Our Lady of Altagracia goes by many beautiful names including my favorite, Our Lady of Grace. She is said to watch over and protect the people of the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans see the sacred image as exemplifying how Our Lady watches over the island, nurturing the growth of Christianity there.
Legend tells us that a pious daughter of a rich merchant asked her father to bring her a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia from Santo Domingo. Wanting to please her, he went in search of the painting, but no one in Santo Domingo had heard of it. The merchant, spending the night with friends in Higuey, told them of his problem in locating the painting for his daughter. The merchant and his friends were seated outside after dinner, discussing the situation. An old man with a long beard happened to be passing by and overheard their conversation. He pulled a rolled up painting from his bundle, and gave it to the merchant, saying “This is what you are looking for.” So grateful were the merchant and his companions, that they gave the old man a place so stay for the night. By dawn, the man was gone, never to be seen again.
The merchant took the painting and placed it on the mantle in his home. Yet each night, the painting disappeared only to be found outside. Finally, the family realized they could not keep the image to themselves, and gave it to the church.
This day is filled with song, dance and merriment. What better excuse can there be to widen our culinary experience than with some traditional Dominican foods? And let’s face it, you don’t have to be Catholic or even a believer to appreciate good food.
Simple Dominican Feast
Asopano de Pollo (Pork and Chicken with Rice)
Dominican Toss Salad with Beets
Flan de Caramelo (Custard Flan with Caramel Sauce)
Asopao de Pollo
2 Smoked Pork Chops
1 whole Chicken
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Cilantro
3 teaspoon Adobo Seasoning
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 oz can Tomato Sauce
3 cups Water
2 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups Long Grain White Rice
1/2 Lime, juiced
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Butter
Handful Fresh Cilantro
Dice the pork chops, then set aside. Cut the chicken into quarters, then set aside.
Heat oil in a large stock pot and add diced pork meat. While the pork is cooking, season chicken with oregano, cilantro, adobo, and salt. Add to stock pot with tomato sauce and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, turning chicken pieces as they cook.
After 20 minutes, the chicken should be is lightly seared. Add the water, stock, rice, and lime juice. Cook uncovered for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally. (If during the cooking, you see you need extra water or the rice dries out too quickly, just had a splash of water!) Before serving, stir in olive oil and butter.
Peel and slice the avocado, chop the cilantro. Serve Asopao de Pollo topped with fresh cilantro and avocado slices.
Dominican Toss Salad
1/2 White Onion
1 cup White Vinegar
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Sea Salt to taste
Finely mince the onion. In a medium bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste. Let sit for 90 minutes for flavor to develop. Meanwhile, assemble salad.
2 Cobs of Corn
2 heads Hearts of Romaine Lettuce
1/4 head Cabbage
1 English Cucumber
Cooked Beets, optional
Place corn in a steamer or boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Strip the corn from the cob, set aside.
Chop the lettuce, place in a large bowl. Thinly slice the cabbage and cucumber. Scatter over the lettuce. Cut the tomato, add to the salad. Sprinkle corn over the salad.
Just before serving, peel and dice the avocados, add to the salad. Toss with the dressing, then garnish if desired with cooked beets.
Flan de Caramelo
1 1/2 cups Sugar
4 cups Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Maintain the boil until the water is needed. Melt 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar is a deep golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Carefully pour caramel into a 10-inch tube, or Angel Food Cake, pan. Carefully tilt the pan to evenly distribute caramel over bottom and partially up the sides of pan. (Using a hot mitt will help protect your hands from the hot sugar) Place the prepared baking pan inside a roasting pan.
In a large bowl, lightly bean the eggs. Whisk remaining cup of sugar with eggs until thick. Add milk and vanilla; whisk into a smooth custard. Pour custard into tube pan; transfer roasting pan to heated oven. Pour boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up outside of tube pan. Bake until custard is set but still slightly loose in the center, about 90 minutes.
Transfer flan to a wire rack; let cool. Chill at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Invert flan onto a serving platter. Slice into wedges and drizzle with any caramel sauce remaining in pan.