There is a large Madeiran population in Venezuela and the exchange of people between the Portuguese island and the Latin American nation has had an influence on Madeira’s cuisine. This crispy fried dish, similar to polenta fries, is often made with Harina P.A.N., an instant, white corn masa from Venezuela.
What You Will Need
- 3 tbsp. lard
- 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp.)
- 1 tbsp. summer savory (or a mix of fresh thyme and mint), coarsely chopped
- 4 1⁄3 cups white masa harina (17½ oz.)
- 1⁄2 tsp. fresh malagueta or red habanero pepper, finely minced
- 2 1⁄2 tsp. Kosher salt plus more to taste
- Olive oil for greasing
- Canola or vegetable oil for frying
In a medium saucepan , melt the lard over medium heat. Add the garlic and savory and cook without coloring until fragrant, 3–4 minutes. Add 10 cups water and bring to a low boil. Slowly add the masa while whisking, then add the malagueta or habanero pepper and salt. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a very low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, 1¾ –2 hours. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Lightly grease a 9-by 13-inch glass baking dish with olive oil, then pour the masa mixture into the pan, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, invert the pan onto a cutting board to unmold. Cut into 1½-inch cubes and set aside.
Line a large platter with paper towels and set it by the stove. Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with 2½ inches of canola or vegetable oil and attach a deep fry thermometer. Set over medium-high heat and when the oil is 350°, fry the cubes in batches until browned and crispy, stirring occasionally to prevent them from clumping together, 6–7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cubes to the prepared plate, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot.