A Word on Food™

Mofongo

Chicken Mofongo on My Very Black Beans; Sesame Honey Mustard Drizzle
Chicken Mofongo on My Very Black Beans; Sesame
Honey Mustard Drizzle

The first time I heard the word mofongo I knew I wanted to use it on one of my menus! I didn’t even know what the dish was and … I almost didn’t care. I simply loved the word and wanted to use it for our guests to enjoy too. When my wife, Janet and I had it in a South Florida restaurant I realized what the dish was about. I created my own spin on mofongo over time … which I will get to… here are some of the variations I have seen. Mofongo with… here we go… Fried Chicken Chunks, Pork Chops, Pork Chunks, Spanish Longaniza Sausages, Mofongo with Pepper Chicken, Palomilla Steak, Pepper Steak, Fried Steak, Goat and also Oxtails with Mofongo, ‘Cangrejo-fongo al Ajillo‘, … which is a kind of stuffed crab version… and also.. last for now but hardly least, ‘Langosta-fongo’ with Stuffed Lobster. Yes! These are all made with a mash of plantains and often some chicharrónes.

A few years ago a woman named Sandra Gutierrez, who has since become my friend, wrote a wonderful book titled, “The New Southern-Latino Table” In it she shares her journey as a young woman growing up in Guatemala and then moving to North Carolina. In her cookbook she fuses the cooking of her childhood with what she came to experience in the States. A new book by a woman named Von Diaz reminds me of that type of journey as she lived it … beginning in Puerto Rico and then having her life shifted to Atlanta. Sandra married her knowledge of Latin flavors and fused it with dishes revered in the South to create something true and delicious. Von Diaz as a Latina of the Caribbean but now living in the American Deep South makes twists on dishes her grandmother taught her but also bringing in the healthful bounty of garden fresh vegetables.

There is a term that refers to eating … ‘Gallego Style’. It means to take a bite of each item on a plate going back and forth to mingle the flavors rather than eating them individually in an ordered way. I eat, cook and think Gallego Style.

In the Zen state sometimes called “Beginners Mind” or as in Japan ‘shoshin‘, the goal is to become more and more practiced on one hand … but also to keep these words Suzuki wrote.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities

but in the expert’s there are few“.

As I began to find my way in the food treasure land of Florida I was awakened to produce, fish, cooking methods, dishes and food words I had never known as a child. With no one there to tell me things were wrong my reckoning was primarily on the flavor of things. I imagine the two fine cookbook authors I cite above must have found themselves also in a form of ‘Beginner’s Mind’ as they started anew in their lives in the United States. My foray into the world of making mofongos, (I promised you I’d get back to that) … took a turn I don’t think anyone ever had before my rendition. I loved deeply caramelized plantains. And while much more often green plantains … more starchy than sweet … are the basis for classic mofongo. But … I wanted … well … what I wanted. And to take it even further I used not pork … but foie gras to add richness to my mofongo.


I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s…. My Word on Food

Recipe

This is a stuffing we insert into raw chicken breasts before re-sealing the breasts and then cooking them. This can be done with pork as well.

  • 1 very ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch size pieces
  • 2 ounces foie gras cut into very small pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a sauté pan until quite hot. Now add some peanut oil to the pan and fry the plantain pieces until they are quite dark on all sides. Remove them to paper toweling to drain. Discard the oil. Now place the cooked plantain in a bowl and mash in the foie gras with the back of a fork. Season to taste and set aside. Reserve.

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