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A few days ago a friend asked me to recommend a good Colombian breakfast and a lot of things immediately came to mind: caldo de costilla, tamal, changua, huevos pericos and hot chocolate, but in the end I suggested calentado and he loved it - now he's on a mission to hunt down the best calentado in town.
A lot of you have probably already tasted or heard of calentado, but for those of you who haven't, below is a definition written by Lácydes Moreno, an expert in Colombian gastronomy:
As you can tell, calentado is far from being haute cuisine and you probably won't find a recipe for it in any Colombian cookbook. This humble dish was born in Antioquia during the post colonial era. The region was very poor at the time and the mentaility was to not let anything go to waste. This is how calentado came to be - today's dinner became tomorrow's breakfast and not a grain of rice was lost in the process.
Two different kinds of calentado being prepared at a food fair in Bogotá
Traditional calentado paisa (from the region of Antioquia) usually includes rice, ripe plantain, meat (in small pieces or ground), red beans, potato and yucca - all of it chopped up, mixed, reheated (of course) and topped with a fried egg. Among the many different varieties that exist throughout the country there are recipes with lentils, pasta, chorizo, corn, sausage, or anything else that was eaten the previous day. Today, calentados can be found on menus in all kinds of restaurants and they aren't necessarily served because they're inexpensive but because they are delicious and generous.
Homemade calentado with chicken, potato, rice, plantain, shredded carrot and celery
In my opinion, the best calentados are made at home and it's the best way to use yesterday's leftovers - those paisas were definitely on to something. Each calentado is different and it's practically impossible to repeat the exact same combination of flavors more than once.
Here are some tips on how to make a calentado at home: first, prepare all the ingredients you'll be using, cutting them into bite size pieces. Heat some oil in a pan and heat the meat(s) until it starts to brown. Next, add the rice, potatoes, plantains, etc. Finally, mix in whatever vegetables you have on hand. For the final touch I like to add a little acidity, whether it be some lime juice or some kind of vinegar, and some chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. The fried egg is optional, but highly recommended.
Whether its for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, a calentado always satisfies...