You have an awful winter cold. You are steeped in snuffly, achy layers of misery. Your eyeballs hurt. Outside, it’s probably dreary and raining, raining, raining.
Your body yearns for the healing power of a steaming bowl of something. What you want is big pot of soupy, stewy something simmering on the stovetop.
For inspiration we head to the Portland Mercado, the Latino public market that blossomed last April at Southeast 72nd Avenue and Foster Road in Portland. It's an incubator-model economic-development project for Latin American cuisine and culture. Outside are eight bright food carts (including Colombian, Salvadoran and Oaxacan menus) with tented or shaded seating, depending on the season. The main market hall houses seven businesses, from juice and coffee bars to grocery and meat shops, indoor seating and the gleaming Micro Mercantes commissary kitchen for startup entrepreneurs.
The Portland Mercado's Latin American stews to cure a cold:
- Green Chicken Posole
- Havana Ropa Vieja
Green Chicken Posole | Nourishment
Ramona White preps food for her business, Nourishment, in the Micro Mercantes kitchen: Breakfast burritos for the Saturday Hollywood Farmers Market. Rice bowls and chilaquiles for the Tuesday Lloyd Farmers Market. Her own condiments like hot sauce and "happy fun pickles" to add zip to everything.
The culinary-school grad and former instructor says this "inauthentic" Latin American food reflects her evolution: Growing up in Manhattan, traveling in Mexico, living in New Orleans, running several businesses over the years. "Who am I, Whitey McWhite White, to take other people's food and twist it this way?" she speculates. "I don't believe in food snobbery. I like to make food for people and have a deep respect for the ingredients themselves."
If you don't feel like roasting tomatillos, toasting and grinding spices or chopping fresh herbs, try her shortcuts to a cure for your cold. If you are sensitive to gluten, check all labels carefully.
Preparation time: 1-1/2 hours, including 45 minutes of prep | Difficulty: Easy
Havana Ropa Vieja | Qué Bolá?
Ropa Vieja is a popular dish at José Perez's cart. But if he was preparing it at home for friends or family, he wouldn't change a thing. He says it's a time-tested recipe served all over Cuba. Just allow for the flank steak to cook slowly and to cool before shredding. By the time the sautéing onions, pepper and garlic release their scents into the kitchen, you should be feeling much better.
"After you add the wine, it brings all the flavors out," says Perez, who came to Oregon via Mexico and Miami after culinary school in Havana. He has worked in a variety of kitchens, including six years as sous chef at New Seasons.
Perez opened the cart with an Argentinian partner and the menu offered dishes from both cuisines. Now he's gone solo, reopening as Qué Bolá? (Cuban Spanish slang approximating "What's up?). The all-Cuban menu includes new specialties like pan con lechon (pulled pork sandwich) and papas rellenas (deep-fried stuffed mashed-potato balls).
Preparation time: 4-1/2 hours, including 15 minutes of prep | Difficulty: Medium
Green Chicken Posole
6 to 8 servings
- 1 pound fresh tomatillos or 1 (15-ounce) can tomatillos with liquid
- Canola oil for sautéing
- 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, julienned
- 3 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 (4-ounce) cans diced green chiles, mild and/or fire-roasted
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or legs, fresh or frozen
- 1 teaspoon dried guajillo chile or chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, pinched to release volatile oils*
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, pinched to release volatile oils*
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder or toasted seeds, ground
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder or toasted seeds, ground
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 (15-ounce) cans or 1 (30-ounce) can of white, gold or purple hominy, drained and rinsed
- 1 pound frozen corn kernels (or kernels cut from 1 or 2 ears of fresh corn)
*If using fresh herbs, double the amount and do not chop leaves
- Cilantro leaves
- Radishes, sliced
- Green or red cabbage, shredded
- Limes, sliced
- Avocados, cubed
- Corn chips
- To roast fresh tomatillos, heat the oven to 425 degrees and set rack in the middle. Pull off and discard husks; rinse tomatillo skins to remove stickiness. Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan or in a shallow baking dish and roast until the skins start to turn brown; they will burst and release some liquid. This might take about 15 minutes but watch carefully. About halfway through, shake the pan so they roll around. Remove from oven and let tomatillos cool until they are no longer steaming and can be handled.
- Transfer tomatillos and liquid from pan to a blender or food processor and purée, or to a bowl if using an immersion blender stick. (If using canned tomatillos, just purée them and the liquid.) Set aside.
- In a large (4- to 6-quart) pot of any sort, sauté the onions in canola oil over medium-high to high heat, stirring frequently, until they start to turn brown and stick to the bottom of the pan. Leave onions in the pan.
- Over high heat, deglaze the pan (using all the stock or broth). Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add chicken (from refrigerator or freezer), puréed tomatillos, chiles (with any liquid from the can), garlic, herbs and spices. Leaving uncovered, bring to and maintain a simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and beginning to fall apart, about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Add the hominy and corn and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to equalize the temperature of ingredients; the hot stew will quickly warm frozen corn. Ladle into bowls.
Offer the cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, sliced limes, cubed avocado and corn chips on the side so people can garnish the stew as they like.
Substitute vegetable stock or broth for the chicken stock and 1 (15-ounce) can of white kidney beans or great northern beans, drained, for the chicken.
Cool stew on counter to room temperature. Transfer to open containers shallow enough to allow uniform rapid cooling, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch at the top. Refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until stew reaches 41 degrees or lower. Cover with tight-fitting lids and freeze for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave.
Havana Ropa Vieja
- 2 pounds flank steak
- 1 large red onion
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup pitted green olives
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry cooking wine, such as Edmundo*
- 1 (12-ounce) can tomato purée
- 2 tablespoons olive juice from can or jar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt to taste
*Available at most Latino markets
- Place the whole flank steak in a 6-quart saucepan or pot and cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is tender, pierced easily with a fork or knife. Steak can also be cooked in a pressure cooker for 30 to 45 minutes or in a slow cooker.
- While meat is cooking, slice onions and pepper thinly into full-length strips about 1/2 inch wide. Crush garlic using mortar and pestle or dice finely. Chop olives roughly.
- Remove cooked meat to a plate and let cool until it can be handled. Using your fingers or two forks, shred the beef to about the same proportions as the onions and peppers. Set aside.
- In a 4- to 6-quart saucepan or pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, heat the vegetable oil on high and sauté the onions, peppers and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are clear and peppers are soft, about 6 minutes. Add bay leaves and cook for 2 more minutes, continuing to stir.
- Adjust the heat to medium-low and stir in the wine. Let it reduce for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the tomato purée and olive juice to create a medium-thick sauce.
- Stir in the shredded beef, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Stir in lemon juice and salt. Remove the bay leaves.
Serve with white rice and fried plantains. To boost the healing heat of this dish, pair with a red wine or Sangria.