Barbecue and grilling season has started and for that reason I brought along the Uruguayan national dish: chivito. Chivito literally translates as “little goat”, even though it has nothing to do with a goat. Legend has it that an Argentinian tourist ordered something with goat from Antonio Carbonaro, the owner of the famous restaurant El Mejillón in Punta del Este. Since Antonio didn’t have any goat at hand, he came up with this burger/sandwich, which Anthony Burdain called the Everest of steak sandwiches: chivito.
Friends, it is time for a recipe from my birth country again: Alfajores from Uruguay! Alfajores are a very popular cookie in Uruguay and Argentina, consisting of a shortbread-type of sandwich cookie, creamy and delicious dulce de leche as filling, which in the end is covered in coconut flakes. If you want a slightly different cookie and feel like impressing your friends and family, look no further, alfajores are for you!
What are the features of this cookie? Well, the base is a shortbread cookie, or let’s say, the Latin American version of shortbread. Because it contains a lot of cornstarch. You know, because corn and Latin America? One of the main ingredient found on this continent? In comparison to a regular shortbread cookie, the cornstarch makes the cookie softer, it has this melt-in-your-mouth kind of characteristic. I flavored it with some real vanilla.
It’s time for a peach layer cake, one from my country of origin Uruguay. This cake was actually invented in my home town Paysandú. Postre chajá is a peach layer cake that is named after a bird called chajá (in English it is called southern screamer, the Spanish tries to imitate the loud screams it produces). Below you see a picture of this bird. Why the cake got this name and why it is extremely delicious, I will explain in this blog entry.
OK, yes, I am watching the world championship of soccer. That’s because my birth country Uruguay made it to the quarter finals, beating the former winner of the European cup Portugal, yay! For that reason I felt like making alfajores, these are the best cookies from Uruguay. Originally alfajores are from Spain. Don’t ask me how they are made in Spain. All I know is that the Uruguayan version is always a sandwich cookie, similar to sugar cookies. These cookies, however, are a little bit drier and crumblier. That’s because they are filled with dulce de leche, caramel made from sweetened milk. The dry cookie balances out the sweet dulce de leche nicely. Since I am a chocoholic, I had to go with the chocolate version, which means that the sandwich cookies are dunked in chocolate. How can this not be good?Alfajores can be found everywhere in Uruguay and Argentina. You will find them in school lunchboxes as well as a sought-after souvenir in airports. What I like about my version is that you can easily keep them for weeks as the chocolate serves as a protective layer. However, I do hope that your cookies will not last as long. At least mine were gone within minutes when I made them.
Pizza! Deep-dish pizza from Uruguay! I bet you have never tried this or even heard of it before. Let me introduce you to the gourmet-style version of the torta de fiambre (ham and cheese pie), which is famous in Uruguay and usually consists of ham and cheese layered between an empanada-style of dough. Think of lots of melted cheese, usually at least two different types, good-quality ham and some flaky empanada dough. That’s the basic recipe. But I am going to add some more ingredients and make it gourmet-style, I will go crazy and add eggs, tomatos, and a seasoning called chimichurri.
I am really excited I get to introduce you to a Uruguayan dish, I bet none of my readers have tried anything from the country I was born in. Uruguayan cuisine is very much influenced by the Spanish and Italian cuisine. On top of that I hope you know that beef, beef, and beef again is what Uruguay exports the most. Did you know that Uruguay has four times more cows in the country than actually people? If you are a vegetarian or even vegan, you will have a hard time in Uruguay. Meat can be found in abundance.