Honduran food is made by creating magic out of simplicity. Every region has its own specialties; from the Pacific Coast’s famous seafood to San Pedro Sula’s Pollo Chuco, two things unite all typical dishes: they are amazing, and they are made with what we have.
At Casita Copán we enjoy this delicious cuisine daily. Baleadas, Pupusas or Empanadas as they are known in Copan (probably confusing a lot of South American tourists) and other treats are mainstays in our kitchen. Our amazing cook, Glenda, manages to create nutritious and traditional dishes every day, for only $.50 per child. Oftentimes the kids will eat less typical foods like Chow Mein or Pizza, but it always has a Honduran twist (I’m looking at you, Tacos de Espagueti).
Maybe you can’t travel to Honduras, but you can definitely bring a piece of Honduras into your home with these three recipes that you can create with common ingredients found at most US supermarkets.
It is not like a big taco. It is not like a burrito. It is a Baleada, and it is perfection. The secret is in the home-made flour tortilla. The classical one is just the tortilla, the beans and the mantequilla y queso, but you can use these three ingredients as a base to make your dinner go from zero to artery-clogging hero by adding chorizo, ham, fried plantains or anything else you may have laying around.
4 cups of white flour
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2.5 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
.5 cup of water
Queso Fresco (if this is unavailable, Feta cheese is a good substitute)
Mix all the ingredients minus the water in a bowl that is big, and deep.
Knead the flour slowly, and simultaneously add water until the dough is soft and it stops sticking to your hands. Divide the dough cutting it into little balls (about the size of what would fit in your hand) and let the dough sit, covered with a cloth or towel, for 15 to 30 minutes.
Heat up your comal –or if you don’t have one, a flat non-stick pan will work – while you start stretching out the little dough balls, hitting it with both hands to give them the shape of a tortilla. You can also use a rolling pin to stretch them out.
When it is finally tortilla-shaped (or as close to that as you can get it), put it on the comal or pan; it’s gotta be hot! Remember that a good tortilla always inflates, but don’t worry if it does not happen your first time; this requires practice. Flip the tortillas after about ten seconds so both sides are cooked. The experts do it with their bare hands, but you can use a spatula if you prefer. After about ten to fifteen seconds on each side, your tortilla is ready.
After you’ve made a few, you can keep them wrapped in a cloth or towel, since a sealed container will trap moisture and will make them mushy. Heat up the beans, and spread them on the tortilla and sprinkle on the cheese and a dollop of sour cream and Cheque! You have made a Baleada. Add eggs, avocado, meat or anything else your heart desires.
Casita Tip: The water can be substituted with coconut milk for a softer, flakier tortilla.
Arroz Con Pollo
At the intersection of nutritious, delicious and economic we find Arroz Con Pollo, a Honduran staple, especially when feeding a large family. The following is just one way of making it; the preparation varies according to the person who makes it, and you can mix and match vegetables as you wish. Throw a little seafood in there and you have a Central American Paella. The one thing every Honduran knows for sure is that the one made at their house is the best one there is.
3 pounds of chicken, whatever pieces you prefer
2 cups of uncooked rice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
1 cup of peas
1 tablespoon of annatto (for color)
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
3 garlic clothes, diced
3 tablespoons of butter or oil
1 white onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 peeled tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of chicken stock
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Mix the garlic, annatto, cumin, salt and pepper to make a dry rub. Rub on the chicken. Heat up the oil at medium heat in a deep, big pan and add the pieces of chicken (skin down) and cook until they are golden on both sides.
Add the onion, tomatoes, pepper, celery, and cook for ten minutes will stirring.
Add one cup of white wine, cook for 20 to 25 minutes at low heat until the liquid is reduced to about half. Stir frequently.
Add the chicken stock, rice, peas and carrots. Mix well.
Cover and cook at a medium temperature for 20 minutes. Reduce heat and cook at low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the rice is firm but tender.
Sprinkle cilantro on top and serve.
Casita Tip: Arroz con Pollo is perfect for carbo-loading before doing a marathon fundraiser!
Where is Tres Leches from, you might ask? The answer will depend on the nationality of the Latinx person you are asking. My answer: Tres Leches is best enjoyed with a nice cup of hot Honduran coffee.
Since Tres Leches is very easy to make, the recipe can be pretty standard. This one is a good start, but you can add cinnamon and nutmeg to the “milks” to give it a deeper taste. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, we recommend a sprinkle of ginger and cardamom. And finally if you’re feeling lazy, a box of Yellow Cake Mix can significantly shorten your preparation time for this dessert!
Casita Tip: Make this at your next bake-sale fundraiser! Just make sure to serve it in plates as it is quite a wet cake.