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Today in Montevideo is rainy and cold – great weather for writing, but admittedly not too many other things. Because it is winter here, my thoughts have often been in Costa Rica where it was always warm – sometimes too warm – and on some of the food that I miss from our time there.

Hence, today begins a series of posts on some Costa Rican comida tipica (typical food) that I loved and that I think everybody should try!

A word on Costa Rican food as a whole: if you’ve ever been to a Central American country, this won’t surprise you, but it is no joke that the people of this region really do often eat some incarnation of rice and beans at every single meal of the day. Even dishes that you wouldn’t think would have rice and beans, like soup, have rice and beans. Appropriately, both of the dishes I made, gallo pinto and casado, include rice and beans.

Casado (“married” in Spanish) is a traditional, inexpensive, fairly unavoidable lunch plate. In Costa Rica, there is an abundance of small, local, non-chain restaurants are called “sodas,” and each one undoubtedly has casados on the menu, but each one does it a little differently. As if “married” to each other, however, certain components are always included: rice and beans (surprise surprise), “salad,” some kind of meat (pork, chicken, steak, unidentified meatballs, sometimes fish), and fried plantains. Salads vary widely and can be anything from shredded cabbage and red onion to shredded lettuce with a tomato slice on top. Depending on the soda, a drink of some kind of fresh fruit might also be included, and possibly a tortilla or picadas (chopped veggies).

The first step to building a casado is to marinate the meat of your choice with:

Costa Rican Meat Marinade

Before I tried it, I was incredulous about this marinade. I made some adjustments to a base recipe that I found here: http://www.food.com/recipe/costa-rican-marinade-305170 and I thought to myself that there was no way all the sodas I went to were actually ahead of the game enough to marinate their meat. But I tried it anyway, and I was shocked when I smelled the mixture when I took it out of the refrigerator. The smell alone was immediately identifiable as Costa Rican! After cooking the meat that I marinated, Kevin and I decided that it was definitely “right.”

Costa Rican Casado Meat Marinade

Can be used for up to 3 pounds of meat

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/3 cup lime juice

1/3 cup tomato juice

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1) Add all ingredients to a resealable plastic bag – give it a few good shakes until you are satisfied that everything is mixed together well.

2) Add desired meat (I used pork and it was wonderful) and knead with your hands to make sure the marinade is covering all the desired surfaces. Let marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, but not more than 24.

Image

I recommend slicing whatever meat you use into individual “steaks” so there is more surface area for the marinade to soak into. For the next part of the process, you will want to make sure that the steaks are not thicker than 3/4-1 inch.

 note: DON’T use this marinade for fish. It has a high acid content, and the fish will be ceviche within a few hours 🙂

A funny anecdote – when I was shopping for ingredients this Sunday at the farmer’s market, I accidentally bought parsley thinking it was cilantro. Look how much alike they are!

Like, the same.

Like, the same.

Funnily enough, the food.com recipe calls for parsley OR cilantro. Not to throw shade at the author of this recipe, but I really can’t see how those flavors are interchangeable. So I used both, and as noted, it definitely tastes “right.”

Stay tuned for the next steps to building a casado, coming tomorrow!next week!

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