Introducing our new Columnist: Cian Gonzalez
Cian Gonzalez is a first-generation American and a native of Yonkers, NY. His father was born in Guatemala and his mother was born in Ireland. Cian first arrived in Buffalo when he started attending lectures at SUNY at Buffalo, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science and a Journalism Certificate. There, he started taking up writing for UB’s independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. His interests include cooking, music, local breweries, and nature. He spends the weekends with his partner of 5 years, going to their favorite cafes, visiting bookstores, and trying new recipes. Cian has also taken up a hobby of foraging and identifying species of flora and fungi, which he hopes to do more often on warmer days. His Subjects of Interest: Food & Culture, Culinary Arts, Beverages, and Health.
Back in my hometown, the grocery store I lived up the road from sold champurradas in the dessert aisle. These Guatemalan cookies with sesame seeds sprinkled on top were a delight to have on the weekends with coffee or hot chocolate.
On one of my previous visits back home, I decided to go back to the same store to grab some champurradas for an after-dinner snack with the family. Sadly, the champurradas they sell now taste nothing like the ones I grew up with. The flavor was bland and barely any sesame seeds were on them. This drove me to look up recipes online so I would never be disappointed again.
My sister found a blog from Guatemala.com that referenced a recipe she planned on using, but she didn’t try it out and sent it to me instead. The recipe called for the following: ½ pound of flour, 2 eggs, 5 ounces of sugar, 4 ounces (1 stick) of butter, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 3 tablespoons of milk, and 2 ounces of sesame seeds. I later discovered that the measurement for the flour wasn’t, but I will explain more in a moment.
First, I warmed the stick of butter in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, so it was soft enough for mixing. Then, I combined the sugar and butter until a yellow ball formed. After putting the eggs and milk into the bowl with the butter/sugar mix, I whisked the flour and baking soda together in a separate bowl.
When it came time to combine the dry and wet ingredients, the resulting mixture turned into a wet blob rather than a soft dough. I tried rolling individual balls to make the champurradas, but the mix would stick to my hands and didn’t keep its shape. I decided it was time to experiment, so I added more flour to the mix until the dough was firm.
As the oven preheated to 350 degrees, I made several small balls out of the dough and placed them on a buttered baking tray. I flattened the balls out using my hand and then put the tray into the oven for 20 minutes.
The champurradas came out golden brown but thicker than I wanted them to turn out. They still tasted good, certainly better than the last ones I had. While this was a fun first attempt, I am going to work on this some more to develop my recipe. I’ll also be looking for butter and egg replacements for my vegan readers. Looking forward to sharing this with you next month!
GUATEMALAN CHICKEN SOUP
(CALDO DE POLLO)
Chicken soup is a classic meal for any time of the year. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite variations from my family to yours; Guatemalan Caldo de Pollo. This is a perfect dish for winter and will keep you warm during future blizzards to come. Every country in Latin America has its version of Caldo. The original Caldo is thought to have originated from Mexico and then spread throughout countries in Central and South America, prompting variations in cuisine based on their native ingredients. Thankfully, my recipe uses food available in local grocery stores like Wegmans, Price Rite, and Aldi.
A good Caldo de Pollo starts with the broth. Bouillon cubes or concentrates are great for a quick soup; however, I highly recommend making chicken stock from scratch if you’re able to. Start with sautéing pieces of chicken meat or scraps in a large pot over medium-high heat. Using leftover chicken bones from prior meals will add more flavor to your broth. Saute for 5-8 minutes, occasionally stirring, until chicken pieces are browned. Once that is done, start adding the vegetables.
The veggies I use for a simple stock are two halved carrots, two halved celery sticks, a large onion quartered, and a whole head of garlic sliced in half from its side to expose all the cloves. Then add a bunch of cilantro and stir the contents together before adding enough water to fill up the pot to just a half-inch below the rim. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low, then let it simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. If using an instant pot or pressure cooker, it can be made in 45-50 minutes on its Soup/Stock setting. (Pro-tip: Save veggie scraps in the freezer using a Ziploc bag for future stocks.) Once the stock is done, pour it carefully over a strainer into another pot and then discard the used chicken bones and vegetables. Taste the stock for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste before adding the rest of the ingredients.
A whole chicken is traditionally used for Caldo, but you can use any cut you want. I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, which are generally cheaper and give a richer chicken flavor. For the vegetables, slice four large, peeled carrots, quarter four medium, peeled potatoes, and dice two Roma tomatoes. I also added two bay leaves for a more pepper-like taste. Once everything is in, let the soup simmer on the stove for 45 minutes (20-25 minutes in the pressure cooker) until the meat and veggies are cooked.
Once finished, you can either shred the meat or leave it whole. Serve with fresh corn tortillas, white rice, and boiled corn on the cob. An extra cilantro sprig is perfect for a garnish. Tasting this soup brought me straight back to my childhood and gave me fond memories of spending time with family. I hope it provides comfort and warmth to you and your loved ones during this season.
Cian Gonzalez / Virginia McIntyre / Vianca Colón-Barreto / Solomon Joseph / Luz Velez / Roque Pizarro / Dinah Aponte / Angelica Aquino, Esq./MPA / Arthur Dawn / Alberto O. Cappas / Carmen Rodriguez / Lillia Orsini / Jose Yrizarry / Victoria Ross / QueeNia AsheeMa’at / Talia Rodriguez / Juan Carreras / Rocco Anastasio /