How to prepare it and not die trying
Christmas is undoubtedly a time to share either with friends or family, and just as we share the table, at the table we also share several dishes that separately do not have a special meaning but when they are together, no matter where we are . we find, they represent the characteristic unity of this time of year. In a complex combination of flavors that can feel overwhelming to any foreigner, Venezuelans get the comfort and warmth of home. We are going to describe it and help you make its preparation more bearable.
By Verónika Popic
What are the main members of the Venezuelan Christmas table?
There is no doubt that the main protagonist of the Venezuelan Christmas ritual is the hallaca , of complex preparation, but which represents for many of us love and family unity, corn dough that embraces a stew with the particular seasoning of each family wrapped in banana leaves. . If you want to know more about such an important Venezuelan dish, be sure to read this article .
The hallaca is not alone on the main days of celebration, it is accompanied by 3 actors who we could call additional because they have nothing secondary, these are, in no particular order, the roast pork, the chicken salad and the inevitable ham bread , although some remove the raisins and others the olives, there is no diner who can resist it.
The baked pernil is a piece of pork leg (with or without bone) that is marinated in a sauce according to the seasoning of each family from the day before, in mine there is no shortage of garlic, ginger, cumin, oregano and orange juice to give it a sweet touch and bake at low temperature for at least 5 hours. The best part is the leftovers, if they don't end before, to prepare some delicious arepas for breakfast the next day.
The delicious chicken salad , which in my house was my grandmother's responsibility, is a basic mixture of boiled and shredded chicken, potatoes, carrots and peas with a dressing based on mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. You can also have pieces of green apple to give it a crunchy touch or pineapple in syrup. Nowadays it is also prepared with chicken breast for practicality. My recommendation to make it delicious is that you save the broth where you boiled the hen or chicken and cook the potatoes and carrots in it, you will see that they will have much more flavor than if you boil it in simple water.
And last, but not least, the food that occupies a large piece of my heart, ham bread , which was invented in Caracas at the Ramella bakery, by Dr. Lucas Ramella of Italian origin, in 1905 and which It evolved thanks to competition between bakeries to what we know now with its raisins and olives. Much has been written about this dish, here is this article by gastronomic journalist Miro Popić if you want to know more about its history.
Other members that cannot be missed.
Other components that cannot be missing from the Venezuelan Christmas table are desserts, mainly on these dates we like to enjoy a delicious lechesa sweet , which begins with a very very green lechesa and that after spending a night “in the serene” and in the At least 3 hours of cooking in a melt of water and paper with spices, it becomes a translucent delicacy worth licking your fingers, it is also accompanied by the complex black cake, which although its origin is not Venezuelan, has been adopted in the majority of homes and is characterized by its deep flavor in combination with candied fruits macerated in rum, the longer the better.
And to drink, you cannot miss the creamy Ponche Crema , a cousin of donkey milk, patented in 1900 by Eliodoro Gonzalez in the city of Caracas, this Ponche Crema is the one that has been marketed since then with the same brand and the same formula for its offspring, yes, this does not eliminate the existence of homemade or artisanal versions, made with eggs, condensed milk and rum.
And let's not forget the sought-after buns , at least in my house, although they are not part of the Christmas table per se , they are part of December breakfasts almost daily. These are prepared by mixing the remaining mass of the hallacas with the rest of the stew, decorations and so on, a slightly soft dough is formed and wrapped in the banana leaves that were no longer used for the hallacas, they are steamed the same. that you find them and they are ready to consume at any time. There are those who like them spicy like my dad and my husband, so in my house half of the dough is prepared without spicy and the other with, we tie an extra straw to the latter so we can identify them. If you didn't have time to make hallacas, but you still want to enjoy them, you can order these frozen ones from Zerpa's Antojos criollos that you can receive frozen at the door of your house.
Tips for a smooth Christmas dinner
Without a doubt, the key to celebrating a Christmas dinner without setbacks, as far as food is concerned, is planning. Most of the dishes on the Christmas table require more than a day of preparation, such as hallacas and pernil , others at least a day, such as ham bread or chicken salad , so I am going to give you some recommendations. so that that special day of celebration does not become a race against time.
It is obvious that you are not going to prepare the hallacas the same day, but they will already be ready and you will only need to heat them in a pot with boiling water at least 40 minutes before sitting down to eat, you can already have your pot prepared with the amount of water necessary on the burner depending on the amount of hallacas you are going to heat, you turn it on between an hour or an hour and a half before sitting down to eat. To open them more easily after heating and draining, cut one of the side ends lengthwise with scissors so you can remove it without having to unwrap it completely. It will save you a lot of time when opening them and throwing the remaining leaves in the trash. If you are one of those who like hallaca served in a leaf, like my mom, you can have some clean pieces of banana leaf reserved to put on the plate where you are going to serve them and you will only have to place the hot hallaca on it .
For the pork , which requires a day of marinating and then at least 5 hours in the oven to achieve the softness that characterizes it, it is important to organize. The day before dinner you should let it marinate and let it be the first thing to bake early in the morning. After it has come out of the oven and you have let it rest for about 15 minutes so that it maintains its juices, you can slice it and place it inside. from the same source where you baked it and cover it with its sauce and aluminum foil (very important so that it does not dry out) and keep it in the turned-off oven until dinner time. All you have to do is turn it on a few minutes before dinner for it to regain heat and be ready to serve.
Ham bread, due to its complexity, is one of the dishes that people usually buy and that I consider a very wise decision since nowadays it is available in many cities abroad. In my case, because it is my specialty, I like to prepare it on same day and what I do is make the dough right after the pork enters the oven so that it can complete its first rise (and take advantage of the warmth of the kitchen), then you work on the chicken salad , and then assemble the breads and let them ferment again so that they are ready to go into the oven once the pork has come out. You can also bake it days before and freeze it, and then just defrost it on the day of dinner by heating it in the oven.
As far as chicken salad is concerned, since it is a dish that is eaten cold, I recommend that you have all the ingredients that require boiling already cooked separately from the day before and that after having prepared the dough for the bread of ham , cut the apples or the fruit of your choice to avoid oxidation just before mixing and dressing, to store it to rest in the refrigerator already decorated in the dish where it will be served.
I know it sounds overwhelming, but I want you to know that not having time to cook does not limit wanting to share a good Christmas table with loved ones , so if this is your case I recommend that you buy this Christmas combo for 10 people through our portal. which includes 10 hallacas, 1 portion of pernil and 1 ham bread, which you can complete with this dulce de leche and this cream punch , which although it does not have alcohol, you can make it yourself at home with a delicious Venezuelan rum.
And finally, your eating style does not have to limit you on these dates since we have various options such as these vegetarian hallacas or these other vegan ones and this vegan ham bread or this vegan chicken salad