Of course, my father had every reason to expect a boy – they already had a girl after all. Though I rarely met him even halfway (tee-ball, soccer and tennis were disasters), I did prefer Star Wars to Barbie (there was a princess in it), wasn’t squeamish about what went in the frituras de sesos he love to make, and stayed awake during The Right Stuff – so I don’t think he minded too much. A foodie before the word, he gave me sugar cane to cut my teeth on, took me to the docks to buy fish as the boats came in, presented me with meltingly tender Italian prosciutto like it was a visiting dignitary, and charmed a fast melting cooler of Mexican guanabana ice cream through customs.
Girls or not, he had no qualms about pitching my sister and I over a fence to poach from a neighbor’s sapote tree and wasn’t afraid to throw elbows in the race to my grandmother’s natilla or snatch the last meringue from the mouths of babes. He taught us to appreciate all of our grandparent’s cooking but drew the line at a particularly gruesome pig’s head stew for which I’ll always be grateful. While my Mom’s salsa verde sauce made guest appearances, it was my father who ran the kitchen.
In over 300 posts, I don’t think that I’ve talked a lot about my father. He passed away when I was 9 years old so there are too few meals made or shared together to reference. What I do remember seems all the more vivid because for him, an ingredient found or recipe attempted was an event. There are so many things we didn’t get to try but he passed on hunger that inspired me to try everything. In some ways, every post is about my father because I eat and cook the way he did – getting the scent of something new, seeking it out, falling in love with it, and sharing it as often as possible.
Adapted from Maria Baez Kijac’s The South American Table. Father’s Day (and summer of course) is synonymous with grilling so I wanted to try something new but familiar to complement that. This Paraguayan corn bread, more souffle than soup, is served alongside heavy cuts of grilled meats and sausages or beef soup as well as during Holy Week and special occassions like wedding.
1 medium onion, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 eggs, divided
5 oz. queso fresco or farmer’s cheese
5 oz. fontina cheese
1 cup corn kernels, cooked and roughly chopped in a blender of food processor
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
10″ cast iron skillet or 2 1/2 quart casserole mold
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions, reduce heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 10 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add corn and cover until just tender and warmed through, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Roughly chop or pulse in a food processor.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 4 tablespoons of butter on medium speed for one minute until smooth. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition. Blend in cheese and corn. Fold in the onions. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Clean mixer bowl and dry thoroughly to beat the egg whites.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and pinch of salt and continue to beat on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Stir in a 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to lighten the corn mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites.
Grease a cast iron skillet or casserole mold with remaining tablespoon of butter. Pour in batter and place in the middle of the oven. Bake until puffed and brown, 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.