Holiday Recipes We Love: Peruvian Pork

Surfish's "Peruvian Pork" (Photo/Chef Miguel Aguilar)

Surfish’s “Peruvian Pork” (Photo/Chef Miguel Aguilar)

A good roasted pork can find its way onto just about every Latin American Christmas dinner table. There’s the Cuban lechón, a whole pig marinated in citrus and garlic and cooked low-and-slow in a caja china. The Puerto Rican pernil, a juicy shoulder cut rubbed with garlic and herbs and oven roasted. And then there’s Peruvian pork, flavored with aji panca, a unique chile virtually unknown outside of the Andean region. Smokey, sweet and fruity all at once, the heat from this chile is precisely what makes Peruvian pork—well—Peruvian. We asked 43-year-old Lima-born Chef Miguel Aguilar, winner of the Food Network’s “Chopped” competition last summer and owner of Brooklyn’s Surfish restaurant, to share his recipe. Aside from the aji panca, Aguilar also uses soy sauce. “Peruvian food has a lot of fusion,” he says. “It has no barriers.”

Aguilar serves his Peruvian pork, pictured above, on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and tops it with fresh salsa.

Peruvian Pork

10-pound pork shoulder
15 whole cloves of fresh garlic
1 big red onion cut in large pieces
15 ounces aji panca paste
2 quarts chicken stock
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place the pork skin side up in a large roasting pan, and pour the chicken stock over it.

3. In a blender, puree the garlic, onion, aji panca paste and soy sauce for about a minute, or until pasty. Add a little of the chicken stock to the puree to make it pourable, and pour over the pork.

4. Add the cinnamon sticks to the liquid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. No basting is needed. Remove from oven when internal temperature reaches 165, and allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting.

5. To serve, place individual slices of pork on a bed of sweet potato puree, drizzle with the pork juices from the roasting pan, and garnish with freshly made salsa.

Originally published on NBCLatino.com.

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Peruvian chef has a full plate at new La Mar

Victoriano López, executive chef of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (Photo/Kristina Puga)

Victoriano López, executive chef of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (Photo/Kristina Puga)

“Don’t use those plates,” says Victoriano López, the executive chef of the recently opened La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, to one of his 20 line chefs, as he calmly reminds his new international team that they have new white plates from France and Germany.

“This is one of the details that differentiates us from La Mar in Lima,” the small-framed López says of the china.

Fans of Peruvian food have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Gastón Acurio restaurant in the city, so their hope is that not much else is different from the acclaimed original.

New York‘s La Mar opened two weeks ago in the high-ceilinged former home of Tabla at 11 Madison Ave.

Originally from the Ancash region of Peru, López says that he became aware of Acurio almost two decades ago while watching one of the first of his many TV cooking programs.

After being mesmerized by the variety of plates and ingredients and trying to learn the innovative Peruvian recipes he saw Acurio and his wife, Astrid, create on the tube, he went to the couple’s flagship restaurant in Lima, Astrid y Gastón, to meet his hero.

“He asked me how do you know me?” recalls López in his native Spanish. “He gave me a job as his assistant one week later. He has helped me so much – not only in learning about the kitchen, but like a father, because my parents didn’t have the economic means to help me. I am so grateful to him.”

Now López, 40, who never had formal culinary school training has been trusted with leading the kitchen at Acurio’s 29th restaurant worldwide – his first on the U.S. East Coast.

“The advice I can give Victoriano is to be himself,” Acurio said via e-mail of the chef he’s worked with for 17 years. “He has a big heart, talent, ability and overflows with modesty.”

López had to leave his family in Peru while their visas are processed, is living outside of his homeland for the first time and is working from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. – but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“We spend about 18 hours together every day,” laughs Luis Jaramillo, his Ecuadoran sous-chef, who was previously at One If by Land, Two If by Sea in the West Village. “I was always inspired by Gastón … but now I am inspired by Victoriano.”

López says he doesn’t have a favorite dish on the La Mar menu, where prices range from $12 to $39 for appetizers and entrées.

But eight of La Mar’s famous ceviches are on the menu, including Elegance, a lime-drenched and slightly spicy warm-water fluke with red onions, Peruvian corn and little yam balls, and Lopez’s specialty, Maine lobster grilled over corn husks and drowned in a tangy ceviche sauce.

While López waits for his wife and three school-age kids to join him in New York, he also dreams about opening his own restaurant one day.

“I teach the philosophy of Gastón, passion for the kitchen,” he says. “We have no secrets.”

Originally published in the NY Daily News.

Three chefs update Argentine fare at Azul

The new culinary team at Azul: Hernán Simesen (l.), head chef Nicolás López (c.) and Matías Romano

The new culinary team at Azul: Hernán Simesen (l.), head chef Nicolás López (c.) and Matías Romano (Photo/Erika Rojas)

For empanadas, skirt steak and the meat fiesta known as parrillada, there are plenty of options among the many reliable Argentine restaurants in the city.

