Victor AlbisuVictor Albisu may have been born in northern Virginia, but he seems “born” with Latin food in his blood. Victor’s mother is Peruvian, his father is Cuban; one grandfather was a baker; and two aunts owned their own restaurants in Miami – Latin food was central to his upbringing. In fact, he doesn’t have a single childhood memory that doesn’t involve some delectable Latin cooking or other. Then he went to le Cordon Bleu. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Victor spent every summer through his teens with family in Miami, pressing his first sandwiches at age five, mastering steaks a la plancha by seven, and paying close attention as his grandfather killed, gutted, and roasted whole pigs and caught, cleaned, and fried whole fish; while his grandmother made the rice and beans, empanadas and croquettes. Back at home, his mother, a great cook in her own right and owner of a Latin grocery store, reinforced his culinary bent. In high school, Victor apprenticed with the Argentine and Uruguayan butchers at his mother’s shop. “Beef in Argentina is like wine in France,” he explains, “the style of butchering is distinctive, and the trade is highly respected.” Working six days a week, often until 9 o’clock at night, he learned not only about cutting meat, but making chorizo (sausages) and matambres (stuffed meats) and just about everything else about the Argentine meat culture. Victor’s family had always promoted a lively interest in international politics, and when he went off to George Mason University, he planned to make that his career. In five years, he completed two degrees, but after graduation it took just a few years working with international contractors for USAID to learn that the theoretical side of international affairs interested him much more than the practical. So at age 24, he sold everything, moved to Paris, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. He received his basic, intermediate and superior diplomas in cuisine, pastry, and wine, performing his internship at Arpège, a 3-star Michelin restaurant. “There I was living in the thick of Les Halles, keeping restaurant hours and woken at six every morning by a fishmonger yelling about scallops – I loved every minute of it.” Back in the states, Victor was hired as Executive Sous Chef under David Craig at The Tabard Inn, moving with him to La Bergerie in Alexandria, Virginia. From there, he went on to work at Washington’s 701, Ardeo, and Bardeo. He then became Chef de Cuisine at Ceiba restaurant and is currently pursuing his own ventures.
Victor Albisu: Hi, I am Victor and were making Rocotos Rellenos. We going to start sauting the vegetables and browning the meat. On a hot pan, very hot pan add little, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, say about five tablespoons or so. Once you get a little smoke coming, red onions; garlic, very classic combination obviously red onions and garlic sauting in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Latin cuisine.
Diced tomato, here you just want to let, you can get a little brown color to it, golden not too brown, make sure all the flavors incorporate but the juice is out before you season it. Latin cuisine just like Mediterranean or Italian cuisine, also you cook lot of with by smell, the aroma is coming from the Pan right now, telling you that the pan is getting ready for the meat.
So, next we add the pork, fresh ground pork shoulder, fresh ground beef chopped. At this point, we are going to add ground cumin, very traditional flavor in Latin cooking. I am going to salt the meat in the pan. When you add salt, releases a lot of moisture, I add salt to the top to allow the incorporation and to continue to brown the vegetables and the meat underneath, while seasoning in it at the same time.
Make sure youre cooking at a high heat, now once the moisture is evaporated from the pan whats left to extract are the oils and the fats in the pan. That will in turn begin to brown the meat even more and thats where the flavor really begins to come in. We have tomato, weve onion and garlic in there and thats going to add a lot of moisture to the pan but when you are cooking on a high heat, the moisture will eventually go away and what will be left, will be the fat and the meat.
And theres where you get your flavor. Next step, well be finishing the meat and cooling it to stuff in the peppers.