Letting Life Lead
A while ago I said I would update my adventures in munchupa when I could find all the ingredients.
Well, I’ve done it.
It wasn’t easy.
I had to go to five stores in my area to find all the ingredients. Where I grew up — one store is all you need. Hrmph.
I found chourico at one store, manioc in another, had to drive clear across town and go to three stores to find samp (cracked dried hominy corn). And on top of that, I couldn’t find the right “sweet tasting potato”. I thought it was batata, but I might have bought the wrong kind or it was a bad one. It’s a Puerto Rican potato, but they don’t label it that way in the stores, dammit.
I have to disclaimer and say that this is not exactly my grandmother’s munchupa. But that’s okay. This is a kitchen sink stew and you use what you have, not always what you prefer. I am happy to report that I finally figured out how to properly use manioc/cassava/yucca in it the way I remember. My grandmother doesn’t always put manioc in it, and when I do it disintegrates. This time a vague childhood memory became understandable. What I am remembering is manioc dumplings. Duh.
Cue the brass horns!
I won’t disclose how many times I made this and didn’t know that. No wonder I like korean dubokki so much. It has that soft, chewy texture that I remember! Thank you Google for the recommendation when I was searching for “what am I doing wrong with manioc”. I didn’t put enough salt and I might add some green onion next time. They are your dumplings so go ahead and experiment.
Before we get into the “hows” of this dish. I need to discuss corn.
You ask: What is wrong with you woman? Why do you have all that in your cupboard?
Look, people, when I find an ingredient in a store around here that isn’t common. I buy it. Yeah, I bought six bags of samp. I keep my hard-to-find flours and grains in the freezer or in the case of samp a cool cubboard. Oh, the Yoki brand there isn’t corn, it is actually manioc flour (which is yuka/cassava); the same root where tapioca pearls and tapioca starch comes from. If you are going to buy manioc/cassava/yuka flour, be careful because there is the flour, seasoned flour, and then there is starch (read the packages carefully).
First, let’s discus the difference between hominy corn and corn meal. Corn is a food of the Americas and it made its way to Africa and Europe.
Hominy corn is dent (field) corn (soft creamy starch) treated with slaked lime (or other alkaline solution). This is nixtamalization and it releases Niacin. This gives this starchy corn a very distinct flavor. True southern grits are made of fine ground hominy (stone ground has the germ intact and has more nutrients) and takes at least forty-five minutes to cook (rather like Arborio rice). Instant grits are ground and pre-cooked similar Cream of Wheat. Hominy is what is needed to make fresh Masa or Masa Harina (Masa Flour) for tortillas. Dried cracked hominy is also known as “samp” (what I use for this dish), but you won’t see it labeled that way. You can also get it whole and dried, however, it will take longer to cook. It also comes canned and labeled as white or yellow hominy (the Goya brand labels it also as Posole).
Polenta (the Italian kind) is made of flint (Indian) corn (its a harder, less creamy starch) and has not undergone nixtamalization. Essentially, it is boiled cornmeal porridge or mush. Although, in the United States polenta and grits are labeled interchangeably they are not the same. If you want to make polenta and can’t find it in the store, don’t worry, you can use cornmeal. If you want to make grits, on the other hand, you need hominy corn not regular cornmeal.
Just so you know if you want to make arepas or cuscuz (another post) you need pre-cooked cornmeal (essentially a cooked cornmeal mush that has then been dried and packaged and looks like finely ground flour. It is not hominy.) The most popular brands in my area are P.A.N. and Masarepa there are others but the key is that is is pre-cooked (precocida; flocos de milho pré-cozidos). You cannot make arepas or cuscuz with masa or uncooked cornmeal, and you cannot make corn tortillas without Masa (there is no substitute). In the future I will experiment with making arepas with home-prepared cooked and cooled cornmeal and see how that turns out. I imagine the masarepa is convenient, but obviously not how it was done before the product existed.
Question: Can fresh sweet corn be used for this dish?
Answer: No, field corn is savory not sweet. You can make a Cape Verdean stew dish with sweet corn but that is called cachupinha
Okay, let’s get cooking!
This is a Kitchen Sink type of dish. Put in what you have. As long as the main ingredients are samp and beans, you are on the right track.
Get yourself a big ass pot. Seriously. No, not that one. The big one your grandma gave you.
8 oz of dried samp, washed, and soaked overnight (dried cracked hominy corn; you may substitute whole dried; canned also works but the taste and texture will be slightly different); you can use the whole bag if you like, since the amount is not a hard rule.
beef neck bones or pork neck bones or both (ham hocks and pig feet are also popular; stew beef and spare ribs can be used as well)
Portuguese chourico sausage (Andouille sausage is an adequate substitute)
leftover smoked ham bone (you can also buy one precooked)
2 8-oz cans of kidney beans (you can use whatever beans you have on hand also; if you are using dried beans either precook them or adjust your cook time with the samp accordingly)
1 10 oz package of frozen lima beans (canned lima, fava, or butter beans work)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
paprika (for color, use your judgment)
1 onion diced
better than bouillon chicken base (or chicken bouillon cubes; or vegetable; can also use chicken/vegetable stock instead of water)
Option: Sofrito can be used instead of separate onion, garlic, paprika.
1-2 sweet potatoes peeled, chunked
1-2 yams if you can find them, peeled, chunked (green plantains or green bananas also work nicely)
1 small butternut squash peeled, chunked (par cook it separately and it is easy to peel; acorn squash works also)
half of a 1.5 pounds package of frozen manioc for the dumplings (easier than fresh; already peeled; cassava/manioc flour also will work)
3-5 handfuls of chopped kale (collards, swiss chard, or a mix is fine, too)
#1: DO NO BURN THE SAMP. Keep an eye on your water level.
#2: Don’t overcook munchupa. While it will be taste fine it will look like vomit and have a baby food mouth feel.
Note: some cooks use salt pork for flavoring and remove it later; tomato paste or tomatoes are used also. Other additions depending on family are: linguica, blood sausage, bacon, chicken, potatoes (yukon gold, purple, etc.) and cabbage. If your munchupa is little more than neck bones, samp, beans, fish and veggies it’s Cachupa Povera. If it has all the trimmings (lots of meats and sausage) it is Cachupa Rica.
Combine the soaked samp (hominy), leftover ham bone from the depths of your freezer, beef neck bones, garlic, bouillon, bay leaf, paprika, and onion. Add water (or stock if using). Simmer until the hominy is half cooked through (test it by taste or squeezing it between your fingers). Then add the root vegetables (don’t add the squash). If you have to use canned hominy, remember it is already cooked so get the broth going first. If you are using dried beans adjust.
While the samp is cooking prepare the manioc. Boil until cooked through according to package instructions. Let cool and remove the hard core strings. Mash or use a food processor. Add salt and enough flour to form a dough. You may also add seasonings such as green onion as you like. Form into dumpling shapes or sausages. Set aside.
Check on the munchupa. If the samp and vegetables are nearly cooked through, turn the heat up to boil and add the dumplings. When they are cooked they will float. Fish them out and set aside. Lower the heat back to simmer.
Remove the ham and neck bones. Add the kale, sausage, and butternut squash. (If you like your kale more done, add it sooner)
Remove the meat from the ham and neck bones (if any) and return the meat to the pot. Cook a few more minutes. Adjust liquid (if you like it more soupy or more stew-y it is up to you), salt and add pepper to taste. Return the dumplings to the pot.
It keeps very well and gets more flavorful with age. When served, some people like to add vinegar or hot sauce.
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