But as any recent Buenos Aires traveler knows, the culinary offerings from the southern end of the Americas are much broader and diverse.

“I want to explain to Americans that Argentinean cuisine is a lot more than just parrillada and wine,” says Stefano Villa, the owner of Azul, a cozy restaurant with blue-washed brick walls at the corner of Stanton and Suffolk Sts. on the lower East Side.

Azul is marking its 10th anniversary by reinventing its once-traditional Argentine menu, bringing in other staples from the countryside – from wild boar to venison – and cooking them with a contemporary twist.

The revolution started one evening a year ago when a young man with long, dark curly hair and a multitude of questions came to have dinner with his girlfriend.

A few days later, the enigmatic diner, Nicolás López, returned with his résumé in hand. Only 27 and originally from Salta in northwestern Argentina, López already had almost a decade of cooking experience in South America. His last job had been as head chef in the restaurant of the Argentine embassy in CaracasVenezuela.

“I put him in charge very fast,” says Villa. “He does the job New York-style. He gives you no time to think.”

The Italian-born Villa, who also owns Industria Argentina and is a partner in Novecento, two other Argentine eateries, opened Azul in December 2001 after traveling in Argentina and falling in love with the country’s cuisine.

His new chef’s next move was to recruit two more chefs back home with fresh ideas for his revolution: A former cooking school classmate, Hernán Simesen, 27, also from Salta, who worked with chef Fernando Trocca at Sucre – a top-tier restaurant in Buenos Aires – and a friend of a friend, Matías Romano, 28, from Buenos Aires, who was mentored by an Argentinian TV cooking show personality, Juliana López May.

“The concept that the three of us have is to feel pride in Argentina,” says López, who finished putting his team together last month. “We simply work with our ideas mixed with the recipes of our aunts and grandmothers.”

The new chefs bring elements from all different parts of this area. There are red and blue potatoes and quinoa from the Andes and wild boar and venison from Patagonia. There’s also seafood, like sea bass from the Falkland Islands and South American king crab, known as centolla.

Dishes include López’s favorite: braised lamb tongue, rabbit confit served with an apple slaw, venison carpaccio and boar with quince sauce.

The restaurant has not only revamped its menu and website, but has been airing the Copa America soccer games and is participating in NYC Restaurant Week, both going on through July 24.

Despite all the changes, Villa says plenty of traditional beef remains on the menu, along with a a wide variety of Argentine wines.

“We are only adding recipes,” he explains.

Originally published in the NY Daily News.

Andres Carne de Tres Brings Colombia to Queens

Parrillada from Andres Carne de Tres (Photo/Kristina Puga)

Tejarrilla Andres from Colombia restaurant Andres Carne de Tres (Photo/Kristina Puga)

With a location in Chia, and one in Bogota, Andres Carne de Res is one of the hottest spots in Colombia, because you can get there for a late lunch and stay all night for dancing, drinking and eating. It’s like a fun house for adults. Now you can partake in the same Colombian-style party, just a short car ride away, in the Andres Carne de Tres that opened just two months ago in Woodside.

Just like the restaurants in Colombia, the Queens version of Andres Carne de Tres offers music on Friday and Saturday nights – a live band, and then a DJ starting at midnight – so you can have dinner with your family and friends, and then dance until 4am. The restaurant looks like a spacious wooden cabin with a tropical feel, transporting you to another place that is not New York – something like a Latin Key West.

The friendly bartender mixes a variety of perfect for summer tropical-tasting libations, including frozen margaritas, mojitos, and the sometimes hard-to-find Brazilian caipirinha. The house drink is the coconuty Andres Hawaian. These drinks are not only refreshingly tasty, and keep you wanting more, but they are also topped with oranges or other fresh fruits. The prices for all mixed drinks range from $8 to $10.

The menu offers generous-portioned appetizers and salads ranging in price from $7 to $9 such as, guacamole with fried green plantains and camarones al ajillo (shrimp in creamy garlic sauce). Entrees like skirt steak marinated in the house special beer dressing, and T-Bone steak marinated in becerrito sauce, range in price from $15 to $25, and are served with two sides.

It is fun to share the giant-sized specials like Tejarrilla Andres (steak, chicken, pork ribs, chorizo, black sausage, fried green plantains, and baby yellow potatoes), and Paella Marinera (for two).

A first-time customer said he wanted to spend the whole summer here, because the restaurant’s large and welcoming porch reminded him of his home country, Colombia, even though it only overlooks the free parking lot of the restaurant.

This is a very convenient for those with a car, but beware if you are taking the train, as it’s a 15-minute walk from the 61st St. stop off the 7 train.

Take advantage of the free margaritas and $10 pitchers of beer every Friday from 11pm – midnight through July 31st.

Andres Carne de Tres is located at 51-05 58th St. Woodside, and is open daily, 11am – 11pm. It stays open till 4am on Friday and Saturday nights for dancing to Latin favorites such as, salsa, reggaeton, bachata, cumbia, rock, and more.

Originally published on Examiner.com.