Bistec Salvadoreño a la Parilla

Summertime is almost here, and that means afternoons which turn into late nights on the patio enjoying good food and good company.

When Carlos and I were dating and early in our marriage, we were often invited to parties at the house of a family friend from El Salvador. Don Andres is from San Miguel, and he always made the best grilled steak. Paired with generous helpings of rice, salad, chirmol, beans, and tortillas piled onto a Styrofoam plate, and eaten with a cold drink on a hot day, it’s one of my favorite meals. When I asked Don Andres for his recipe years ago, he rattled off some ingredients, but wasn’t precise about measurements. I scribbled them down and over the years figured out the right amounts and made my own little changes based on what I usually have on hand. So, here’s the recipe we use now when we want tender, flavorful Salvadoran-style steaks on the grill!

Bistec Salvadoreño a la Parilla

(Salvadoran Grilled Steak)

Ingredients:

1 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs. white vinegar
almost 1/3 cup red cooking wine
juice of 1 medium-sized lime
3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. black pepper
2 tbs. yellow mustard
2 tbs. minced garlic
1 large white onion sliced

2 to 3 lbs. top sirloin steak sliced about 1/4 inch thin (“butterflied”)
(at a Latino market this cut may be labelled “Palomilla”)

Method:

1. Put 1 tablespoon white vinegar into a 1/3 cup. Fill the rest of the way with red cooking wine.

2. In a medium bowl add the white vinegar and red cooking wine with Canola oil, soy sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, yellow mustard, and garlic. Mix until combined.

3. Pour the marinade into a large glass Pyrex or large plastic zipper bag. Add the steaks and sliced onions. Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours. [Tip: Now is a good time to prepare your side dishes.]

4. While getting the grill ready (we prefer charcoal), remove the steaks from the marinade and let them sit at room temperature. Remove the onions from the marinade. (I cook the onions in a frying pan on the stove top, then serve atop the steaks.) Discard the marinade.

5. Grill the steaks on both sides to your desired doneness. Serve with onions, rice, tortillas, beans, chirmol, and fresh salad. Enjoy!

Author Interview: Christy Esmahan

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. What made you want to write this story that mostly takes place in El Salvador?

My father was from El Salvador and my mother is American, so that part of the story was pretty easy to write, although the characters are not my parents. I was born in the US, but we did live in El Salvador when I was a little girl and I have many fond memories of the people and the food. Plus, many of my cousins on my father’s side still live in El Salvador. I grew up in Ohio and majored in Microbiology in college, then moved to Spain where I completed my doctorate degree. After that, I worked as an educator and also lived in Germany. Eventually I moved back to the US and taught here as well, before retiring to write novels. A CRICKET OF A GIRL is my 6th novel.

Having lived in El Salvador as a little girl, I always carried that part around inside me and I found that when people looked at me and saw my dark skin, they didn’t understand the depth of culture and love that I also carried around for my father’s country. Also, (spoiler alert) we did flee the country right before the military stormed the university with tanks, in the middle of the day, and shot students and professors. My father would surely have been killed that day if we had still been there, and I really wanted to write about that and how someone could embrace the lovely country that El Salvador is while still dealing with the pain and injury that was caused by the war. Finally, I wanted to illustrate (my opinion) that the civil war really started years before its official start date, due to the changes that were made by the rich.

For those who haven’t read your book yet, what is A CRICKET OF A GIRL about?

One of my reviewers, Lauren Sapala, a writer and blogger in San Francisco, described her experience with the novel really well, so let me give it to you in her words. “A CRICKET OF A GIRL is the story of two women: one born and raised in El Salvador, and one from the Midwestern United States who relocates to El Salvador in the late 1960s. These two women form an unlikely but beautiful friendship against the backdrop of the political turmoil, violence, and relentless fear that was [and continues to be] the climate of El Salvador. Considering the fears we are dealing with about the future of our society today, I think this should be required reading for anyone who wants to further their education on race, gender, class, and politics. It is guaranteed to make you think twice about what people are capable of, both for good or ill.”

