04 September 2007

Naomi's Take on Taku: Peruvian Comfort Food Reconstructed

New Englanders have hash, The English have Bubble and Squeak. Peruvians... well, Peruvians take comfort food to a whole nother level. Taku Taku, which is a sort of leftovers-done-over was originally a Creolle food (read:slave) but it's been adopted by the richest, smarmiest restaurants in the United States (granted, they serve it with foi gras or some other ridiculous accompaniment).

Essentially taku taku in its original glory, is mashed beans and rice, seasoned with all kinds of oniony/saffrony goodness, fried until it has a crisp crust, and topped with a fried egg and plantains. If you're into over easy or 'up' eggs, it's a textural mouth-orgy waiting to happen.

I happen to think that the original presentation of taku taku is ugly as sin, and the preparation is ridiculously long and exhausting; so I took it upon myself to reconstruct the recipe for a friendlier, more attractive approach.

For those of you familiar with Puerto Rican Quisine, this has a similar feel and taste to Mofongo (but without the intense garlic overkill). Which means that it's notoriously heavy and filling.

A few notes on AUTHENTICITY:
CANARY beans are an absolute must for this recipe, at least if you want to be authentic. I dunno, after cooking, it seemed like they were terribly close to Great Northern Beans or even Limas; but I don't want to offend any purists more than I already am, so... use Canary Beans. :)

Naturally I didn't use the authentic pork fat and bits because a) pork is nasty and b) this IS a vegetarian blog. You can find plenty of real, pork-happy taku taku recipes on the net, if you want. Knock yourself out.

Aji Amarillo (which, to the best of my knowledge is a peruvian yellow pepper sauce) is hard to obtain here, so we used a regular yellow pepper, sauted and pureed, instead.

Here's my recipe, in any case:

Taku Taku Reconstructed
1 pound canary beans, soaked overnight and cooked till soft.
3 c cooked rice

4 tbsp olive oil
1 very large onion, minced into very fince fragments (we used a food processor)
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp American saffron (annato)

1 yellow pepper, sauteed in olive oil till very soft and pureed in a blender till smooth
more olive oil

very ripe, sliced Plantains

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare four oven safe soup bowls or casseroles on a cookie sheet.

In a small saucepan saute the minced onion and garlic in the olive oil, and add the annato, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, until soft. Remove half of the mixture and set aside.

Add the yellow pepper puree to the mixture that remains in the pan, along with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Turn up the heat to medium high.

In the food processor, or by hand, mash the beans until they're a chunky paste. add to the mixture in the pan and stir for several minutes, until the paste begins to thicken. Add the rice, and stir some more. When the mixture looks like it's starting to brown/stick to the bottom of the pan, carefully spoon the mixture into the bowls and set them in the oven. Bake for at least 30 minutes, or until a golden crust forms. (this took me 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, fry plantains in butter or oil until caremelized.
About 3-5 minutes before taku is done, fry your eggs.

Slip the taku taku onto a plate, cover with an egg and some of the reserved onion sauce. Add plantains to the dish, and serve.

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