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Food and Recipes of Dominican Republic

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Food/ Recipes (recetas) of typical Dominican dishes
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Sancocho is Dominican Republic's favorite. The countries signature dish also known as the official dish of the country. This hearty stew type dish is traditionally made with 7 different meats. It can also be made with whatever meat and vegetables you have on hand. There are as many versions of this recipe as there are stars in the sky (maybe not that many, but very close).
It is normally made on special occasions. Many people like to cook it for Christmas. It does take a  time to prepare but it is worth the effort. Enjoy this hearty stew with some rice and avocado and you'll think your in Dominican Republic yourself!
3 lbs.  chicken
2 lbs.  pork chops or ham bones included
2 lbs. beef with bones
1 lb.  goat meat
2 lbs. of assorted sausages
4 large unripe platanos cut into large pieces
1 lb. potatoes
2 lbs.  yucca of cassava cut in pieces
2 lbs.  malanga cut in pieces
2 lbs>  spanish pumpkin
5 ears of corn on the cob cut in chunks
1 lb. yams cut into pieces
6 liters of water
4 TBSP oil
1 1/2 TBSP oregano
5 tsp.  salt
2  sour oranges if not available use 4 lemons
2 TBSP celery
2 green bell pepper cut in large pieces
3 medium size onions
1 TBSP. of garlic (smashed)
cilantro or parsley
2 cubes of chicken or beef bouillon
2 tsp.  vinegar
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce (English Sauce)
       or soy sauce

1. Cut the chicken in different pieces, wash the meat (except the sausages) and rub with sour orange or lemons. Cut into small pieces.
2. Brown the beef in the oil with  herbs, onions, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce (Salsa Americana), and salt for 20 minutes. Add pork and simmer 15 minutes. Add little water as necessary so it doesn't stick Add the chicken with the stock and simmer another 10 minutes.
3. Bring the water to a boil and add the veggies and simmer for about 10 minutes
4. Add the meat and simmer until the veggies are soft. Mash some of these veggies and return to the pot  to thicken the broth.
5. MY FAVORITE STEP. Put in a bowl. Serve with rice and avocado on the side. Add some hot sauce to taste. Lift the spoon to your mouth, close your eyes and savor the flavor of the country.
sancocho cooking on the fire with the meat ready to be added
What is a platano (plantain) and what do you do with it?
Platanos/ Plantains are in the Banana family.  What is thought to be a tree is really an herb, the worlds largest herb for that matter. It has a compacted, water-filled leaf stalk that is composed of leaf sheaths that overlap each other and grow from an underground stem called a rhizome, unlike a trees woody stalk.
This plant can grow as high as 20 feet (6 meters) in height, which is about as tall as a two story house. There are over 500 different types of bananas including green, red and yellow versions.

The platano looks like very large bananas and are usually not eaten raw, they need to be cooked. They are very high in potassium and virtually fat free. These fruits are very versatile as they can be boiled, baked, or fried. Served as a vegetable, starch, or made into a sweet dessert. They can be used unripe or very ripe. An unripe platano is green, hard, and very starchy. The riper they get the more yellow and sweeter they become as the starch turns to sugar. They turn from solid green to a yellow orangish color with dark spots to black, when they become very soft and mushy. They can be used no matter how ripe or unripe they are. When they are green they closely resemble potatoes and are not sweet. As they become riper they become sweeter and they texture changes. The very black platanos are usually used in deserts because they are so sweet. If you fry a green platano  it makes crunchy pieces while frying a sweet one the pieces are soft.

