As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, my parents have been visiting with us for a while. It’s been so nice having them around, watching them interact with and really get to know their grandkids. The boys have loved having them around as well. Unfortunately their visit will be ending soon and they’ll be heading back to the Azores. I think they’ve loved hanging out with us, but I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to walk through the doors of their own home. I’ve always felt that way… vacations are awesome, but there’s something special about getting “home”.
Learning from mom
It’s so much harder to get detailed information about cooking over the phone, especially when most of the instructions are “A little bit of this, and a pinch of that”. I took advantage of my mom being here to ask her lots of questions about her cooking and to watch her in the kitchen.
She laughed every time I asked for the little details… like “That cinnamon in your hand… is that about 1/4 tsp?”. The typical response was “I don’t know, it’s a little”, followed by a chuckle 🙂 She was always happy to help me understand, but I think she still doesn’t get why food bloggers have to be so detailed with their recipes. It’s not the way she learned.
I do think she gets a kick from me wanting to learn all these recipes from back home. She’ll often tell people… “Nelson’s made that”, and I see a little pride in her face. That’s pretty sweet!
What are these Chicharros we speak of?
Chicharros are small blue horse mackerel or stickleback (fish). In Ribeiras, the town where I lived on the Island of Pico in the Azores, you’ll often see folks hanging out at the end of the dock early in the morning or before sunset, casting out their fishing lines to catch some of these little fish. One line will often bring in multiple fish. It’s quite a site! Unfortunately, we can’t get them that fresh where we live, so we settle for frozen. They’re still super tasty!
Traditional Azores meals
Since our town was a fishing town and we typically had an abundance of fish, these “chicharro” definitely make it to my personal top 5 list of most traditional meals I grew up eating. The fish are fantastic fried and eaten plain… but the sauce… oh the sauce!!! The sauce turns this from a very good meal to a fantastic meal. One thing though, you have to enjoy garlic. If you don’t, you might want to leave off the sauce… it’s got bite!
When we get the smaller ones, I will typically eat them without removing the middle bones. They’re crunchy and delicious! Of course, always be careful with fish bones. This dish is often called “chicharros embogados” or “chicharros com molho cru”. Other areas of the Azores or even areas of our Island will sometimes name these something different or prepare them in a different way. Regardless, I think they’re always a treat.
If you haven’t done this lately, go pull out your book of traditions, cook up something nostalgic, and always eat well, friends!
- 3.3 Lbs or 1.5 kg Blue Horse Mackerel or Stickleback, tail trimmed, gutted and washed well
- ½ Tbsp course sea salt
- 1 cup white corn flour
- ¾ cups pork lard (you can substitute with other types of fat, like vegetable oil, but they use lard in the Azores and it's packed with flavour)
- Garlic and wine sauce
- 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 small bunch of flat leaf or Italian parsley (about ½ cup after chopped), finely chopped
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sweet pimento paste
- ½ cup water
- In a wide medium bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Add the lard to a wide heavy duty pan (we used our 12 inch cast iron pan) and heat on medium high.
- Pour the flour onto a wide plate.
- Once the lard is hot, dredge each fish in the flour and carefully place it in the pan. Careful, it might splatter a little.
- Repeat the last step until the pan is full, but be careful to leave a little space between each fish.
- Let the fish fry on one side until it takes on a nice light golden colour. (about 6 to 8 minutes per side)
- Turn over all the fish and let the second side reach the same golden colour. (turn only once).
- Once both sides of the fish are nicely coloured, remove the fish into the sauce bowl and dip them all until they're covered.
- Transfer the fish to a serving dish.
- Repeat the last few steps for the remaining raw fish.
- Serve the fish hot... but these are awesome at room temperature as well. Enjoy!