoes and tomatillos. Pan roast until charred all over and mushy, about 8 minutes.

2. Separately, dry pan roast the chiles over medium heat (3 to 5 minutes). Keep a close eye on them, as they burn easily. Soak the roasted chiles in 1 cup of very hot water for 10 minutes.

3. Combine the roasted tomatoes and tomatillos with the soaked chiles and half of the soaking water, as well as the prunes or raisins, and purée in a blender to a fine consistency. The sauce should look smooth and velvety.

4. Dry pan roast the seeds over medium heat (3 to 5 minutes). Keep a close eye on them, as they burn easily. Grind the seeds in a coffee mill or a small food processor.

5. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the purée, the ground seeds, and the seasonings. Add the chocolate and cookie crumbs and let the chocolate melt gradually. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be a little thinner than spaghetti sauce and should look brown, smooth, and glossy. If it's too thick, add a little water. If it's too thin, cook it a little longer. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

6. Serve with pan fried or grilled plantains.

Recipe Variation

Traditional Mole de Plátano (panfried plantains with chocolate and chile sauce): Peel and slice 3 plantains on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick. Panfry them in batches in 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat until the slices are medium brown (about 1 1/2 minutes per side). Adjust the oil as you panfry each batch. Transfer the plantains to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Add the plantains to the sauce and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.

Grilled Plantains: Brush 3 plantains with a heavy coating of canola oil. Grill over natural charcoal at medium heat until the plantains are brown on all sides, (10 to 15 minutes). Leave the plantains whole or slice them on the diagonal and arrange the slices attractively on a platter. Top them with the mole. Serve the plantains garnished with sesame seeds, berries, and mint (optional).

These recipes are found in "Amalia's Guatamalan Kitchen.

Award-winning cookbook author and chef, Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, will speak at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

As a Guatemalan-American chef, Amalia helps her audience develop a better understanding and appreciation of Latin cultures through healthy gourmet cuisine. Her cookbook, Amalia's Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine with a Cultural Flair, won four national and regional awards in the U.S. and is a 5-star seller online. Books will be available for purchase at this event.


(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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