My progeny consider it just another of my several odd quirks but there's something about Hellmann's Mayonnaise (AKA Best Foods west of the Rockies) that none but homemade can compare. Hellmann's is available in abundance in Mexican tiendas provided one likes it "con Limon" (with lime). Personally, I'd rather add my own and then only with certain dishes. Every now and again the Chetumal Sam's Club has Best Foods mayonnaise available in the super-sized portions for which bulk stores are famous. But there are some items that, until the situation changes drastically, are just not to be found in the area but can indeed be found in Belize.
Yes, Belize, our southern neighbor that despite geography seems to be neither Caribbean nor Latin American but a jumble of both. Yes, Belize where gourmet is reflected by the highest per capita rate of Chinese restaurants outside of Beijing. Yes, the country where citizens make a business of crossing the northern border to return with smuggled items impossible to find in Belize. Yes, Belize. Well, specifically Corozal. No need to wander further inland for the basics as Brodie’s delivers.
Of course, it has nothing to do with Belize per se but to the ever-expanding ex-pat community and savvy retailers with a business eye for profit. Miracle Whip (Wifeys' favorite), sweet pickles/gherkins, root beer (and ginger beer), cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie filling to name a few hard to find in Chetumal items. Obviously these are (almost exclusively) imports and therefore expensive. It costs mucho dinero to maintain a USofA lifestyle outside the UsofA as many an expat has sadly learned too late.
Despite sweet Belize, there are a few things that remain hard to find and the obvious option of making one’s own comes to the fore. Chinese Five Spice, Bell’s Poultry and Old Bay Seasonings, Swamp Fire Crab Boil, and Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Spice come to mind. Thank goodness for the Internet! With a capital I. The largest library in the world thankfully brought to some semblance of order by the various Search Engines. And thank goodness for the kind-hearted trail blazers and their followers who post (and post, and post, and post some more) the success of their “just-like-the-original” imitation recipes.
Now, never let it be said we don’t regale in the cultural heritage of our adopted country. No, no, no! We love local food (Wifey’s guacamole from our own garden aguacate (pronounced A-WA-CA-TAY or, in English, avocado) was a hit at our most recent monthly grill fest) and the lime tree continues to produce as well. Roadside stands hawking grilled pollo (chicken) or cerda (pork), empanadas, tortillas, and more get our attention as well. Seafood dishes are most abundant and we have our favorites. Wifey is a Cóctel de Marisco Mixto Grande (Large Mixed Seafood Cocktail) aficionado and will try one at every new restaurant. Around here the mixed seafood cocktail includes shrimp, octopus, oysters, conch, and fish. Sometimes lobster too. She loves it! Personally, I'll eat just about anything cooked in garlic and butter.
Made something like these braised ribs the other day. Delicious! It's a stupidly easy recipe that infuses the house with great aroma. I do so like the slow cooker! The electricity draw isn't that bad and it sure cut's down on the heat in the kitchen. "No-Sweat" in every sense of the term.
Crockpot Beef Ribs
5 pounds short ribs
2 TBS Flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 onions, chopped chunky
1 carrot, chopped chunky
1 celery rib, chopped chunky
2 bay leaves, whole
1 sprig rosemary
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and split
2 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
2 TBS flour
3 cups dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Chilean Carmenere) Two for the dish, one for the cook!
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1-2 cups unsalted chicken broth, to about 1/2 level of the meat. It depends on the size of your crockpot. Remember the secret to crockpot cooking...the liquid you start with is what you will end with 'mas a menos' (more or less) so don't overdo initial liquid!
Dredge beef ribs in flour, salt, and pepper (use a baggie) then brown on all sides. Place in crockpot.
In same skillet, add vegetables and spices and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned. Stir in flour and cook for another minute. Deglaze skillet with wine and vinegar, and cook at simmer until reduced by about half. Add to crockpot.
Stir in broth and cover. Cook on low 7-9 hours until fork tender. Strain and set aside beef and vegetables and keep warm in the crockpot. Put the sauce in a deep pot and let sit for 15-30 minutes for the fat to come to the surface. Separate the fat and cook remaining sauce until piping hot. Serve meat over noodles or rice and spoon on sauce and garnish with chopped parsley.