Here is a list of ingredients that you’ll need to prepare this Christmas-time staple:
- 3 packs (~500g each) of frozen banana leaves (this can be found at Fiesta Food)
- Cooking twine
- 1 package (~1kg) of pre-cooked cornmeal (Harina P.A.N. or Masarepa) Yellow is preferable
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (divide into two 1/4 cups. Use one 1/4 cup for the masa and 1/4 for the ensemble of the Hallacas)
- 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 green onion
- 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper cut in Juliane style
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 pound of ground beef, pork cooked and cut into small cubes, and chicken breast (cooked separately)
- 3 beef bouillon cubes and 1 chicken bouillon
- ¼ cup of capers
- ¼ cup of raisins
- 1 jar of green olives
- 4 medium white potatoes diced and boiled
- 1 can of garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup of red wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
PREP THE BANANA LEAVES
To prepare the hallacas, we start with the leaves that are essential to the dish. They are the ones that give them that distinctive flavor, the natural essence of the leaves. A true flavor of the earth!
It is important to wipe the banana leaves with a damp cloth, even if they are from a package indicating they are clean. Be careful handling them as they are very fragile and can easily break.
Once clean, cut them into approximately 12×12, and save any small ones, as they can always be used for the wrapping!
MAKE THE GUISO
Here is a quick start; however, you should follow your own way to make a stew pretty much. It should not be much of a liquid in it.
Put the chicken in a pot, cover it with water, and add one chicken bouillon. Once cooked, let cool, remove the chicken to shred, and save the caldo for the masa.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the chopped onion and garlic; let cook until the onion is translucent. Add the ground beef and the beef bouillon. Cook well and add the pork already cooked and cut into small cubes. Once all mixed, add the chopped green onion, capers, raisins, and potatoes; add enough water to keep the guiso moist while cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow about 30 minutes to cook. Remove from heat and set to the side.
MAKE THE MASA
Follow the instruction on the package, add the brown sugar, and use the caldo in replacement of the water.
Place the whole package of Harina P.A.N or Masarepa in a large bowl. You can use a mixer using the bread paddle. Add 1/4 of oil, brown sugar, and the warm caldo from the chicken. The liquid should be enough to cover all the harina and be able to mix well and have a soft dough. The masa should not be dry. Knead for about 2-3 minutes until soft and easy to handle. Once ready, make balls the size of a tennis ball. You may get from 35 to 40 balls, depending on the size.
ASSEMBLE THE HALLACAS
Take one of the 12×12 leaves and oil it with your fingers. Place the ball of masa and use a clear plastic paper to cover the masa, and with a rolling pin, stretch the masa creating a rectangle making sure the masa is about 2 millimeters. Place about two tablespoons of guiso, one slice of each color of the bell peppers and one olive, then proceed to close the hallacas by holding the front and back of the leave and make a fold as if you would be wrapping a present; bring it down creating a rectangle. Then fold the sides closed to the area where the guiso starts.
Take another leaf to wrap, and using the cooking twine, wrap them by creating a hashtag sign. Start by passing the twine from the longest side of the hallaca and cross it to the shorter side. Put aside. Put a large pot to boil water and put them to cook. If using a large pot, 10 hallacas can be cooked at a time. Boil them for 2 minutes. Once ready, set aside and let rest before refrigerating.
To eat, carefully unwrap them like a present, opening the leaf pocket that will serve as a plate. Eat warm and enjoy!
STORE THE HALLACAS
You can keep them in the refrigerator for a month, and freeze them for up to 3 months. To warm, you can use boiling water, put them in the oven, or better, microwave them for 2 minutes. Let rest before opening to avoid being burned.
Thank you for reading about my family’s traditions!
What traditions are part of your family’s holidays?