Recipes from Paraguay

When I asked about traditional foods in Paraguay, one dish captured my imagination and another captured my appetite.  There is a difference.  It was "cupim" that captured my imagination.  It might capture your attention too.  What does it look like?  How does it taste?  How would you cook it?  Is it mostly fat or meat?  Even if you had all these answers, I don't know if you'd cook it because I don't think I've ever seen it for sale.  So, you'll never have to worry about it.  You see, cupim is Brahma bull hump. 

Okay, so what captured my appetite?

I knew right away that I had to try Sopa Paraguayan when I heard the legend behind it.  One day as a woman prepared soup (or "sopa" if you speak Spanish) for her family, she decided to put a little corn meal in the mix because the soup needed thickening.  But, before she completed her preparations, she was called away in a family emergency.  While she was gone, the plot and the pot thickened. When the woman finally returned to her boiling pot, she no longer had soup - either thick or thin.  The liquid boiled away leaving a kind of cornbread.  So, you may think you're getting soup, but that isn't the first time I've had mystery food on my plate. 

I located Sopa Paraguayan on my first day.  And, this cornbread fan thought it was delicioso!  But, truth be told, I also had cupim. 

Now, if you still need more information about cupim, here's the scoop.  Unlike all the other meats served at the restaurant, it was not cooked on a skewer and then delivered on that same skewer.  Cupim was served and sliced on a platter.  It tasted more like pot roast cooked on a grill, but it had a higher fat content.  If it was mostly fat, I wouldn't eat it.  Like I said, think pot roast.  My host, a Texan, said it was cooked like brisket back home.  Apparently in Texas, you wrap the meat up in foil and cook it for five hours on the grill.  That's long enough to make any good chunk of meat delicioso!

Sopa Paraguayan
Asunción, Paraguay
Easy soup to go!
  8 Tbs butter or olive oil    1 can corn kernels, 8 oz.
  2 sweet onions, chopped     1 can cream style corn, 8 oz.
  1 cup cottage cheese     2 teaspoons salt  
  1 cup grated mozzarella   ½ cup milk
  1 ½ cup corn meal    6 eggs

I recently learned how to make cornbread.  In the past, I thought a packet of Jiffy corn bread mix was required.  But, this puts my other recipe to shame! Start off by heating half the butter in a skillet. Chop the onions and try to do it without crying.  I'm not successful at that.  Then, cook those little suckers over moderate heat until tender but not brown. Set them aside and wipe the tears away from your eyes once again.

Beat the eggs all together for two minutes. I find it helps to dance around the kitchen at the same time.  Combine, mix, and thoroughly blend the butter, onions, cornmeal and eggs.

Toss in the corn, cream style corn, salt, and milk to the previous mix.  Then, as usual, continue dancing. The last ingredients to pour in are the cottage cheese and the Mozzarella cheese.  And, one more time, mix until thoroughly combined and/or tired of dancing.

Grease and flour your baking pans before pouring in the batter.  Size doesn't matter.  The recipe book might suggest a 10 by 13 inch pan, but in my kitchen it's a round pan. Cook at 400°F (200°C) for 30 to 40 minutes.  You know it's done when an inserted toothpick comes out of the bread as clean as it entered. 

In Paraguay, and perhaps in your kitchen too, you can eat this with a real soup that's the liquid kind or with your own barbeque dish.

Copyright 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.