The Recipe of Aruban Culture

The Recipe of Aruban Culture

Keshi Yena is a traditional Aruban dish consisting of shredded meat stewed with prunes, raisins, olives, cashews and vegetables mixed up, steam-broiled and covered in aged Dutch cheese. It is said to be perfectly representative of Aruba’s melting pot culture with a Dutch overlay. Inspired from my recent eats at West Deck and Papiamento, here is a Keshi Yena recipe to try at home, shared from Visit Aruba.

Keshi Yena Recipe

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts
  • 1 lb. chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Minced onion
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 or 2 onions
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves bay leaf, bruised
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1Tbs. parsley, minced, or a few drops Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1/4 cup pimento olives, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. capers
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 Tbs. piccalilli
  • 3 eggs, reserving about 6 Tbs.
  • 1 or 2 hard-cooked eggs

Preparation Directions

Frugality was the keynote of island living in earlier times, when provisions had to last from the visit of one sailing ship to the call of another. In this classic recipe the shell of a scooped Edam (the thin rind remaining after a family had consumed the four pounds of cheese) is filled with spiced meat, then baked in the oven or steamed in the top of a double boiler. For these methods of preparation the red wax must be removed from the empty shell after is has been soaked in hot water. In a more dramatic version the filled Edam, with the red wax intact, is. tied in cheese cloth and suspended in boiling water for twenty minutes. The wax melts away in the hot water, leaving a delicate pink blush on the cheese. Use chicken or beef for the filling.

For the chicken filling, rub with the juice of several limes:

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts
  • 1 lb. chicken thighs

Season the breasts and thighs with:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Minced onion

Let them stand for several hours. Then either arrange the pieces in a shallow baking dish, and after browning the chicken under the broiler, bake it for one hour at 350? , deboning it when cool enough to handle, or choose this more frugal method of preparation. Brown the chicken in three tablespoons butter, then place it in a heavy kettle with:

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 or 2 onions
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves
  • bay leaf, bruised

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes, or just until chicken is tender. Strain and reserve the broth, discarding the vegetables

Debone the chicken and set aside.

After the chicken has been prepared by one of the above methods, sauteed two tablespoons butter:

  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1Tbs. parsley, minced, or a few drops Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Add and stir in well:

  • 2 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1/4 cup pimento olives, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. capers
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 Tbs. piccalilli

The chicken, or 1 lb. ground beef, lightly browned, if beef is to be substituted for the chicken.

Simmer until the tomatoes are reduced, about twenty or thirty minutes. Remove from the fire and permit mixture to cool. If keshi yena is to be baked, preheat oven to 350 , if it is to be steamed, begin heating water in the bottom of a double boiler.

Beat and add to the meat mixture:

  • 3 eggs, reserving about 6 Tbs.

Generously butter a casserole or the top of a double boiler. Before placing the cheese shell in it, spoon three tablespoons of the reserved beaten egg into the bottom of the container. Half fill with the meat mixture and add:

  • 1 or 2 hard-cooked eggs

Fill shell to the top with remaining meat and cover with:

The original cap of the Edam, from which the wax has been removed, or a few slices of cheese. A word of caution! Never use soft young cheese for keshi yena.

Drip the remaining three tablespoonfuls of beaten egg over the top of the cheese as a sealer. (Place the lid on the double boiler). Set the casserole in a pan of hot water, or the double boiler top over the simmering water. Cook for one and one-quarter hours. Reverse keshi yena on a heated platter and keep warm for the cheese becomes hard and unappetizing if permitted to cool.

In place of the cheese shell, two pounds of Edam or Gouda slices may be used to line the cooking container. The slices should overlap and create the same effect as the shell. Add filling cover with additional slices and follow directions for baking or steaming the shell. The traditionalist with a great deal of time and patience, may scoop out a four pound Edam or Gouda, taking care not to pierce the shell.

Will you try this Aruban specialty? Tag pics with #CEtravelers to be featured if you do!

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