Pan de País
I read a New York Times article this morning that made me stop and think. I'm rounding out my 7th year abroad. Although not contiguous years, so much of what the author writes is familiar. While we differ because I've never lived in Europe, my assignments are always in the developing world. Before you cluck your tongue and think, oh that poor woman, it's ok. Really. While living in a European city with the most up to date design and fashion and more incredible restaurants than imaginable or walking down the street into a building that should be designated a museum just due to it's age, art, and preservation sounds idyllic to me at times, experiencing the world without "everything at my fingertips" and the challenge of trying to find access to something simple like a good crusty loaf of artisan bread is always what makes the experience unforgettable and one that I don't want to give up.
I woke up last weekend with a craving for a BLT -- Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich -- for those of you not familiar with this rather American -- excuse me -- North American treat.
When I realized this craving had to be satisfied, I knew it meant I'd have to make a loaf of bread. And that's just what I did. I pulled out the Jim Leahy No Knead Bread recipe I learned about when I was working at and teaching classes at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago. My friend Stephanie from CopyKat.com recently posted a video showing how to make it.
This would be an all day affair, but so worth it. As it turns out, I didn't pull the loaf out of the oven until just before midnight so that right out of the oven, burn your tongue on a steaming hot, yeasty slice of bread had to wait. But I went to bed happy, knowing I would soon have the makings of a beautiful BLT.
And better yet, after a delicious BLT lunch, I would fire up the grill and serve the most sublime grilled garlic, tomato and olive oil bruschetta I've had in a very long time. I totally forgot I was anywhere near Central America, until I stepped outside to the balcony, heard the sounds of the jungle and felt the sweat beading up on my forehead as I watched the Pan de País turn golden, crusty brown with the smell of fresh garlic and the dripping red tomatoes and olive oil slithering down the sides of the crust.
There was one problem. One loaf, 3 dinner guests, lunch during the week and a client breakfast and the bread was gone inside a week.
So I fixed it. I made another loaf this weekend. It's all sliced and in the freezer ready for whatever needs a slice or two of bread, but not before a BLT for brunch this morning and that BLT made a great breakfast!
We had visitors in this week and they asked one of the ultimate expat questions -- What do I miss most? What can't I find here? Well, now I have the bread situation beat, so it's on to fresh seafood. Yes, we are close to the ocean. It's on both coasts. We are bordered by the Caribbean/Atlantic and the Pacific, yet finding fresh fish and shellfish is impossible in San Pedro. Sure, I can get it, but the shrimp is frozen and probably re-frozen who knows how many times, as is the fish. I've tried the salmon from our version of Costco -- Price Smart. It appears to be flash frozen, but was so tough it was almost inedible. There is Talapia galore, but I have concerns about where it comes from. Most Talapia we purchase in the US is farmed, but I don't know about Honduras. I spend my days trying to keep my stomach in check which is a never-ending battle, so I avoid Talapia or most any fish here. I'm pretty militant about it just as I was when living in far from the ocean in the Philippines. Living at least an hour from the coast and not seeing a heck of a lot of refrigerated food trucks around, it's just one of those things I shy away from.
So yes, I crave food from the ocean. I'd give my right arm for a pot of tender, sweet mussels or a big bowl of Zuppa de Clams with a couple of slices of that bread above with a fresh garlic clove rubbed on it before a quick run under the broiler to dip in the broth from these mollusks. This recipe here is close to my mom's, but we don't use the anchovies. It has a tablespoon of tomato paste in its place. I don't think the extra fish punch is necessary and our recipe calls for red wine. I didn't move that hand written cookbook with me, so IF there were fresh clams here I'd have to guess, but it's a simple recipe and you can't go too wrong.
The other thing I miss? Anyone I work with can tell you -- Asian food! Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese. You name it, I want it. I have helped satisfy the craving with home made versions of Chicken with Thai Basil and Ginger. Wonton Soup. Fried Wontons, Steamed Dumplings and there are a couple of restaurants that serve sushi, but it's not really sushi. It's the American version of sushi -- rolls, rolls and more rolls.
Almost every piece of sushi I've tried has a swath of cream cheese incorporated into it. I'd like a nice oval of flavorful sushi rice, a schmear of fresh, hot wasabi, not cut with something to tame it and a slice of the freshest tuna.
I'm going to Denver for a couple of nights next week and the first night we are on our own. I had crazy-good sushi the last time I was in Denver, so I'll be checking the address and hoping it's not too far from the hotel.
One thing I am not craving is driving. I haven't mentioned this part of expat life in Honduras -- it's been just about TWO YEARS since I've been behind the wheel. Ok, that's an exaggeration -- I drove myself around for a couple of days the last time I was in DC in February. I have no idea where I am in Denver so I don't plan to rent a car. Getting behind the wheel in an unfamiliar city after 2 years of forced vehicular abstinence, sitting behind the wheel instead of behind the driver is not a good idea for anyone in Denver. Trust me.