Another reviewer, a young man from Mexico named Arturo Almazan said, “[The novel] tackles difficult topics such as social class inequality, gender roles, cultural identity, and modern slavery.”

I think those two opinions of the novel summarize it well.

I think one thing you captured well in this book is that many Salvadorans are great story-tellers. The character Sesi, who’s a niñera in your book, tells the little girl she cares for the story of The Monkey Princess. I had never heard this folktale before, but you say your Salvadoran niñera used to tell this story to you?

Yes, as true as I could, I tried to capture the real Sesi’s voice. I’ve given her a different name, of course, and her real life is somewhat different than in the novel. For one thing, her life was even harder and she didn’t have a “Figo” but was assaulted. Still, she remained positive and optimistic and did, in the end, learn to bake and make a better life for herself and her daughter. But back to your question, yes, she would walk me to school and tell me stories, and this one of The Monkey Princess is the one I remember best.

One thing I’m always drawn to in the books I read is food, and your book mentions plenty of Salvadoran cuisine. At one point in the story, Sesi learns to make “green rice” (or “arroz verde”)… Any chance you have a recipe you want to share?

Sure! I have it all written down on my blog site.

On your most recent trip to El Salvador, what was the most interesting thing you experienced?

I was struck by how much and how little the country had changed. I could not recognize my house or my school because of the tall walls and gates that had been erected around all of the buildings, to protect from crime. That was sad. But the airport was basically unchanged, and the chattering of the wild green parakeets which fly in thick flocks over the sky were familiar. The view of the majestic volcanoes was breathtaking. And of course, I loved the food!

What’s next for you?

I’m in a busy promotional phase now. My fourth novel, THE LAPTEV VIRUS, (hard sci-fi medical thriller and winner of the Indie Excellence Award) just got made into an audio version by Tantor Media and I’m asking everyone to ask their local libraries to acquire it (shameless plug: you can request it at your library by giving them the ISBN 978-1515969044.)

I’m also promoting my 5th novel, THE COBRA EFFECT, which is another medical thriller, but this time about the plastic pollution in the ocean.

If you’d rather read more contemporary fiction, check out any of my first three novels, BUENO, SINCO and BRUJAS which are a love story set in Spain. They are a series, but I recap enough that you can start with the second or third one if it catches your fancy. (And by the way, SINCO was a finalist for the 2016 International Latino Book Awards.)

Your books are very different genres — is there anything that connects them?

Writing is my way of engaging in social activism, which I think is critical for us at this juncture in time. A CRICKET OF A GIRL is particularly timely because of the immigration issue and the need for all of us to understand and empathize with people from other cultures. I think that the more book clubs and groups of people read and discuss books like this one, the more tolerant we can all become.

My first three novels, BUENO, SINCO and BRUJAS are also about being immersed in a different culture (Spain) where not only are the customs, language and food different, but also the way of thinking about the world. Again, it goes back to helping us to understand and empathize with the foreign.

My fourth novel, THE LAPTEV VIRUS, is about climate change and the dangers of things emerging from the melting Arctic, but it’s also about corporate greed and mistakes that good people can make. THE COBRA EFFECT is about the huge problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, but it also touches on corporate greed and GMOs. And again, part of the narrative is set in other countries (India and China).

I recently heard author and professor George Saunders speaking and he said (I’m paraphrasing) that right now, more than ever, all of us artists (no matter how we make art) need to work on our craft to help our country [and our world] deal with the turmoil in our society and move toward a better future, with more understanding and tolerance. I love that thought!

Find out more about author Christy Esmahan on her website, ChristyEsmahan.com.

Fiesta ensalada de pollo salvadoreña para sándwiches

Sandwich de pollo salvadoreno

Divulgación: Latinaish.com se ha asociado con McCormick para llevarse recetas utilizando productos McCormick. Como siempre, todas las opiniones son mías.

