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How to make Venezuelan Hallacas

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"Huele a Navidad!". Criollo words for "Christmas is in the air". You will hear them when the scent of banana leaves and guiso fill the air across Venezuelan kitchens. It means Hallacas are cooking in the stock pot.

Hallacas are corn dough patties filled with stewed beef, chicken, pork, capers, olives and raisins. They are traditionally served with chicken salad and ham bread over Christmas time in Venezuela.

The making of hallacas marks the start of the holiday season. Family members and friends come together while traditional drinks (Ponche Crema) and music (gaitas) contribute to the festive atmostphere. It is customary for families and friends to exchange hallacas and to offer them to all visitors over the month of December. Friendly rivalry over whose hallacas are the best is part of the holiday culture, and you can often hear the popular expression, “La mejor hallaca la hace mi mama - The best hallaca is the one my mama makes.”

Did you start making your hallacas yet? Recruit a couple of friends and cousins to take part in the assembly line, and have your own Hallaca Making party!

This and other recipes at www.criollocookbook.com and facebook.com/criollocookbook

Guiso (filling)
1.5 lbs pork roast, diced
3 lbs beef roast, diced
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
1 lb bacon, finely chopped
1 lb onion, finely chopped
½ cup garlic, minced
1 lb leek
½ lb green onion
1.5 lbs red pepper
2 cups red wine
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup capers
1 cup raisins, soaked in red wine
Mustard, Salt, Pepper, Cumin and Workshire sauce and hot sauce to taste
- Sautee bacon and add onions, garlic, leek, green onions and red pepper for 10 minutes
- Season diced steak, chicken and pork with mustard, salt, pepper, cumin, workshire sauce and red wine to taste.
- Add meats to veggies and season with hot sauce to taste.
- Add raisins, cappers and molasses and simmer until meat is tender. Let cool.

Dough
3 packs of corn flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup oil with onoto (also known as annato or achiote)
- Mix chicken stock, salt, molasses and onoto.
- Slowly add flour and work into a soft dough.
- Divide dough into golf sized balls. Cover and set aside.

Toppings and Assembly
1 lb red, yellow and/or green pepper, julienned
1 lb white onion, cut into rings
1 cup pepper-filled olives
1 cup raisins
1 lb boneless chicken
Vegetable oil coloured with onoto
4 packs banana leaves
White cooking string
- Poach chicken breasts in water for 20 mins and let cool. Pull apart into strings and set aside.
- Wash some banana leaves, cut the stem out and divide in 15-inch wide rectangles.
- Dip each ball of dough in some coloured vegetable oil.
- Flatten ball on a single leaf.
- Add a scoop of stew, 2 pepper slices, 1 white onion ring, 1 olive, 2 raisin, a few chicken strings.
- Fold into a rectangle and wrap in a second leaf.
- Tie with string and cook on boiling water for about 20 mins. Serve on a single banana leaf.


Video Credits

Directed by L. Fernando Gonzalez
Videography by Jesus Rivera
Edited by L. Fernando Gonzalez

Cook: L. Fernando Gonzalez
Assistant Cooks: Adam Barrieau, Emily Morales, Evelyn Marin, Jesus Rivera
Song: "Summertime (Redux)" by Nicolai Heidlas

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