Am I ever glad that I have never called myself an expert on anything. Especially not an expert on Dominican food.
Every time I learn something about food in general, or Dominican food in particular, I’m justly reminded that there is much to learn, and with things changing all the time one never finishes learning. These Guanimos (Cornmeal and Beef Pockets) is an example of that.
Guanimo, a Taino name by the sound of it, probably hails from the northwestern provinces of the Dominican Republic. I make this assumption based on the fact that the only people who know what I’m talking about when I mention this dish are all from my home town of Montecristi.
Then I found out that there’s a similar dish, with a similar-sounding name, originating from the southern regions of the country that is also based on corn and made like a pocket, but it’s a dessert!
I have a suspicion that this dish was originally prepared using corncobs, but this is just a hunch as the one I’ve always known is made with fine cornmeal.
A quick Google search shows this dish also exist in Cuba and also Puerto Rican too (there are differences between the dishes). This suggests that the dish, which has a Taino name, predates all three countries as separate entities and perhaps is just a remnant of times when the islands all belonged to Spain. There are at least 4 versions of a dish with the same name in all three Spanish Caribbean countries. If this is so Guanimo should join casabe as one of our “ancient” foods.
The addition of Scotch bonnet peppers is my own. Usually this is served, like pasteles en hoja, with ketchup and hot sauce on the side, but I just decided to make it spicy inside. So this is more like my own version of a dish that seems to have many incarnations.
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper , without seeds (optional)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 sprig of recao/cilantro ancho/culantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (or more, to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoons of pepper (or more, to taste)
- 1 lb . of minced beef
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 3 cups of cornmeal
- 5 cups of vegetable broth at room temperature
- 16 corn husks or similar number of parchment paper
- Cotton string
- 2 qt [2 lt] of water
Use the food processor to make a paste with the bell pepper, scotch bonnet, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro ancho, a pinch of pepper and a teaspoon of salt.
Mix this paste with the minced beef.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and cook and stir until it changes color throughout.
Add the tomato sauce and cook and stir until the liquids have evaporated.
Season with salt to taste.
Remove from the heat and reserve.
Mix the cornmeal and the broth and let it soak for an hour.
Cook the cornmeal over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken. Lower the heat and cook and stir until it thickens to a cream cheese-like consistency. The cornmeal with not be entirely cooked but it will be done later on.
Remove from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature.
Place two tablespoons of cornmeal on a corn husk and flatten. Add one tablespoon of filling and cover with two tablespoons of cornmeal.
Make into an envelope shape and cover with one or more corn husks until it is waterproof. Tie with the string.
Heat the water over high heat in a large pot until it breaks the boil. Once the water breaks the boil place the cornmeal in the pot and boil for 10 minutes.
Remove from the water and the husks and serve.
Garnish with ketchup.
I love unwrapping them on the table as they look like little gifts.
Originally posted March 2004.