Puede sorprender a algunos saber que la ensalada de pollo es popular en muchos países del mundo, a pesar de sus ingredientes varían de lo que nosotros en los Estados Unidos consideramos comunes. Unas variaciones que conozco:

Goi Ga de Vietnam cuenta con repollo, salsa de pescado, chiles picantes, y hierbabuena.
Dak-Nangchae de Corea se come en verano e incorpora un montón de verduras coloridas.
• En México mucha gente comen ensalada de pollo con galletas saladas.
Coronación ensalada de pollo de Inglaterra cuenta con curry en polvo y chutney de mango, y se hizo por primera vez en 1953 para el almuerzo de la coronación de la reina Isabel II.
• Hablando de reinas, «palta a la reina» en Perú y Chile es una ensalada de pollo servida encima de la mitad de un aguacate.
Salpicão de Frango de Brasil incluye manzana, zanahoria, pasas y aceitunas.
• Y luego está «Olivie ensalada» que se cree que es el origen de las ensaladas de pollo y ensaladas rusas. También conocida como Olivier ensalada o ensalada Olivier, hoy en día por lo general es una combinación de pollo, papas, huevo, chícharos y mayonesa con infinitas variaciones, pero cuando fue inventada en la década de 1860 por un chef llamado Lucien Olivier en Rusia, estaba hecha con ingredientes más finos, como el urogallo, alcaparras, caviar y pato ahumado en un aderezo que era un secreto muy bien guardado. Las versiones modernas de esta ensalada son muy populares en toda Europa del Este, así como en Irán, Israel, Pakistán, Mongolia, y más allá.

Con todos estos diferentes tipos de ensalada de pollo en todo el mundo no me debería haber sorprendido cuando Carlos me dijo que la ensalada de pollo es también muy popular en El Salvador, específicamente en las fiestas de cumpleaños infantiles.

Salvadoran Birthday Party Chicken Sandwich

Carlos recuerda asistir muchas fiestas de cumpleaños en su barrio cuando era un niño pequeño y con ganas de recibir un sándwich de ensalada de pollo envuelto en una servilleta de papel blanco, en el momento que entraba por la puerta. Cuando Carlos compartió este recuerdo conmigo, decidí tratar de recrear los sándwiches de su infancia. Con sus sugerencias, esta es la receta que he desarrollado y él dice que sabe a la perfección!

El uso de pechugas de pollo de calidad, cocinadas a fuego lento con verduras frescas garantiza que la carne salga jugosa y sabrosa. Desmenuzado y mezclado con McCormick Mayonesa con jugo de limón que añade sabor tradicional, especias, y algunos toques de salsa Worcestershire – esta ensalada de pollo sabe mejor fría y comida al día siguiente, pero será difícil esperar. Deliciosa en suaves rebanadas de pan blanco, puedes quitar las cortezas, si quieres. Pero no importa cómo decidas comerla, esta ensalada de pollo al estilo salvadoreño es bastante exquisita para servir en fiestas de cumpleaños, pero es bastante fácil que no tienes que esperar una ocasión especial; puedes hacerla cualquier día y disfrutar con tu familia.

salv-chicken-salad-pot

salv-chicken-mayo-close-up

Cumpleaños Ensalada de Pollo

Fiesta ensalada de pollo salvadoreña para sándwiches

Ingredientes:

3 pechugas grandes de pollo, sin piel, sin hueso
1 cebolla mediana, cortado en cuartos
1 chile verde mediano, sin semillas y cortado en trozos grandes
1 tomate Roma, cortado en cuartos
1 cucharada de ajo picado
1 cucharadita de sal
1 cucharadita de McCormick pimienta negra molida

2 tazas de McCormick Mayonesa con jugo de limón
1 cucharadita de mostaza amarilla
¼ cucharadita de McCormick pimienta negra molida
½ cucharadita de McCormick ajo en polvo
½ cucharadita de McCormick cebolla en polvo
½ cucharadita de salsa Worcestershire

Método:

1. Añadir los primeros siete ingredientes en una olla grande a fuego medio-alto con agua suficiente para cubrir. Poner a hervir y luego reducir el fuego a fuego lento. Cubrir la olla ligeramente con la tapa. Ajustar el fuego si es necesario para mantenerlo a fuego lento hasta que el pollo esté bien cocido.

