thing I have to say is that these are NOT my hallacas. They are my dear Chuky Reyna’s hallacas. And they are by
far the best hallacas I've eaten in my life.
replicas of the ones made in Caracas by Mrs. Reyna, mother of my dear and
remembered Gustavo J. Reyna (the best and last boss I had and certainly the
most indulgent of all), of Chuky and seven more children, and grandmother of,
among many other grandchildren, Isabella Reyna, with whom I also had the pleasure
of working a few years ago.
Josefina Parés de Reyna had the secret of the perfect Caracas-style hallaca’s
flavor. The very thin and soft dough did not crack. The stew, of pork and
chicken, had the sweet touch that we Caraqueños like so much and that comes
from sweet pepper, papelón (piloncillo, unrefined whole sugar cane sweetener)
and sweet cooking wine; and it also had a delicate touch of acidity, furnished
by the exact amount of vinegar and mustard pickles.
ago, I met with Chuky in Miami for work matters. Of course we ended up talking
about food and she invited me to eat hallacas.
heir to the touch of Mrs. Reyna, whom she helped knead the hallaca dough when
she was just four years old, Chuky also inherited her mother's generosity.
like Pimpi —as Mrs. Reyna was
called by her grandchildren—, who
once surprised everyone with some cooking classes she taught so that people
could learn to make hallacas like hers, Chuky invited me to be part in the
making of her own ones. You can’t imagine what a privilege that was.
Venezuela, there are as many hallaca recipes as families (maybe one day I’ll
encourage myself to make mine again and post the recipe here).
taste and flavor of these tamales wrapped in plantain leaves, undisputed
protagonists of the Christmas table, are a secret that passes from generation
to generation and is usually not written anywhere.
for her generosity, I offered Chuky to write the recipe, which for the first
time is now "ink on paper" to the delight of many.
hallaca has three very important components, namely: the stew, prepared the day
before and left to rest uncovered overnight at room temperature; the dough,
which is made early on the day when the hallacas are "ensambled"; and
the plantain leaves on which the dough is spread, and which make the wrapper of
this tamal that we Venezuelans call "multi-sapid" for the amount of
flavors that harmonize in one dish.
thing about hallacas is that you make them as a family thing: sipping Ponche
Crema, listening to aguinaldos
(carols) and telling tales. The table where everything is prepared is covered
with a plastic tablecloth so that nothing is stained with annatto yellow. Some
help cutting up the ingredients for the stew. Others lend a hand with the
kneading. Others are in charge of cleaning the leaves. Others prepare the
"ornaments". Something EVERYBODY does is sample the stew, in an
empirical-collective effort to ensure that, year after year, the hallacas have
the same flavor.
you enjoy this recipe. Truth to be told: these hallacas are magnificent.
Chuky for the treasure of your friendship.
Pork and Chicken Hallacas | Ingredients for 20 hallacas
6 pounds (about 3 kilos) of pork leg, clean and diced in half-inch (just
over one centimeter) cubes
3 ½ cups of onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of scallions (green onions), chopped
2 ½ cups of red bell pepper, deveined, seeded and chopped
6 ajíes dulces (sweet peppers), deveined, seeded and chopped
2 ½ cups of tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 ounces of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
½ cup of pickles in mustard
1 cup of cooking wine (Muscat type)
1 cup of papelón (panela or piloncillo), grated or
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1. In a food processor or a blender, blend the onion, garlic, chives,
leek, bell pepper, sweet peppers and tomato.
2. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, place the lard and liquefied
seasonings with the pork, Worcestershire sauce, pickles, wine, papelón,
salt, pepper and cumin, and cook for about 4 hours, stirring frequently, until
the meat is completely cooked. To see if the meat is ready, remove a bit and
shred it. If the meat is white, it is already done.
3. Meanwhile, in a pressure cooker with 2.5 liters of water, cook the
pieces of chicken for 45 minutes, until the meat is tender.
4. Remove the hen from the pot and let it cool. Once cooled, shred the
meat and reserve 40 strands of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long to be used as garnish
for the hallaca.
5. Add a cup of hen broth to the pot with the stew, along with the
shredded chicken meat.
