Photographer's Note

This is a shot of an open hallaca, one of the typical Venezuelan Christmas dishes. It's basically a dough of cornmeal filled with a stew made with different kinds of meat (beef, chicken and pork) and vegetables (onions, leek, ají dulce and picante [sweet and hot small chiles], carrots, etc.), some sweet red wine and some chicken stock. This stew if placed along with "adornos" (pieces of olives, capers, chicken, stripes of pepper and onions - and other ingredients, such as eggs, chickpeas, black beans or fish, depending on the part of Venezuela the recipe comes from) on the cornmeal and then enveloped in plantain leaves.

I increased contrast, reduced brightness and resized.

"In Venezuelan cuisine, an Hallaca typically involves a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives wrapped in cornmeal dough, folded within plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled or steamed afterwards. It is typically served during the Christmas holiday.

Popular myth has it that in colonial times it was common for plantation owners to donate leftover Christmas food scraps, such as bits of pork and beef, to their slaves, who would then wrap them in cornmeal and plantain leaves for subsequent preparation and cooking, which could take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.

An alternate theory notes the similarity between the hallaca and the Spanish empanada gallega (Galician pastry), emphasizing that the fillings are almost identical. Hallacas would then be empanadas gallegas using specially prepared corn flour rather than wheat flour, and plantain leaf rather than expensive iron cooking molds not readily available in the new world in colonial times.

However, the most likely progenitor of the maize body and plantain envelope of hallaca is the Mesoamerican tamal. This version appears likely because tamal-derived dishes, under various names, spread throughout Spain's American colonies as far south as Argentina in the decades following the conquest. To this day, some people in western Venezuela (primarily in Zulia, Falcón and Lara states) use the terms tamar and tamare to refer to what is basically a bollo—the closest version of the tamal in Venezuela—with a simple meat filling."

From Wikipedia

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Additional Photos by Yvonne Becker (smash2707) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 583 W: 86 N: 686] (3320)
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