Consejo: Evite hervir o cocinar el pollo demasiado tiempo ya que esto hará que la carne esté muy seca. Cocer a fuego lento mantiene la carne húmeda. Tienes poco tiempo? Utilice pechugas de pollo delgadas o «chicken tenders» – se cocinan más rápido!

2. Retirar el pollo y poner en un plato para enfriar. Una vez frío, desmenuzar con la mano en trozos pequeños y colóquelos en un recipiente grande.

3. Mezclar la mayonesa, la mostaza, la pimienta, el ajo en polvo, cebolla en polvo, y la salsa Worcestershire hasta que estén bien combinados en un recipiente mediano.

4. En el recipiente grande mezclar la mezcla de mayonesa poco a poco con el pollo hasta que consigas la cremosidad deseada. En mi opinión es mejor usar aproximadamente 1/3 taza de la mezcla de mayonesa por cada 1 taza de pollo desmenuzado.

5. Enfriar en el refrigerador al menos una hora o durante la noche para permitir que los sabores se combinan. Servir la ensalada de pollo entre rebanadas de pan blanco.

Opcional: Agregar rebanadas de pepino, una hoja de lechuga romana, o cualquier ingrediente que te gusta en el sándwich. Algunas personas también les gusta cortar las cortezas del pan y envolver cada sándwich en una servilleta para servir en las fiestas.

Rinde aproximadamente 6 tazas de ensalada de pollo.

¿Quiere más recetas así? Visita www.McCormick.com/espanol!

Want this recipe in English? Click here.

Salvadoran Chicken Salad Birthday Party Sandwiches

Sandwich de pollo salvadoreno

Disclosure: Latinaish.com has partnered with McCormick to bring you recipes using McCormick products. As always, all opinions are my own.

It may surprise some to know that chicken salad is popular in many countries throughout the world, although its ingredients vary from what those of us in the United States consider the norm. A few variations I know of:

Goi Ga from Vietnam features cabbage, fish sauce, spicy chilies, and mint.
Dak-Nangchae from Korea is eaten in the summer and incorporates plenty of colorful vegetables.
Ensalada de Pollo from Mexico is often eaten on Saltine crackers.
Coronation chicken salad from England features curry powder and mango chutney, and was first made in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation lunch.
Peruvian and Chilean “palta a la reina” is chicken salad served atop an avocado half.
Salpicão de Frango from Brazil includes apple, carrot, raisins, and olives.
• And then there’s Salad Olivie, which is believed to be the origin of chicken salads and Russian salads. Also known as Salad Olivier or Olivier Salad, these days it’s usually a combination of chicken, potato, egg, green peas, and mayonnaise with endless variations, but when it was invented in the 1860’s by a restaurant chef named Lucien Olivier in Russia, it was made with fancier ingredients such as grouse, capers, caviar, and smoked duck in a dressing which was a closely guarded secret. Modern versions of this salad are popular throughout Eastern Europe, as well as in Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Mongolia, and beyond.

With all these different types of chicken salad from around the world I shouldn’t have been so surprised when Carlos first told me that chicken salad is also popular in El Salvador, specifically at children’s birthday parties.

Salvadoran Birthday Party Chicken Sandwich

Carlos remembers attending many birthday parties in his neighborhood as a little boy and looking forward to being handed a chicken salad sandwich wrapped in a white paper napkin when he walked through the door. When he shared this memory with me, I decided to try to recreate the birthday party sandwiches of his childhood. With his input, this is the recipe I developed and he says it tastes just right!

