Buche’ Perico (Corn and Pumpkin Stew) is the kind of dish I sometimes like to have to forget about the stresses of life. There are dishes like that, comforting.
Having moved from a large city (Santo Domingo) a few years ago, one of the things that I like the most about Punta Cana is the sense of old-time community. It helps that none of us is from here, we all have to build support networks and lean on friends for help once in a while. Having left a one-horse town in my childhood, I thought I would never willingly return to small-town life. Was I ever wrong?
Like in the days of yore I have found myself sometimes bringing foods for my friends and neighbors. At this pace I will soon be known as the Cookie Fairy.
My neighbor B is an avid baker too. Lucky us. Once in a while she shows up with yummy things she’s baked. I got a pot of gazpacho from Aunt Ilana on Monday (yes, we are also neighbors), and I dropped off cupcakes for another friend’s birthday yesterday. I am also probably one of the most popular moms at my daughter’s class, seeing as I sometimes bring cookies for the kids.
Cooking is a pleasure meant for sharing. Am I ever glad I don’t have to battle traffic for an hour to do so.
I had promised you to bring you this recipe a few weeks back in an post I wrote about odd names in Dominican cuisine, so I grabbed my reusable shopping bag and walked the short distance to the supermarket to get the ingredients for it. Luckily it did not contain any odd ones (we live in a campo, remember?). So, I made a giant pot of this stew and called Aunt Ilana’s husband to tell him I had some for him.
But leaving Santo Domingo behind…
¿What’s up this Buche’ Perico (Corn Stew)?
This dish earned its place in our list of foods with bizarre names, as it translate into English as “parrot’s gut”. It hails from the Cibao region, more specifically from the Moca – Seybo region. If you’ve met Aunt Ilana’s husband, Pedro, one of the friendliest people I’ve known, you probably know that he calls himself “a mocano“, despite the fact that he was born in Ciudad Colonial. This was my chance to call his bluff. Not surprisingly he had never heard of this dish. “Not surprisingly”, I say, because I don’t think that even many “real” mocanos have heard of it.
Anyway, I got Pedro’s seal of approval, which together with my husband’s is worth, I don’t know… two cents?
- 3 corn on the cobs
- 2 qt [2 lt] of water, more as necessary
- 3 lb [1.36 kg] smoked pork chops
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (corn, peanut or soy)
- 1 onion cut into eighths
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
- ½ cup cubanela (cubanelle) peppers cut into 1" x 1" squares
- 1 small carrot, sliced
- ½ cup celery stalks cut into slices
- 2 cups of auyama (West Indian pumpkin) cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (or parsley)
- 1½ teaspoons of salt (or more, to taste)
- ½ teaspoons of pepper (or more, to taste)
- Using a sharp knife cut the corn from the cob, making sure not to go too deep as the corn is very fibrous and tough. The knife should slide down easily. Be careful not to cut yourself, fingers are not part of the recipe. Boil the corn in the water until it is very tender, you can shorten the cooking time by doing it in a pressure cooker. It takes about 40 mins in a conventional pot, and about 20 in a pressure cooker. Maintain the same level of water adding more as necessary.
- Separate corn and water, set both aside.
- Separate the meat in the pork chops from the bones. Get rid of the excess fat and cut the meat into cubes. We'll use the bones to add flavor and you can remove them right before serving
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy aluminum or cast iron pot. Add the pork chop and brown. Stir in the onion and garlic, cook until the onion starts to become transparent. Stir in tomatoes and cubanela peppers and cook and stir for a couple of minutes, careful that it doesn't burn. Add the carrots, celery and auyama.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 qt [1 lt] of water (the water in which the corn boiled) and pour into the pot with the meat and vegetables. Add the corn and cilantro and boil over medium heat until everything is cooked through. Add extra water as it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
- Scoop out half of the squash, mash and return to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with arroz blanco. Some agrio de naranja goes great in it.
This is best made with tender, freshly-cut corn, but I couldn't find those, and probably neither can you, so I adapted the recipe to the corn on the cob commonly found in supermarkets.