Tag Archives: Uruguay

Mom’s Clericot

26 May

It was with my mother that I’ve learned to appreciate a refreshing “clericot”.  This is a drink the British took to South America as “claret cup”, which later became “clericot”.  According to Darcy O’Neal it was the punch of choice for parties and the drink most enjoyed by the British in the 1800’s.   It’s very similar to the Spanish “sangria” and it basically consists of wine with some sort of fruit and a sweetener (usually white sugar).  Hundreds of different “sangria” and “clericot” recipes can be found on the net.  Actually in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, as far as I know, the main difference between “sangria” and “clericot” is that the later is prepared with white wine (regular and/or sparkling), while in the former reds are used.

This was my mom’s choice drink for Christmas Eve (remember that Christmas is during the Brazilian summer), and she had her own recipe, which included diced fruits (mainly fresh apples and canned peaches – thus you don’t need to add the sugar), 1 bottle of Champagne, 1 bottle of white wine (usually a Riesling), 1 bottle of sparkling mineral water and lots of ice.

A few weeks ago I was offering a Sunday lunch for some friends and decided to try something different (at least it was completely different for me).  The idea was to transform my mom’s “clericot” recipe into a dessert.

What I did, and you can try it too, was to dissolve 2 powdered neutral gelatin envelopes in 2 cups of cold water and waited it to hydrate for a couple of minutes.  I then added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and heated the mixture until the gelatin and the sugar dissolved completely (you must be careful not to overcook the gelatin, after all it’s a protein).  I then transferred it to a large bowl and added 1 bottle of Champagne (in fact I used a Spanish cava) and 1 bottle of Chardonnay.  I gently mixed everything (gently, as you won’t want to lose all the gas) and took the mixture to the refrigerator.  All this was done one day ahead.

Just before serving I diced several canned peach slices, scraped the gelatin with a fork, and arranged them (almost in layers) in white wine glasses.

Clericot gelatin

I have no reason to be modest, then let me tell you, the result was excellent.  You could even feel the bubbles as the gelatin melted in your mouth and the wines filled your tongue and palate with their distinctive and refreshing flavors.  My mom sure would have loved it.

Just remember, the alcohol is still there, thus there goes a piece of advice:  go easy on it and keep your kids away.

Clericot Gelatin

Uruguay, more than “parrillas”

25 Sep

If you’ve been following this blog you must have noticed my appreciation for a neighbouring country, Uruguay (I live in southern Brazil and only around 200 km from the Uruguayan border).  I’ve written about “parrilladas“, the national Uruguayan dish, as well as about my fishing experience in the Salto Grande dam.  Let’s return to this lovely town.

Salto (official site here – sorry, only in Spanish), was stablished in 1756 by the governor José Joaquim de Viana, who was on a mission related to the settlement of frontiers between Spanish and Portuguese colonies.  Salto faced a great population increase after 1860, with the arrival of  European settlers, specially  from Italy, Spain and Portugal.  Around Salto, one of the largest touristic destination in Uruguay, you can find several hot spring areas, particularly “Termas de Dayman” (around 15 km south of Salto) and “Termas de Arapey” (around 90 km north of Salto).

"Termas de Dayman" (hot springs around 15 km south of Salto/Uruguay)

"Termas de Dayman" (hot springs around 15 km south of Salto/Uruguay)

Today, with around 100,000 inhabitants, Salto maintains a charming and relaxing atmosphere.

Downtown Salto/Uruguay

Downtown Salto/Uruguay

Walking around downtown with my wife and some friends (Renan and Leila), on a beautiful  summer day, my attention was called by a small restaurant called “La Trattoria” (Calle Uruguay, 754 – GPS:  S31 23.245 W57 57.969), a clear reminder of the Italians who arrived after 1860.

La Trattoria - downtown Salto/Uruguay

La Trattoria - downtown Salto/Uruguay

We walked in and let me tell you, no regrets.  The food was very well prepared and the house wine just up to the Uruguayan tradition.  One distinctive feature of Uruguayan wine production is the Tannat, a red grape generally ignored in the rest of the New World but very important in this small and wonderful country.  It matched just fine the meat lasagna (a la Bolognesa), plenty of muzzarela and a rich tomato sauce.  Final price? Around US$12,00/person, wine included.

Lasagna form "La Trattoria" - Salto/Uruguay

Lasagna form "La Trattoria" - Salto/Uruguay

The whole experience in Salto was a definitive proof that Uruguay has much more to offer than just “parrilladas” (although they continue to be my favorite Uruguayan creation).

Tannat Grapes on Foodista
Lasagna on Foodista

Grilling Gold in Uruguay

3 Jul

I’ve already posted a few lines on this wonderful Uruguayan invention, the “parrilla” (See “Parrillada in Uruguay“), a traditional system for preparing the not less marvelous Uruguayan beef. But, there is much more.

One of the activities I enjoy is fishing, what I usually do at Cassino Beach (GPS 32”.162283 Lat. S, 52.110901 Long. W), the largest beach in the world, extending for over 200 km, from the Patos Lagoon estuary to the Chuy River, at the Brazilian border with Uruguay. This time I decided to try my luck with freshwater fishes, and thus headed to the city of Salto (GPS 31.389126 Lat. S, 57.958374 Long. W), right beside the Uruguay River, which separates Uruguay and Argentina. The reason is the existence of the “Salto Grande” dam, an hydroelectric plant shared by these 2 countries, as it has created an excellent environment for fishing “dourados” (in Portuguese) or “dorados” (in Spanish).

