There's much to like about this dish hailing from the northern part of the country, Guanimos (Cornmeal and Beef Pockets) is definitely worth trying.
Not a day goes by that I don't 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. Guanimos (Cornmeal and Beef Pockets) are an example of that.
Guanimos are wrapped in corn husks and tied tightly to prevent water from entering them when they are boiled, which produces their peculiar shape and leaves indentations when they are untied. When a lady wears clothes that are too tight for her size, you may hear it said that she "looks like a guanimo".
Guanimo may be a Taino name by the sound of it (and based on nothing else, just speculating here). I came across this dish in my hometown of Montecristi, only to learn later in life, that it wasn't just a regional food.
Imagine my surprise years ago when 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 corn-based and made like a pocket, but it's a dessert!
I have a suspicion that this La Linea dish was originally prepared using corncobs, but this is just a hunch as the one I've always known is made with fine cornmeal.
And in the Caribbean
A quick Google search shows this dish also exists in Cuba, and Puerto Rico too (there are differences between the dishes, and in Puerto Rico is spelled guanimes). This suggests that the dish, with its Taino-sounding name, may predate all three countries as separate entities and perhaps is just a remnant of times when the islands all belonged to Spain (again, just speculating).
There are at least four 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.
About our recipe
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.
Guanimos Recipe (Cornmeal and Beef Pockets)
For the filling
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, without seeds, chopped (optional)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 sprig of recao/cilantro ancho/culantro
- 1½ teaspoons salt, (or more, to taste)
- ¼ teaspoons pepper, (or more, to taste)
- 1 lb minced beef, [0.45 kg]
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup tomato sauce
For the cornmeal dough
- 3 cups of cornmeal, [420 g]
- 5 cups of vegetable broth at room temperature, [1.2 l]
- 16 corn husks or similar number of parchment paper
- Cotton string
- 2 qt water, [2 lt]
- Ketchup, to taste
Making the filling
- Make seasoning: Use the food processor to make a paste with bell pepper, scotch bonnet, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro ancho, a pinch of pepper, and a teaspoon of salt.
- Season meat: Add this paste with the minced beef and mix until combined uniformly.
- Brown meat: Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and cook and stir until it changes color throughout.
- Simmer: Once the meat has browned, add the tomato sauce and cook and stir until the liquids have evaporated. Season with salt to taste.Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cooking the cornmeal
- Soaking cornmeal: Mix the cornmeal and the broth and let it rest covered for an hour.
- Cook the cornmeal: Heat the cornmeal and broth over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken. Lower the heat and cook and stir until it thickens enough that it sticks to the spoon. 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.
- Assemble: 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. See notes
- Boil: Heat 2 qt [2 lt] of 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.
- Serve: Remove from the water and the husks and serve. Garnish with ketchup.