6. Turn off the stew and let it stand overnight uncovered and at room
7. The next morning, add the tomato paste and taste the stew and correct
½ pack of precooked corn flour, the one used to make arepas.
1 cup of lard (you can substitute it with corn oil but, in my opinion,
the taste that lard gives is irreplaceable)
3 tablespoons of onoto (achiote or annatto) seeds
1 cup of red bell pepper juice, strained
1 cup of melado de papelón (panela or piloncillo syrup)**
1. In a pot or cauldron, cook the lard with the onoto, over
medium heat until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and let cool. While it is
still warm, strain and discard the onoto seeds.
2. Put the bell pepper juice and the corn flour in the bowl of a mixer
with a kneading blade and start kneading.
3. Gradually add the onoto-colored lard and continue kneading.
4. Add the melado de papelón, salt and water and continue
kneading until you get the characteristic consistency and flavor of Caracas
style hallacas dough.
5. Once all dough ingredients have been added and the dough has a soft
and flexible consistency, place it in a container where you can knead
comfortably. This step is not strictly necessary, except so you can check
manually that there are no lumps and the dough has the desired softness and
6. The dough is ready when it is firm despite its softness, it does not
stick to your hands and, when you make a ball it has a smooth and shiny
appearance. Once the dough has that consistency, make 20 balls of about 2
inches (5 cm) in diameter (the size of a large lemon).
For 20 hallacas you will need about 7.5 pounds of roasted plantain
leaves (which are available at Latino products stores). It is preferably to
have too many leaves than too few.
Preparation of the leaves
1. Thaw leaves in their package, when you start making the guiso.
2. Once the leaves are thawed, clean them with a damp kitchen towel and
divide them, according to their size, in 20 large spreading sheets, about 12x14
inches (30x34 cms) approximately; 20 middle wrapping leaves, about 10x12 inches
(25x30 cms) and 20 small leaves or "belts", of about 4x10 inches
(10x25 cms) with which the hallaca is "belted".
3. Once classified, cover the leaves with wet kitchen towels so they do
not dry out.
40 1-inch (2.5 cm) long hen meat strands
40 small manzanilla olives, stuffed with pimento
40 almonds, blanched and peeled
Preparation of the hallacas
1. Cover the surface where you are going to work with a plastic
tablecloth, a disposable one preferably.
2. For the spreading of the hallacas have the following at hand: a
rolling pin, a thick plastic, about 12x12 inches (30x30 cm), twine (kitchen
string) to tie the hallacas, and scissors to cut the twine.
3. On the table, arrange the leaves by size, the balls of dough, the
guiso and the garnishes.
4. Place a ball of dough on the base or spreading plantain leaf, and
place the plastic over the ball. Spread the dough with the help of the roller
until you have a circle of about 10 inches in diameter (25 cm) and 1/8 inch
(3-4 mm) thick.
5. Remove the plastic and place a heaping spoonful of stew in the
6. Garnish with 2 strands of hen meat, 2 olives, 2 black raisins, 4
golden raisins and 2 almonds.
7. Carefully fold the hallaca joining two of the sides of the spreading
leaf. Make a new fold in those two ends, and fold downwards. Fold the other two
ends of the leaf downwards.
8. Place the hallaca folds down onto the wrapping sheet, which should be
placed diagonally, and wrap it as if it were a package, first joining one
extreme with the opposite one, and then simultaneously the remaining two.
9. With the belt sheet, belt the hallaca and tie it with twine as shown
in the video.
10. Once all the hallacas are ready, they should be cooked as indicated
1. In a large pot, about 12 liters (12.68 qt) bring some 6 liters of
water to a boil over high heat.
2. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to medium, and cook the
hallacas for 50-60 minutes.
3. Remove the hallacas from the pot and place them on a tray to drain.
4. Generally hallacas are left overnight on the tray to make sure they
are completely cool before storing them in the refrigerator.
5. Before serving, heat the hallacas in boiling water for 15 minutes.
6. These hallacas can be preserved in the refrigerator for up to a
(*) With Chuky Reyna's recipe.
(**) To make melado de papelón combine the
papelón with 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat,
bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Then, set aside to cool.
Etiquetas: hallacas, holidays, Venezuelan cuisine