Peeling the platano takes a little practice, especially when it is very green and hard. It does not peal like one would think (like a banana). The skin does not want to come off easily. I don't know the Dominican way for peeling but I found that if you cut it in half then score the skin lengthwise on 2 sides the skin does come of easier. Cut off both ends. Take a knife and try to peel away the skin. If you use your hands they will get a brownish stain so try as well as you can to use your trusty knife as much as possible. If you do have to use your hands moisten them then rub with salt to help prevent sticking. The ripe platano is easier to peel. Just cut the top off and peel the skin down. Once the skin is off and you have a pretty very light yellow veggie in front of you it is time to decide what you want to make.
Mofongo is another dish made from Platanos. They are fried then mashed chunky with different types of meat and seasonings added. Then served with a broth you can to moisten the typical dish. It is served in a Pilón. As soon as I get a decent recipe for this typical dish I'll put it here.
banana - platano tree
Mangú is a very typical Dominican breakfast favorite. It can be served for other meals but it is typically for breakfast.. Mangú closely resembles mash potatoes in appearance and texture but the flavor is very different. It is made from the green platano (plantain),the hard banana looking vegetable that is seen everywhere in the country. There are as many different ways to prepare mangú as there are preparers.

I usually figure about 1/2 to 3/4's of a large platano as a serving for the average human.

For Mangú it is best to cut the platano into about 3 pieces lengthwise (I also divide each piece in half lengthwise). Put the pieces in a pot covered with water (add a little salt if you would like) and boil those pieces to death. They have to be nice and soft. It usually takes 20 minutes or longer. Add water as needed to keep them submerged. Just make sure they are soft. Much easier to mash when they're soft and this way you won't get lumps.
mangu for breakfast
(top) platano
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(bottom) a banana tree
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Now those platanos are soft and ready for the next step. It is time to decide what you want to add for the mashing process (while mashing sauté up some onions -red if you have them- to put on top of or inside the mash).  Pulverizing them! Some use the water the platanos  were boiled in to mash them. Some add a bullion cube, stock, bacon grease, small pieces of cooked meat (bacon or ham) to flavor the mash. Some use milk as in making mash potatoes. Try all the ways, variety is always good.Add the liquid slowly so as not to get then too runny. I like to add a little green oil (olive oil) or a little butter also. Use a potato masher or even a blender or food processor. I was taught to use the bottom of a beer bottle. This is what my friends and I use. Anyhow, just start mashing them up til they are nice and smooth. Add the onions or some cheese while mashing if you'd like. Keep mashing until it is nice and smooth. Taste testing all the while to get the flavors correct. 
Tostones/ Fried Platano chips
Peel the plantain and cut in in slices about 1/2 inch thick, usually cut on an angle, I don't know why and it's not really that important but this is the "Dominican way". Heat up some oil (like making french fries) and drop the slices into the oil. Fry them until they are just a little crusty. Just before they get a brown color. They are cooked soft but not crispy yet. Put on paper to drain some of the oil. Then as soon as you can touch them, smash 'em! Use anything handy, I use a beer bottle again. The bottom of a plate, anything flat will do. If you are lucky enough to have a Tostonera (this is 2 round pieces of wood, hinged, with a knob-like handle in the center pictures here) whose sole purpose is to smash tostones.
Tostones with a Tostonera beside the plate
To serve: Fry up some eggs (scrambled are typical), and some fried salami, ham or maybe some fried cheese, slop that wonderful Mangú on the plate. Top it with some of those sautéed onions. Then savor the flavor of a typical Dominican breakfast....yummmm.....
Platano Maduro/ Fried Sweet Plantains  These are made with the black skinned riper platanos, as sweet and ripe as they get. They are peeled and cut down the length of the platano into long, flat strips. Between 1/2 to 1 inch thick, depending on your mood. Fry these pieces in a little green (olive) oil, lard, or any other type of oil or butter. Do not cover the platano in oil, just enough so the oil is half way up the side of the platano. Fry, turning, until they are golden brown and caramelized.  Drain. These can be served as you would any potato dish also and the flavor and texture is much different than the tostones

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Press each piece to flatten it out, it will get a little scalloped edge sometimes. I like mine very thin but but normally they are flattened to about half of the original thickness. Then put the flat platano back into the oil and cook until it has a nice light brown color, just a thin outside crust. Remove from the oil. Drain. Salt if desired. These can be served plain, with ketchup/ketchu is very typical. I like mine with some vinegar. Any way you like them they are great. Serve then as you would any potato or french fries. Enjoy!
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Tostones with a Tostonera beside the plate
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Sancocho cooking on the fire with the meat ready to be added
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