You always hear about the beauty of Costa Rica, the Central American country nestled between Nicaragua and Panama. The wildlife … the landscapes … the climate … There’s no denying that it’s paradise. But there’s an aspect of Costa Rica that, in our experience, doesn’t get the attention it deserves: the food.
During our cooking demo last month at La Cuisine in Coral Gables, Costa Rican fare took center stage. Our instructor for the evening was Randy Siles, Gastronomic Chef Ambassador for the Costa Rican National Sustainable and Healthy Plan. The initiative’s goal: to promote Costa Rican cuisine as sustainable, considering social, environmental and economic aspects in all phases of production, marketing and service. You know that farm-to-table trend that’s all the rage these days? Costa Ricans aka “Ticos” were doing it before it was cool.
For those unfamiliar with Costa Rican cooking, there’s an emphasis on simplicity, freshness and — of course — deliciousness. The night’s menu embodied those three traits wholeheartedly, leaving us happy, full and a little more knowledgeable about Costa Rica’s sustainability practices.
Served throughout the evening were red snapper ceviche, potato croquetas with osso buco and the famous chifrijo, a dish comprised of pork, rice, beans, avocado mousse, and a tomato and jalapeño relish. To wash it all down, we enjoyed the country’s popular AMBAR beer, a memorable lager that balanced sweetness and bitterness effortlessly.
Our roles for the demo were that of prep cooks, while Chef Siles did most of the heavy lifting. By the end of the demo, we couldn’t feel our arms from all the cutting. The teamwork paid off, though: the food turned out excellent. The entire experience further piqued our interest in visiting Costa Rica, a country that’s been on our must-visit list for a bit. While we’re still not sure when we’ll make it out there, we have some recipes to hold us over until we do:
- Cook the rice, using 3 chicken bouillon cubes for flavoring.
- Can add 1/2 cup of fried chopped onions and 1/2 cup of chopped sweet red pepper plus 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder for extra flavor.
- Cook the red beans with 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of chopped onion plus 3 bouillon cubes, 1 tablespoon of cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 2 garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, and once it boils bring down temperature and leave cooking in low temperature until beans are soft.
- Cook the pork meat, removing any excess fat. Add salt to taste. Sear the meat in olive oil until crispy/golden.
- Can add seasoning of choice for extra flavor
- Prepare the pico de gallo by adding together the remainder of the chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice from 2-3 limes. Add salt to taste.
- Can add a tablespoon of olive oil, but it isn’t necessary.
- In each serving bowl, add rice on the bottom and then the beans. Add some meat and then layer the top with the Pico de Gallo.
- On the side you can add avocados.
- Can also add a wedge of a lime, chopped cilantro and the tortilla chips.
- 200 g fresh red snapper (chopped)
- 40 g lime juice
- 40 g mango (chopped)
- 40 g hear of palm (chopped)
- Cilantro (chopped)
- Purple onion (chopped)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 10 g Olive oil
- Mix everything in a bowl and serve!
- Peel and boil potatoes
- Number of potatoes depends on the amount of croquetas you want to make. One average size potato can give you about 2-3 croqueta patties
- Mash the potatoes
- Mix mashed potatoes with 3 eggs, 1 cup of flour, salt and pepper to taste
- This ratio is for about 4-5 potatoes
- Once blended, start creating the potato patties
- Fry patties with olive oil in a pan until golden
- Add bite-size piece of meat of choice on top
Dressing for Croquetas
- Mix 1 liter of coconut milk, 50 ml of soy sauce, 50ml rice vinegar and half a spoon of chopped ginger, basil and cilantro with 3 spoons of peanut butter in a pot and stir on low heat until it is all blended smoothly
Want to learn more about Costa Rica? Make sure to visit the official Costa Rica Tourism Board website for information on lodgings, things to do and much more.