Salto Grande dam at the Uruguay River (border between Uruguay and Argentina), during low water

Salto Grande dam at the Uruguay River (border between Uruguay and Argentina), during low water

“Dourado”, wich means “golden”, is also known as the “tiger of the river” or “tiger-fish” due to its voracious appetite. Its scientific name is Salminus brasiliensis (but also known as Salminus maxillosus or Salminus affinis), which means “little salmon from Brazil”. In fact, it belongs to a quite different fish group, being much more related to the piranhas than to salmons and trouts, although they play a similar biological role in the environment (same niche). It’s very appreciated in sport fishing due to its bravery and resistance, as well as its size (it may reach up to 20 kg).

Enough of information, lets fish. Well, after spending a whole morning on a small boat on the Uruguay River, just beside the Salto Grande dam, one 4 kg fellow decided to bite my hooks. Wonderful catch.

No, I'm not lying.  And here is the proof.

No, I'm not lying. And here is the proof (note the beautiful golden color = dourado)

What to do with it? As we were in Uruguay, grill in a “parrilla”, of course. And so it was. We (our friends Renan and Leila, my wife and I) brushed the fish with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper only, lighted a good wooden fire in a “parrilla”, and put the fish to grill over the charcoal for a few of minutes. Impossible to have a fresher dinner.

Grilling the golden tiger in a "parrilla"

Grilling the golden tiger in a "parrilla"

The taste was mild and clean, and was matched with a demi-sec Spanish cava.

Although we were fishing in fresh water the price was rather salty, as the fish alone costed US$ 160,00 (the cost for renting the boat and the fishing gear for me and my friend). There was also the cava, salad, wood…..well, you can add this up, if you care to know the total amount spent. But I bet you won’t get it right, as I can’t even imagine the price of the adventure, the taste and specially of the good memories.

Parrillada in Uruguay

1 Jun

You may throw the first stone if your mouth has never watered with the sight of a perfectly grilled New York strip or  rump steak. Well, if you are in Uruguay I`m 100% sure that no stones will be thrown, as it is virtually impossible to resist a “parrillada”.  Grilling is taken so seriously in Uruguay that even before building their own houses they build the “parrillas” (the grills).

A typical home "parrilla"

A typical home "parrilla"

But what makes the Uruguayans “parrillas” so special?  As Chuck Stull summarizes, describing the process, as developed by his friend Tito:  “As the logs burn, (in the firebox on the left) coals drop onto the brick floor of the “parrilla”. Tito then uses a poker to spread the coals under the grate holding the food. Fewer coals (on the right side of the grill) keep the temperature lower for slow cooking. Closer to the fire, it’s hotter. The grate can also be angled upward for more temperature control. New logs in the firebox replenish the supply of hot coals, so extended cooking is straightforward. Potatoes go on top of the grill wrapped in foil and sweet potatoes go directly into the coals under the fire. Everything tastes great.”

Since the food is cooked only on fully burned charcoal, there is less smoke and hence the taste is much more preserved.

Commercial “parrillas” are, of course, much larger than the one depicted in the above picture, and can be found all over Uruguay.  All I have to do is to drive a couple of hours (as I live a little bit more than 200 km from the Uruguayan border) and find myself in the city of Chuy where I can mix pleasure with pleasure, that is, I can simultaneously enjoy a “parrilla” and do some wonderful shopping.

Chuy is a small town with a population of around 10,000.  Although rather small it’s a busy commercial area, as the government allowed the existence of several duty-free shops, making the trip a not to be missed opportunity for buying electronics, perfumes and, what brings me here most often, wine (specially from Chile and Argentina, but also from Italy, France and a few other countries).

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

What I usually come here for

What I usually come here for

The “parrillas” found in Chuy are not among the best ones, specially considering what you can find in Montevideo, for example (I’ll write a bit about them at another occasion), but the meat in Uruguay is always of top quality.  This time I went to “Entrecot”, a new “parrilla” right at the main street (Av. Brasil – GPS: 33.693023 Lat S, 53.452445 Long W) (Please, check the “update” at the end of this post).

To prepare a “parrillada” all you need is good meat (Uruguay is plenty of that), sea salt and the “parrilla”, of course.  If you want to see a movie on the process take a look at http://comida-y-bebida.practicopedia.com/como-hacer-una-parrillada-326

For lunch I had some traditional cuts, like ribs and a New York strip, and also adventured myself into “rinones” (kidneys), “chinchulin” (intestines) “molleja” (tymus gland) (these are the first 3 meats put on the grill in the above video) and “morcilla” (blood sausage).

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

Overview of available cuts

Overview of available cuts

A few cuts to start with

A few cuts to start with

We paid US$ 15,00/person for a service of the type “eat as much as you can”, including beer.  A real bargain.

UPDATE: Last weekend (December 5th, 2009) I’ve returned to Chuy looking for some Christmas gifts, and once again had lunch at “Entrecot”.  Don’t waste your time, the place is simply terrible now.  Bad, really bad.  Guess I’ll have to look for other options.  It seems that “Spetu’s”, on the Brazilian side of the border, is the place to eat now.  Haven’t been there though.

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