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Getting Ready for Chef Juan

Written on August 2nd, 2010 by 3 shouts

Our next Boquete Gourmet cooking class features Juan Linares, Professional Chef and exceptional teacher, presenting “Famous Historic Dishes”. Juan will tell stories about six historic dishes and he will demonstrate how to make them, explain how they figured in history and share how they can be replicated today in Boquete and in your kitchen.

The class is totally filled at this time, and a waiting list of eager participants are standing by, in case someone is not able to attend. The dishes are unusual; Beef Wellington, Antipasto, Crepes Suzette, and three other unique dishes, making a full-course dinner for the attendees. This is culinary history revisited.

I have received the recipes from Chef Juan and they are all very interesting, full of unique techniques and blends of ingredients to be prepared on Thursday.

One of the tips we’ll learn is where to get ready-made puff pastry, right here in Boquete. There are two main dishes, Beef Wellington and Chicken Marengo, each of which have interesting and unique histories.

My shopping list is now complete and it should be quite easy to find everything the chef needs. Almost everything is available within 5 minutes of my kitchen. Juan uses ingredients that are mostly found locally, except for one.

The item that may be a bit difficult to find is real French foie gras, or fat goose liver pate’. We have a small delicatessen on Boquete’s main street, so I’ll begin my search there. If I can’t find it here, I may need to go down to David, a city about 45 minutes from Boquete. Almost everything can be found in David’s many huge supermarkets.

If you’d like to read more about foie gras, go to Wikipedia for the complete history, methods of preparing and serving this delicacy. Wikipedia provided this idea of serving it with pickled pears, it really looks delicious.

The entire menu from the class will be posted soon, along with one of the recipes from Juan’s recipe book.

Please keep checking this site for more details on this one-of-a-kind, historical class, and especially of how Chef Juan plans to use the foie gras.
Wish me luck shopping!

Juan’s Clever Panamaian Cuisine

Written on May 8th, 2010 by no shouts

I asked for an innovative menu for using local Panamanian ingredients for a future cooking class, and Professional Chef, Juan Linares designed just the right dishes to showcase. Chef Juan is seen weekly at the Boquete Tuesday Morning Market serving his delicious soups, chili and regional dishes.

When I received the list of local ingredients Juan needed to use for the class, I found most of them were available in Boquete. How to use them to make a full-course dinner for Juan’s cooking class seemed a mystery to me. These are vegetables I see every day in the many markets in Boquete, but I couldn’t identify them by name. So, I asked for yucca by name, and the shopkeeper pointed to yucca. Same for plantains, raspadura, guandu and chayote.

I found the prices varied greatly, depending on which market I visited. It was interesting to find many of Juan’s vegetables on the bottom shelves in most markets, in unmarked bins. The blocks of raspadura were also found in among the vegetables. I usually pass up the things in the bottom bins, because I don’t know what they are or what to do with them.

That all changed last night.

Juan arrived in my kitchen a couple hours before the class was to begin. He quickly sorted, peeled and prepared many of the ingredients for the dishes he had planned to present. He began with the Guandu Dip and the Platanos Chips for dipping.

The Frozen Papaya Smoothie with Ginger Root and Light Rum went exactly right with the appetizer. After a smoothie, most of the students wanted to help with preparing yucca, chile powder, adobo and chayote.

Students brought their favorite knives and Juan demonstrated his expert knife skills to an eager group of onlookers, then everyone got into the act, even me.

As you look at these photos, do you see how much fun Juan had watching his students prepare “fancy” Panamaian foods? They stir-fried Chayote and Shrimp and made Yucca Bunelos with Raspadura Sauce. We all enjoyed the evening, thanks so much to Juan for sharing his very clever ways of using common, inexpensive ingredients to make a full-course, delicious, nutritious and beautiful dinner.

Most all Juan’s recipes for using these local ingredients will be included in the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, to be released next month in Boquete. Look for it soon! Cora

Learn Panamanian Market Cuisine

Written on April 11th, 2010 by no shouts

Living in Boquete offers more than gorgeous views, perfect weather and the finest coffee in the world; the food basket available in these fertile highlands is incredible. The soil is so rich here and land has turned into the miles and miles, rows and rows of some of the most varied and nutritious farm products you can imagine.

Many fruits and vegetables in marketplaces in and around Boquete I’ve never seen before, much less know the names of, or know how to prepare them. A couple years ago, our gardener brought us a huge basket of otoy he had just dug from our garden - yes, OUR GARDEN! I had no idea what it was or how to eat it, and I was growing it right at home.

My friend Julia, told me that the black, hairy root vegetable was much like a potato, with thicker skin, which makes otoy a bit more difficult to peel. The inside is purple and takes longer to cook than potatoes, see the contrast here. It takes knife skills to prepare some of these foods, and mine need sharpening!

I love to make mashed otoy, with butter, salt and milk, just like mashed potatoes, they are tastier and very delicious! This is “Panamanian market cuisine”, taking what is found in local markets and preparing gourmet dishes with whatever you find, using creative techniques.

Popular Boquete Chef, Juan Linares, will present a hands-on cooking class in my kitchen on Friday, May 7, beginning at 5:00pm. Juan has Latin American roots, and he has been preparing otoy, yucca, name, papaya, chayotes, and guandu, just to name a few, for many years as a professional chef. He has lots of tricks to share with us about Panamanian cooking and he’ll help refine our knife skills.

Juan knows how to blend his own special adobo and chili powder and we’ll each blend our own mixes to suit our tastes.

This $25 hands-on class includes a full-course dinner, knife skills lesson, recipe book, blend-it-yourself take-home spices, blender cocktail and a glass of wine. Bring your favorite knife and apron to my kitchen in El Santuario, Boquete, Panama on Friday, May 7 at 5pm. Class is limited to only 12, so make your reservation now at, you may call Cora at 6614-9514 or comment on this blog.

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