Monday, January 27, 2014

Olla de Carne, or Too Many Root Stew

Zarcero, Costa Rica is pretty cold for the tropics. The high today is 68F and the low tonight is 55F with 14 mph sustained winds. Up in the hills, they make a stew called olla de carne or (Pot of Meat). As missionaries, someone called it "Too Many Root Stew" for the high number of different tubers it contains. Since we're getting aclimated now, and the kids are using thick wool blankets in the night, I decided to make it. 

I started with a kilo (2.2 lbs) of beef chuck cut into 1 1/2" chunks. In a frying pan, I put 2 tbsp oil and added the meat coated previously seasoned with salt and black pepper. I seared them on both sides and then placed them in a crock pot, on high, with about 4 quarts of water in it, 3 tbsp granulated garlic, two onions (one rough cut & one diced into oblivion), 2 tbsp Costa Rican salt (it's like crushed sea salt), a bay leaf, 2 tbsp achiote (annatto paste), one small can of tomato paste, the juice from half of one Rangpur (limón mandarino), 4 whole stalks of coyote cilantro, and one large Yuca (cassava root) cut into large chunks. We let this cook on high for four hours.

Later, we peeled and added an ear of corn, 4 camotes, 1/4 of an ayote, 2 ñampies, 2 tiquisques, 1 chayote, 1 large carrot, 2 potatoes, and 1 green plantain, all of which were cut into 2" chunks. I also added some more salt and another 1/2 cup of water. 

We let it cook another 4 hours, then served it by pouring it over rice. It was delicious, though no one cared for tiquisques. I'll take some photos next time we make it. You could make something very similar in the States if you live close to a decent Hispanic market.

I didn't care for this so much in my youth, but at 40, it's a tasty meal (or two).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Zarcero Is Awesome!

We're now safely ensconced in the Hotel Don Beto in Zarcero, Alajuela, Costa Rica.  We're right on the main square and the children don't seem to be suffering from culture shock beyond my fixing rice and beans every day.

The town is full of friendly people who will stop me and ask me why I'm here and congratulate me on choosing their town as our temporary home.  With the lodging, cellphone, internet, and banking situations under control, the only hassle left will be getting the kids enrolled in school.  Crossing my fingers on that one.

We'll go exploring next week.  This week's been a series of mandatos (errands) and tareas (tasks) that had to be done.  In a couple of weeks, with the kids hopefully enrolled in school, we can get down to a routine that will see Mickelle and I working during the mornings and early afternoons while the kids are in school, and the afternoons spent exploring or talking with people.  I want them to have as many experiences as we can afford.  But, it's so expensive here nowadays, I don't think my budget is sound anymore.  Costa Rica is more expensive that the USA nowadays.  Everything costs more except labor.  Someone's getting rich here, but it's not the middle class.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lifelong Dream Fulfilled

Tomorrow morning, we're leaving from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport bound for Costa Rica via Miami.  All of us are going.  We're going to live in the town of Zarcero, Alajeula, Costa Rica until the end of May.  I will be researching and reading and writing, and the kids will be learning Spanish, and Mickelle will be able to work from home.  It's an adventure that my children will always remember, and a gift that I've been wanting to give them ever since they were born.

130 days in Ticolandia.  Pura vida!