Tag Archives: Grand Central Market

CASA DE HILLMONT SANCOCHO

Peter, our son, stopped by our daughter’s house in L.A. on his way down the coast to spend some holiday time with his mother-in-law. Before his visit he indicated that he wanted to cook dinner one night. It required some ingredients that we thought we could find at the Grand Central Market, including green and ripe plantains and yuca. The yuca was not to be had, but in the end Peter located some at the neighborhood grocery store.

The dish that Peter chose to cook had its origins when he was in graduate school. He found himself without housing and with very little money. Our daughter, Sarah, was in the undergraduate program at the same university. One of her teaching assistants, a doctoral candidate in mathematics from Colombia, announced in class one day that there was a vacancy in the house where he was living. Sarah passed the information to Peter, and Peter jumped at the opportunity. He wound up living in the garage for several months, rent-free. Then a bedroom opened up, and he became a permanent, rent-paying resident.

As with much collegiate housing, there was a steady stream of old and new tenants. Sarah even lived there for awhile. But the backbone of the place was the three Colombianos who lived there the longest: Carlos, Mario, and Andreas. They became good friends with our children, and an added benefit was that Sarah, the Spanish major, got to polish her language skills, Peter learned how to speak Spanish, and they both learned to cook Colombian foods. Peter still keeps in touch with Carlos, who is now a professor of mathematics at his home university.

Not surprisingly, the house came to be known as Casa de Hillmont after the street where it was located. And it had all sorts of unique features – the carpet with big holes, the reclining sofa we donated, unidentified insects (This was Texas, after all.) and the quirky landlady who made off with a bird bath. Mostly the food was standard college fare like ramen, but there were also Colombian classics like tostones, arepas, and sancocho. Here is Peter’s version of sancocho.

RECIPE

Casa de Hillmont Sancocho

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 4 to 6 pieces of chicken (thighs, drumsticks, breast)
  • 12 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 green plantain, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 yuca root, peeled, core removed, and cut into large pieces
  • 4-6 pieces of corn on the cob
  • 1 ripe plantain, unpeeled and cut into 4-6 equal pieces
  • 1 generous handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • cream
  • capers
  • avocado, diced

Method

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and tomato and saute for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Brown the chicken pieces in the remaining oil in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, tomato mixture and saute for another 6 minutes. Add the water, and correct the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the green plantain and carrot to the mixture, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes; then add the potatoes. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  4. Add the yuca root, and simmer until the yuca is soft
  5. Boil the unpeeled ripe plantain in another pot until it is easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.
  6. Add the chopped cilantro to the chicken stew.
  7. Serve by placing a piece of the ripe plantain in every soup bowl. Ladle chicken stew over the plantain.
  8. Pass cream, capers, and avocado separately to garnish the stew. You should have freshly made arepas on the side. (Another post)
  9. Serves 4 to 6.

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L.A. FLOWER MARKET, GRAND CENTRAL MARKET AND BUCHE

For a family outing, we decided to visit downtown LA. “Why,” you might ask. “There’s nothing there.” But you would be wrong. The downtown is being revitalized, and it has long been home to the LA flower market, two huge warehouses filled with flower merchants offering all sorts of cut flowers, plants, and vases and pots to hold them. It’s not the Chelsea Flower Show, but it is a pretty interesting place. In addition, the Grand Central Market has recently been redone. It has been open since the early twentieth century, but it had fallen on hard times. Now it has become more upscale, but it still has the feel of a Mexican mercado. Peter, our son, joined us for a couple of days from Silicon Valley, so he was in our group.

To get to the flower market, you have to pass through the garment district where bolts of cloth are displayed at store fronts. I though I was back in El Paso. For the flower market, you park on the roof top of one of the warehouses, ride the elevator down to the showroom floor, and pay an entrance fee of $1. Then you wander the aisles between displays of hydrangeas in many colors (dyed of course), bromeliads, cacti, roses, daisies, and this time of year, poinsettias being pulled from the shelves. Prices are remarkably low, so it is easy to fill your arms with bunches of flowers wrapped in old Korean-language newspapers.

The street between the two warehouses is filled with food vendors, and you can get pastries, humus, french fries, elotes (corn on the cob), and any number of sandwiches. But we were saving our appetites for the Grand Central Market.

We drove a few blocks, parked in the garage, and rode the elevator down to the market. It was an overwhelming sight. There were crowds of people, neon signs advertising various vendors, and stalls filled with the special offerings of every vendor.

Among the items we wound up buying was a huge bacalao that I got to make for a New Year’s Day dinner (along with black-eyed peas and cabbage, of course). There was an abundance of fruits and vegetables, but no yuca which Peter was looking for to make his Colombian sancocho later in the day.

Surprisingly, there was an oyster bar with a good selection of raw oysters and wine, so some of us paused there. Others chose Thai, Chinese, or barbecue. We passed up the Eggslut (Don’t ask me how it got the name) because the line was way too long. The place is one of the best known vendors in the market and offers eggs done in a myriad of ways.

Peter opted for a Mexican stand that was selling tacos and tortas. You could choose any number of fillings – chicharon, tripitas, tripe. For most of them, there was an English translation for what it was. Some did not have a translation. One of those was buche. This is considered a great delicacy, but for all my years in El Paso, I could never get anyone to tell me what it was.

Years ago, I had a waitress in a Mexican restaurant tell me that if I had to ask what a dish was, I probably didn’t want o order it. Those are words to live by.

Anyway, Peter ordered the buche sandwich even though the server seemed amazed and double checked that that was what he wanted. Peter got the sandwich, took one bite, swallowed, and then googled to learn that buche is pig esophagus. He put down the sandwich and headed straight to the barbecue stand.

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