Using quality chicken breasts which are slow-simmered with fresh vegetables ensures the meat is moist and flavorful. Shredded and mixed with McCormick Mayonnaise with Lime Juice which adds traditional sabor, spices, and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce – this chicken salad tastes even better chilled and eaten the next day, but it’ll be difficult to wait. Spoon it onto slices of soft, white bread and cut off the crusts if you like. However you eat it, this Salvadoran-style chicken salad is yummy enough to serve at birthday parties, but easy enough that you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to whip up a batch for your family.

salv-chicken-salad-pot

salv-chicken-mayo-close-up

Cumpleaños Ensalada de Pollo

(Want this recipe en español? Click here.)

Salvadoran Chicken Salad Birthday Party Sandwiches

Ingredients:

3 large chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium green pepper, seeded and cut in large pieces
1 Roma tomato, quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon McCormick black pepper

2 cups McCormick Mayonnaise with Lime Juice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
¼ teaspoon McCormick black pepper
½ teaspoon McCormick garlic powder
½ teaspoon McCormick onion powder
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Method:

1. Add first seven ingredients to a large pot over medium high heat with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat so it’s at a slow simmer. Cover loosely. Adjust heat lower if needed to keep it at a simmer until chicken is cooked through.

Tip: Avoid boiling or over-cooking the chicken as this will result in the meat being dry. Simmering keeps the meat moister. Short on time? Use chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts – they cook faster!

2. Remove chicken to a plate to cool. Once cool, shred by hand into small bite-size pieces and place into a large bowl.

3. Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce until well combined in a medium-sized bowl.

4. In the large bowl mix the mayonnaise mixture a little at a time into shredded chicken until desired creaminess is achieved. I found it tastes best to use about 1/3 cup mayonnaise mixture for every 1 cup shredded chicken.

5. Chill for at least one hour or overnight to allow flavors to combine. Serve chicken salad between slices of white bread.

Optional: Add slices of cucumber, a leaf of romaine lettuce, or whatever toppings you like to the sandwich. Some people also like to cut off the crusts and wrap each sandwich in a napkin when serving at parties.

Yields approximately 6 cups chicken salad.

For more recipes like this, visit www.McCormick.com/Espanol!

Ancestry DNA: Part 4

carlos-2016

In Part 1 and Part 2, I took you through the process and results of my own DNA test with Ancestry.com – Now it’s Carlos’s turn! Check out Part 3 for Carlos’s thoughts before taking the test. Part 4 (this final post) is Carlos’s results!

Carlos’s results are in! His took much longer to arrive, (40 days compared to the 22 days I waited.) Maybe the Ancestry DNA test has become more popular since I did mine. At first I thought maybe it was taking so long because we did it around Saint Patrick’s Day and you tend to see a lot of their commercials encouraging people to see if they have Irish ancestry around that time of year, but that can’t be it, because I also did mine around Saint Patrick’s Day last year. While we were waiting for the results, Carlos joked that it was taking so long because they discovered he’s el eslabón perdido (“the missing link”) and they were busy gathering researchers from around the world, which was a very Carlos-ish joke to make.

Anyway, I won’t keep you in more suspense than is necessary. Let’s get to the results!

When I asked Carlos if he had any predictions, he had answered, “Maybe that I’m mostly indigenous” – And it turns out he was correct! Carlos is 57% Native American. It’s just a shame that Ancestry DNA can’t go into more detail than that.

native

We can assume this is most likely Central American tribes descended from the Mayan and/or Aztec, but we really have no way of knowing for sure.

Carlos also got 27% Europe. Unsurprisingly the majority of that (16%) is from the Iberian Peninsula.

iberian-peninsula

What about the rest of that 27% though? That’s where we start getting some interesting results.

4% Italy/Greece
3% Great Britain
2% European Jewish
2% Ireland

This means Carlos and I have some ancestry in common! (It also means I can no longer pinch him on Saint Patrick’s Day for not being Irish.)

italy-greece

great-britain

European-Jewish

Ireland

We’ve got 16% left, any guesses before we go on?

Well, here’s some more surprises. Carlos is 12% African.

