George's Garnaches

On my first trip to Belize, I was a man in search of an authentic dish from the country. My guide George provided me with a recipe directly from his mother’s cookbook.  And, it was one of his favorites.  Actually, he gave me three recipes.  But, two of them were lost in a computer crash.

George's Garnaches
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
xxxx 1 small onion xxxx 1 bunch of cilantro
  Vinegar   4 to 5 oz. cheese
  25 soft tortillas (corn or flour)   1 small sweet pepper, diced
  Fat for frying   1 large tomato, diced and optional
  1 can refried beans    
George, fresh from harvest at sea

George was nowhere around when I actually made my garnache. I was closely supervised under the watchful eye of two Belizian friends, Cesar and Eloisa. They told me the "correct" way to make a garnache, and I was wrong right from the start.

I am a firm believer that you can substitute items in a recipe if you don't have what you need. It appears that a true garnache is made only with corn tortillas. I had no corn tortillas at hand. I did, however, have hand-made flour tortillas in the kitchen made by a Belizian cook. It worked for me. It didn't work for Cesar and Eloisa. So, if you need to be absolutely authentic, you know what you need.

George's recipe said you needed to dice an onion and soak it in vinegar.  For best results, let it soak overnight. Nobody mentioned the need for that when I made my garnache. There was no vinegar in sight. It would appear that the lack of vinegar wasn't as important as the presence of flour tortillas.

Tortillas in San Pedro were not the huge ones I’m used to back in the States.  They were closer to the size of a salad plate.  Fry the tortillas up until they are crispy.  In the center of the tortilla, add the refried beans, smeared on just like you would butter, and garnish them with diced onion, chopped cilantro, diced sweet pepper (or habenero if you like fire) and grated cheese. George's recipe also called for tomatoes, but Cesar and Eloisa both said you didn't do that with garnaches.

Now, it’s much more authentic to eat these with the fried tortillas.  However, it would be so much easier, and equally delicious, with soft shelled tortillas and a dollop of sour cream. Everything is always better with a dollop of sour cream.

Copyright 2017 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.