Appetites: Connecting culture and cuisine for Hispanic Heritage Month

Amalia Moreno-Damgaard brings traditional Mesoamerican dishes to your dinner table

A woman holds a cookbook
Chef and entrepreneur Amalia Moreno-Damgaard poses for a portrait with her second book, “Amalia’s Meso-American Table”. Eden Prairie, Minnesota, U.S., Monday, Nov. 25, 2021.
Tim Evans
A book cover
The cover of Amalia Moreno-Damgaard’s latest book features Pepián Rojo de Conejo, a spicy rabbit stew with tomato, tomatillo, and Yukon Gold potatoes. Her take on the traditional Mayan dish seeks to connect past, present and future.
Courtesy of Amalia Moreno-Damgaard.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs every year from Sept.15 to Oct. 15.

Chef and entrepreneur Amalia Moreno-Damgaard sees it as “an opportunity to bridge the awareness gap of Latin cultural nuances and broaden understanding and appreciation of the Latin culture.”

In her latest book, “Amalia’s Mesoamerican Table,” Moreno-Damgaard does just that — offering timeless recipes and the cultural stories behind them.

She joined Appetites to kick off HHM by sharing how culture and cuisine are intertwined and her spicy rabbit stew recipe.

For more with Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, click play on the audio player above and check out her spicy rabbit stew recipe from her book below.

Pepián Rojo de Conejo

Serves 4-6

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  • 1 fresh whole young rabbit (liver included), cut into 8 pieces

  • 2 cups fat-free, low sodium vegetable stock

  • 1 small whole onion, peeled and t-scored

  • 2 cups quartered Roma tomatoes (about 4 large tomatoes)

  • ½ cup husked, quartered tomatillos (3 to 4 large tomatillos)

  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-inch thick slices

  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 to 3 guaque (guajillo) chiles, seeded

  • 1 teaspoon fresh achiote paste dissolved in a little cold water or 1 teaspoon achiote powder

Thickeners

Choose one of the following:

  • 3-4 corn tortillas soaked in hot stock for 10 minutes

  • 3 tablespoons instant corn masa flour dissolved in ½ cup cold water

  • 3 tablespoons white rice soaked in cold water for 10 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Seasonings

  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • ½ teaspoon ground canela (Ceylon cinnamon)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups 1-inch sliced Yukon gold potatoes cooked al dente

Directions

In a medium pot, cook the rabbit pieces in the stock with the onion over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Remove and reserve the onion. Set aside the pot of rabbit and stock.

Heat the skillet for two minutes over medium heat and dry pan roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic. Adjust the heat to medium-low and pan roast the vegetables until they’re charred all over and mushy (about eight minutes).

Separately, dry pan roast the chiles over medium-low heat for 1 ½ minutes per side. Then dry pan roast the seeds, separately, until medium brown, stirring from time to time with a soft spatula. Keep a close eye on the chiles and seeds, as they can burn easily. Then soak the roasted chiles in one cup of very hot water for 10 minutes. Grind the seeds separately in spice grinder.

Combine the roasted vegetables, the reserved onion, the soaked chiles, half the soaking water, and ¾ cup of the hot stock from the rabbit pot in a blender. Add the thickener and purée to a fine consistency. The purée should look smooth and velvety.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the purée and seasonings. Cook for about three minutes. Add the sauce to the pot of rabbit and remaining stock. Add the al dente vegetables and stir. Simmer covered to blend the flavors (about 15 minutes). The sauce should be medium thin — about the consistency of steak sauce. If the sauce is too thin, cook the stew a bit longer to thicken it. If the sauce is too thick, add more stock or water.

Serve in bowls immediately.

Note

Fresh rabbit, venison, bison and other exotic meats are available from your local farmer, Asian grocery stores, and online.

To t-score an onion, make a ½-inch-deep, cross-shaped cut at the narrowest end of the onion. The onion remains whole.