The breakdown is:

North Africa 5%
Senegal 2%
Mali 2%
Ivory Coast/Ghana 2%
Africa Southeastern Bantu 1%

And here are the maps with more detailed information on those:

africa-north

senegal

mali

ivory-coast-ghana

africa-bantu

Now we have just 4% left, and that is broken down as:

Caucausus 3%
Middle East < 1%

caucasus

middle-east

That’s it! Here’s a picture of the full breakdown (including expanded trace regions) and the world map showing all his ancestral areas:

carlos-regions-expanded

carlos-dna-map

A few last questions with Carlos:

Tracy: Which result surprised you the most?
Carlos: Jewish and Irish.

Tracy: Has this changed anything for you? How you see yourself? How you see the world?
Carlos: I don’t know yet. I’m still kind of processing it.

Tracy: Was there anything you were disappointed not to see?
Carlos: Well, I’m not disappointed, but I’m surprised that I’m not East Asian at all. I was kind of expecting I would be because of the way my [paternal] grandmother looked. I also wish the technology was advanced enough to give me more detail about the Native American result.

Tracy: What is your advice to other people considering doing the Ancestry DNA test?
Carlos: I recommend it, they should do it.

Ancestry DNA: Part 3

Image source: Flickr user charamelody

Image source: Flickr user charamelody

In Part 1 and Part 2, I took you through the process and results of my own DNA test with Ancestry.com – Now it’s Carlos’s turn!

Around this time last year I asked Carlos if I could order the DNA test for my birthday present. Ever since then Carlos has been wanting to do his own DNA test, but has always balked at spending the money on it. I decided that since my birthday is coming up again, this year my present will be Carlos’s test. You may wonder how something for Carlos is a birthday gift for me, but I’m just as curious about his results as he is, and I can think of few things I want that would be this much fun. So we ordered the test today. Below is my interview with Carlos to see how he’s feeling and his thoughts on the topic. Because I already covered the “how to” of the DNA test in Part 1 when I did mine, we’ll skip discussing the technical aspect of Carlos’s test. Part 4 will be posted when we receive his results!

Tracy: How are you feeling about the DNA test? Nervous? Anxious? Excited?

Carlos: I’m not really nervous, more curious than anything else.

Tracy: What do you think you’ll find out? Any predictions?

Carlos: No, I’m not sure. No idea. Maybe that I’m mostly indigenous?

Tracy: Why do you say that? Did anyone in your family speak an indigenous language or anything?

Carlos: I don’t know, because of my skin color, I guess. No one in my family spoke Náhuat that I know of, I don’t know if older generations spoke it.

Tracy: What do you already know, or think you know, about your roots? What family stories, recipes, or traditions did you have growing up that offer clues to your ancestry?

Carlos: I don’t have any clues. My family didn’t pass down traditions the way people do here [in the United States]… I mean, my family’s traditions were like everyone’s traditions – just Salvadoran traditions, Salvadoran culture.

Tracy: Were both sides of your family Catholic?

Carlos: Yes, as far as I know.

Tracy: Who are the oldest relatives you remember, and what do you remember about them?

Carlos: My mom says some of her father’s side of the family was light-skinned, but for my dad I don’t really know anything. My dad looked more Japanese than anything, and his mother looked Asian too.

Tracy: Your mother’s side of the family, as far back as you know, was from Chalatenango and your father’s side was from Ilobasco, right?

Carlos: Right, as far as I know. I don’t know any family history farther than that.

Tracy: Wait, you told me a story once about one of your family members in Europe, didn’t you? Who was that? Was she born in Europe?

Carlos: Oh, that was one of my [maternal] grandfather’s grandmother’s sisters…I think. She was born in El Salvador but she learned French and went to be a nanny in France. During World War II they had to flee and the family got separated. She took the child up to the mountains and kept him safe. When the family was reunited they were so thankful that they took care of her the rest of her life.

Tracy: She stayed in France and died there?

Carlos: No, she came back to El Salvador but they sent her money the rest of her life… Something like that. I’m never sure about these stories.

