Chef: Dennis Lara-Odell
Position: Private Chef. Los Angeles, California.
How did you get started?
I moved to the United States from Panama in 2000. Honestly, I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to go to college for. But I did like cooking and enjoyed making food that reminded me of being back at home, especially food that my nanny and my mother used to cook for me. I always thought that food was something that made people come together and since I missed my family so much, I did what I could at the time to cook with friends so I wouldn’t feel so alone.
What was your first position?
The first job I had in a restaurant was working as a server. It was a classic Tex-Mex restaurant in Atlanta. There I felt the passion for the restaurant business - I used to see how the chefs worked so intensely as a team to make food. It was in this role, kind of by accident, that I decided to look into my options to get more involved with the restaurant business and learn how to cook at a professional level.
The story behind the dish:
This recipe is usually made for Christmas and other holidays. The braising sauce base is typically made to make tamales and other meals. I am using this recipe as a lighter and healthier way to eat Panamanian food and to bring all the flavors from Panama into one beautiful and elegant dish. This recipe reminds me of my afternoons on Christmas Eve, getting ready with my family for the big Christmas Dinner, and celebrating together the joy of the Holidays.
Carne Salsa de Tamal
What you need:
Large frying pan
Slow cooker OR Dutch oven
2 green bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
4 to 5 garlic cloves
1 white onion
1 small shallot
1/2 cup of green peas (petipoas)
1 small can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup of vegetable stock
4 to 5 lb of beef chuck or any other preferred beef used for slow cooking
Salt and pepper to taste
Our key ingredient: 1/4 of a cup of 980 Wild Cilantro Sauce
Cut your bell peppers and onion into large pieces.
Chop the garlic.
Use a few drops of our 980 Wild Cilantro sauce and toss the bell peppers, onion and garlic together with your olive oil and place them in a roasting pan.
Roast the vegetables for approx. 20 to 25 minutes using your oven at 350 degrees.
After the vegetables are roasted, wait until they cool off and blend them in batches in your house blender.
Little by little, add your green peas, vegetable stock, the rest of the olive oil and our 980 Wild Cilantro Sauce.
Blend the mix until it is nice and smooth and let it rest - this will be your braising sauce for the beef.
In another pan (or cast iron), heat the canola oil on low heat so it’s ready to sauté the shallot and your beef.
Make some rough cuts on the shallots and stir fry it in the pan.
Cut your beef into medium to large pieces and let it rest for approximately 8 to 10 minutes before you sauté it in the pan with the shallot. This technique is used to wake up and seal the flavors of the beef.
Sauté the beef in batches for 5 to 8 minutes until the edges look in between red and brown. Set it out and let them rest for 10 minutes.
When all the meat is ready, get your slow cooker (if you own one) if you don't, a regular dutch oven works as well.
If you prefer to use your slow cooker, toss the meat and the sauce in on low heat for approximately 6 hours or on high heat for 4 hours. Or you can use a Dutch oven in your oven at 325 degrees for 4 hours.
It has always been a joy of my life to represent my culture and my roots through my food here in America. I am proud to say that I am Panamanian and I am going to continue my journey exploring flavors.
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Story on the Pass