A party’s not a party without a picadera – I may or may not have that printed on a t-shirt. Seriously.
My experience with picadera in the DR is that you have to be pretty forceful to get any. If it’s a table laid out with food, you want to elbow your way in there, because, don’t be fooled, it’s not food that’s going to linger around all night. It’s a one-time deal and like runners at the start –line, it’s a mad dash once the party giver has given the signal that the eating may begin. It may even represent the end of the party, because once the food is gone, what’s the point in hanging around? Get in while the getting is good. And then get out.
There is low-budget picadera and high-budget picadera. Crackers and cheese on the low-end, with huge wedges of salami. High-budget picadera I have less experience with, but we went to a lavish wedding once where the buffet was tantalizing (shrimp, calamari, albondigas….) and yet not a chair to be found. Ingenious tactic, no? I’m sure less food was consumed because of it, and I have never forgotten the pincho de pollo (brochette) that was left uneaten because, who can eat a pincho de pollo standing up with your plate in your hands? In a manner befitting an elegant wedding, that is.
The year I threw my most excellent Christmas party, my picadera table was a sight to behold. I did my groceries in Santiago (God bless you, Supermercado Nacional) and, apparently, had money to burn. Many different cheeses and none of them made by Rica, if you know what I mean. It was a great party, because where there is food aplenty it’s hard not to be happy. The only thing that did not go over so well was the smoked salmon – pieces of which I saw strewn all over the neighbor’s roof for days afterwards.
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
Empanaditas and pastelitos will add variety and Dominican flavor to your hors d'oeuvres platter. We presenting a generic recipe in which you can substitute the chicken for cheese, ham, vegetables, seafood or filling of your choice.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup of sweet corn, boiled (1 small can)
- 1/2 cup of green peas, boiled (1 small can)
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 lb of chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 2 sprigs of coriander chopped finely
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 cube of chicken bouillon
- 1 small red onion
- 1 green pepper
- 1/2 lb of Gouda cheese, grated coarsely
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- Cold water
- 2 cups of oil for frying
- Heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and onion and cook and stir until the onions become transparent.
- Add the bell pepper, tomato, peas and corn.
- Cover and cook over low heat until the pepper is cooked (3-5 mins).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cool to room temperature and reserve.
- Boil the chicken in two cups of water, adding a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of oregano to the water.
- When the chicken is tender remove from the fire and cool to room temperature.
- Shred the chicken very finely.
- Chop the onion and the green pepper into very small cubes.
- In a shallow pan heat two teaspoons of oil, add the onion, chicken and the green pepper, stir.
- Add coriander and tomato paste.
- Simmer over very low heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.
- Mix the baking soda, a teaspoon of salt and the flour, add 6 tablespoons of water, and mix well. Should you need more water add it one tablespoon at a time until you have just enough for a firm dough.
- Mix everything with your hands on a slightly floured surface until everything is well mixed, don't knead the dough (add some flour is it is too sticky).
- Let dough rest for ten minutes covered in plastic film.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough. Cut out circles of about 4 inches in diameter.
- Put a teaspoon of the chicken in the center of each circle, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork (wet the edges for better seal).
- Deep fry the pasties over medium heat until they are golden brown.
- Rest on a paper towel to drain excess oil before serving.
Empanadas are not unique to the Dominican Republic, in fact they can be found in pretty much every Spanish-speaking country in one shape or form and in a variety of sizes. Each Spanish-speaking country has adapted this recipe to their own tastes and favorite ingredients.
In the DR at least it is a basic component of the party platter, a quick late dinner after a night on the town and popular street fare.
Another great thing about it is that it is pretty adaptable: Do you have vegan friends? Go with a vegan filling, beef lovers? Then a beef filling should be your choice. You can even fill them with fruits or jams and serve them as desserts. Make them big for an on-the-go meal and small for a refined hors-d'ouevre.