19 March 2010

Honduran Dinner

A friend of mine is headed to Honduras on a church trip, and I was inspired to fix her a Honduran meal. Of course, I knew nothing of Honduran cuisine, so it was mostly an excuse for me to do some research and play around in the kitchen.

I don't really know that there's a distinct Honduran culinary tradition, rather it's more a point on a general Central American/Caribbean continuum. That is in no way a criticism of Honduran food. It's more like talking about Southern food here in the United States. There are subtle variations as you travel from Tennessee to Mississippi to Alabama to Georgia, but most of the native cuisine is fundamentally similar.

My reading didn't deliver any unique dishes or ingredients, but rather a few exceptions and caveats: tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and tend to have bones in them; don't serve rice and beans if you're serving plantains; use white corn instead of yellow corn for tortillas and other applications. (I'm sure someone will come along to point out that all three of these are wrong, and I welcome the clarification.)

But I did find a couple of recipes that were written by Hondurans, and gave them a shot. For starters, I made a salsa with mangos, avocados, red onion, ancho chiles, and tomatoes. Nothing particularly special here, though you can juggle the proportions around to produce a guacamole or a pico de gallo or even a garnish. (If I'd had it on hand, some fresh cilantro would have been very nice).

For the main dish, I made a batch of chicken thighs. I cooked them the night before and then for lunch made a sofrito and added the poultry to the Dutch oven. Then it was time for a can of unsweetened coconut milk, and I let everything stew for about half an hour before serving. While the aroma is amazing, the finished product has little in the way of coconut flavor. It tastes great, but it's a surprisingly subtle seasoning. It's an interesting yet equally viscous substitute to the can of "Cream of Chicken" or "Cream of Mushroom" soup used in so many shortcut recipes. To go along with it all I made a pot of short-grain rice and red kidney beans flavored with chorizo. It was tempting to turn the gallo pinto into something like New Orleans red beans and rice, but I tried to keep things vaguely authentic.

Overall a success. The salsa was amazing, and the main course, while simple, was pretty tasty and made for delicious leftovers. I've done stewed pork in coconut milk before (I even shaved and boiled the coconut meat myself), but I think I'll be experimenting with this ingredient some more and might even tackle a Thai curry. What about the wine? I served the Hay Shed Hill Chardonnay mentioned last week, though part of me was craving an ice cold Red Stripe with a sliver of lime jammed down the neck.


Kimberly said...

That salsa looks REALLY good.

It's interesting, I work with a girl from Honduras, and the other day she was talking about how they don't really use jalapenos in their cooking. Me and a couple of my co-workers were surprised -- we assumed there were jalapenos used Honduran cooking, but she says no. She was talking about all kinds of pepper-like things that come in various forms they do use, but not jalapenos.
But it makes sense -- when I spent a few months in Mexico, my host family just laughed and laughed at some of the goofy things Americans assume about Mexican cooking and culinary arts!

Benito said...


The salsa was delicious. I made it the night before, pressed down plastic wrap over the salsa so the avocado wouldn't brown, and let the flavors mingle for about 12 hours.

I love reading Rick Bayless for advice on which peppers to use when--fresh, dried, canned, roasted, fried, puréed, etc. Fortunately we've got some well-stocked Latin markets around here that make it easy to get all the dried guajillos you want, for instance.


bob said...

wow, look at that, I'm already drooling, great color, looks delicious!!

Benito said...


Glad you liked it. Dead simple to make, too!