Tracy: Anyway, you said she was born in El Salvador, so that wouldn’t make you French.

Carlos: No.

Tracy: What if you get a really unexpected result? Do you think you’ll want to explore that culture and your roots a bit more?

Carlos: Yes, definitely.

Tracy: When I got my results I shared them with my sisters so they would know more about their heritage, but you don’t have any full-blooded brothers or sisters; all your siblings are half-siblings. Do you think you’ll share your results with any of them even though they won’t know what parts of your ancestry results are also theirs?

Carlos: No, it’s more for me to know, and for our boys to know the other half of their heritage.

Tartaletas

tartaleta salvadorena

There are precious few TV shows Carlos and I can agree on, but lately we’ve been able to add one more to our “watch together” list. I was the first to start watching The Great British Baking Show on PBS, but one day Carlos sat down next to me and started watching too. The Great British Baking Show is a reality show competition, but unlike similar American programs, the contestants are utterly charming and supportive of each other, which is something both Carlos and I love about it.

One episode we watched together involved the contestants making tarts. I don’t know much about tarts, British, or otherwise, but Carlos became nostalgic.

“I love tarts,” he said.
“When have you ever had a tart?” I asked, because I’d never seen him eat one our entire marriage.

That’s when he told me that in El Salvador, Pollo Campero, (the popular fried chicken restaurant), had “tartaletas” – specifically, tartaletas de fresa, or strawberry tarts. I asked him as many questions as I could about what they were like and decided to try to make them. After some trial and error, I ended up with the recipe below.

Since I’ve never had a tartaleta from Pollo Campero, I can’t tell you if these taste the same, and Carlos hasn’t had one for over 20 years, so all he could tell me was that he loved how these turned out. That’s good enough for me. If you want to give them a try, let me know what you think!

Vanilla Custard (for tartaleta filling)

Ingredients:

6 rounded tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups 2% milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In a blender add milk, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch. Blend for 15 to 30 seconds until well combined.

2. Pour the mixture into a large pot over medium heat. Add vanilla extract.

3. Stir regularly until the mixture thickens. Don’t be too quick to remove it from the stove. You want it to be the texture of pudding. After 5 minutes, if it isn’t thickening, turn the heat up a little and stir a little less regularly, but be careful not to let it cook to the bottom of the pot or you’ll have lumps in the custard.

4. Remove from heat. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to assemble the tarts.

Note: This recipe makes far more custard than you’ll need for the tarts. Feel free to eat the leftovers served up in bowls plain or with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Alternatively, you could halve the custard recipe so you don’t have so much left over.

Dessert Tart Crust

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar, (plus a few pinches)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups pre-sifted all purpose flour

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 F.

2. Mix butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until well combined.

3. Mix in flour just until dough comes together.

4. Divide dough into four equal portions. Place each portion in a 4-inch round tart pan. Use fingers dipped in flour to press the dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of the tart pans. Don’t handle the dough any more than necessary.

Tip: I purchased Wilson Advance 4-inch tart and quiche pans and really love them. If you don’t own a set, I highly recommend these.

5. Place each tart pan in its own sandwich-size plastic zipper bag, and place them into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.

6. Remove each tart from the plastic bags. Place the tarts on a baking sheet and then place them in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 10 minutes.

Tip: Use the back of a spoon to carefully deflate any bubbles that pop up during baking.

7. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on each tart crust and bake for another 5-7 minutes, or until edges start to turn golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and cool completely.

9. Don’t assemble the tartaletas until ready to serve, (or if you assemble them and put them in the fridge, plan to serve them soon.) When ready to serve the tartaletas, assemble like so:

Carefully remove each tart crust from its pan, and place onto a small plate. Spoon an even layer of custard filling onto each tart crust. Top with sliced strawberries, or other fruit of your choosing. (Other suggestions: raspberries, blackberries, peaches, blueberries, and/or kiwi.)

Makes four 4-inch round tarts.

Tart crust recipe adapted from Chowhound.com.

tartaleta de fresa