On February 27 of every year, Dominicans both on the island and stateside celebrate Dominican Independence Day. It’s a day that commemorates the Dominican War of Independence (known in Spanish as “la guerra por la independencia”), through which the island nation earned independence from the border nation of Haiti in 1844.
Before the battle that gave the Dominican Republic its freedom, the entire island of Hispaniola had been subject to Haitian governance following hundreds of years under Spanish, and then French, colonial rule. It was only until a 20-year-old nationalist named Juan Pablo Duarte assembled a secret society with leaders Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez – known as “La Trinitaria” – that war was organized against the Haitian regime and independence was won. Now, 169 years later, NBC Latino is celebrating Dominican independence with some of our favorite Dominican bloggers, chefs, and of course, traditional recipes. ¡Buen Provecho!
The humble plátano – plantain – is a favorite in the Dominican Republic and a quintessential part of its national dish: mangú. And don’t confuse it with Cuban-style fufú or Puerto Rico’s mofongo, because mangu is a dish that any Dominican will proudly defend and which every home cook counts as part of their repertoire. The plantain mash – which absolutely must be topped with pickled red onions – is typically served alongside a perfectly fried egg, fried cheese (queso frito) and fried Dominican sausage (salchichon) for a Dominican breakfast that was once considered a staple of the lower classes in the country (el campo), but which all islanders have now embraced as a national meal.
Michelle Contreras – a Dominican food blogger who includes traditional Dominican recipes on her blog, “Confessions of a Recipe Junkie” – shares her version of the breakfast recipe, which results in an oh-so-creamy version with the addition of water while mashing the plantains.
For The Mangú
5 green plantains
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon of salt
For The Onion Topping
1 red onion
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
* serve with a fried egg
1. Peel the plantains by cutting the ends and using a pairing knife to make a slice down one side. Using the knife gently push away the peel and then use your fingers to pull away the skin. Sort of like peeling an orange but a thicker peel. Be sure you remove all of the peel; the plantain should be smooth. Cut into halves and set aside.
2. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil and add the peeled plantains. Cover and boil for 20 minutes (or until fork tender). Turn off the stove and pour about 1 cup of the plantain water in a measuring cup.
3. Strain the remaining water from the pot. Carefully pour some water back to the plantains, about 1/4 cup at a time, and mash with a potato masher. Continue to pour water and mash the plantains until you have a smooth combination of pea-size plantain bits.
For the pickled onions
1. Peel and cut the onion into small rounds. Place in a bowl and mix in the vinegar and salt. Heat your cooking oil in a small skillet; once the oil is ready add in the bowl of onions (juice and all).
2. Stir occasionally, and cook until the onion are wilted (about 5 minutes). Now add some of the oil from the onions to the mashed plantains and mix. Place the mashed plantains in a serving plate and top with the cooked onions
Bacalao – flaked codfish – is also a staple in Dominican households and “Top Chef” alum Angelo Sosa’s Dominican roots and love of Asian flavors have propelled him to success as a chef with restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas. And while Sosa is known for creating sophisticated dishes, Sosa has a heart for home. And one of his very favorite Dominican recipes? This bacalao stew, whose flavors remind him of his beloved tia Carmen, who inspired him to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
Chef Angelo Sosa’s Flaked Cod Fish Stew (Bacalao)
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 pound salted cod, soaked in water for 2 to 4 hours and drained
1 15-ounce can plum tomatoes
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄2 cup green olives, pitted
2 red Thai chiles, chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons capers
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Put the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
When it’s hot, reduce the heat to low, add the cod, and cook for
about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the fish up as it cooks.
2. Add the tomatoes, water, olives, chiles, thyme, and bay leaf and cook over low heat for another 15 minutes, then add the vinegar, celery, capers, and salt. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and serve the stew over white rice.
Chef Angelo Sosa may be one of the more prominent Dominican chefs on the culinary scene right now, but Dominican foodies and home chefs have created a unique niche in the blogosphere with their take on Dominican cookery both traditional and modern. Lead by Clara Gonzalez, who began her blog “Dominican Cooking” more than 10 years ago from her home in Punta Cana, the Dominican food blog scene includes a professional pastry chef Marnely Rodriguez-Murray (“Cooking with Books”), family-minded fare from Angela Sanchez-Robles (“Mind over Batter”), foodie extraordinaire Eliana Ramos (“A Chica Bakes”) and philanthropically-minded new mom Melissa Bailey (“Hungry Food Love”).
Each of these lovely ladies contributes a unique perspective on Dominican recipes, making them a resource for anyone interested in learning how to make perfect concón (the crust that forms at the bottom of a pot of rice; a Dominican delicacy), moist pollo asado (roast chicken), or shrimp asopao (a rice stew), which blogger Melissa Bailey says has been known to satisfy the biggest and hungriest of Dominican families on celebrations and rainy days.
Shrimp Asopao / Asopao de Camarones