jueves, 23 de julio de 2009

Patacón, un Regalo Maracucho en New York

Artículo publicado en el New York Times sobre nuestros maravillosos patacones maracuchos, para aquellos que puedan leer inglés, se los recomiendo. Gastronomía venezolana dándose a conocer en la gran manzana. No podía dejar de ponerlo en el blog. Gracias Gustavo por hacer el link en facebook.


Tracking a Venezuelan Treat









Rebecca McAlpin for The New York Times

SAUCY A patacón filled with roast pork at Cachapas y Mas.

By DAVE COOK

Published: July 22, 2009

For plantain lovers, it may be the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, a patacón (paht-ah-CONE) — the full name, patacón Maracucho, identifies its birthplace as the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo — is a sandwich that dispenses with bread entirely. In its place is green (that is, unripe) plantain that’s been sliced lengthwise, fried, pressed flat and fried again. Still warm, the golden discs embrace shredded beef, roast pork, chorizo, chicken or cheese.

But why all the trouble, when two slices of white or rye might do just as well? Because Venezuelans love their plantains “morning, afternoon and night,” explained Liliana Velasquez, owner of El Dugout (431 West 202nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues, no telephone) a truck that is permanently ensconced at the edge of an Inwood parking lot.

That affection is shared by the Dominican clubgoers who know the truck as Patacon Pisao, or “flattened plantain” (a name it shares with a catchy merengue song). When the truck window opens for the evening around 7 (it closes around 6 a.m.), a small crowd is often on the sidewalk, maneuvering forward to place orders with the manager. One of the most popular requests is the “full” patacón ($5), a combo of chopped griddled beef, pork and chicken, typically dressed with lettuce, tomato and a piquant pink sauce. Preparing the sandwich might take 15 minutes; many folks tide themselves over with a tequeño ($1), white cheese deep fried in pastry dough.

When the patacón is finally handed down, it’s wrapped in foil, which serves more than one purpose: fried plantain is not very absorbent, and every bite threatens to send sauce squirting out. Peeling back the foil little by little helps keep the patacón hot (and those dancing shoes unsullied). The starchy plantain and savory meats are an especially satisfying pair on a cool evening.

Even so, the patacón Maracucho gets many curious looks, said Larry Villalobos, owner of the nearby Cachapas y Mas (107B Dyckman Street, between Nagle and Post Avenues, 212-304-2224, cachapasymasnyc.com), a narrow storefront with two high-backed booths, a window-side counter and a flat-screen TV that favors music and sports. Mr. Villalobos said that in most of Latin America, patacón refers to an individual flattened disc of plantain, perhaps topped with guacamole or cheese, or a small twice-fried round, collectively also called tostones (tohs-TOE-nays).

But just as in Maracaibo, in Upper Manhattan the plantain is also the armature for sandwiches like the patacón de pernil ($4.50), loaded with luscious roast pork and adorned with the house-made pink sauce — white dressing with parsley, cilantro, onion, garlic and celery, inflamed with bright red hot sauce. The doble queso patacón ($4.50) is layered with fried slabs of fresh mozzarella; unfried, the cheese is even better tucked into the cachapa de queso ($6), a floppy half-moon pancake of sweet golden corn.

Mr. Villalobos also owns a truck, parked by night near the Metro-North Tremont station, called Patacon con Too (4184 Park Avenue, at East Tremont Avenue, the Bronx, 718-362-0705). “Too” is pronounced “toe,” reflecting the Dominican pronunciation of “todo” (“everything”), as in, “give me a patacón with everything on it.” The mozzarella is found in a version with ham and cheese ($5), but the star of the menu is the patacón Dominicano ($5), which swaps out the ham for silver dollars of fatty salami.

For a patacón Maracucho in a full-service setting — perhaps with a glass of beer, wine or sangria, before lolling against a banquette while listening to gentle Latin tunes — to the best of my knowledge the city’s sole option is El Cocotero (228 West 18th Street, at Seventh Avenue, 212-206-8930, cocotero-restaurant.com). A kitchen that turns out full-blown entrees also shows its hand in patacón fillings like asado negro ($8.95), pot roast in a sweet onion-and-red-wine sauce, and carne mechada ($8.95), stewed shredded flank steak. They’re moister than their uptown counterparts — enough, on occasion, to challenge the firmness of the “crispy green plantain crostini,” as the restaurant describes them. Thankfully, even here, they arrive in a protective wrap.

Of course there are arepas, the familiar corn patties, in many styles. But El Cocotero also offers a baked-goods alternative to the patacón: carne mechada, ham and cheese, and a half-dozen other combinations that can be ordered between bread, in a pressed sandwich. Though served with a salad, a side of plantains is never far away.

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