Restaurants in Chicago come and go, but one restaurant boasts two decades of serving traditional Colombian dishes in Windy City.
Las Tablas was one of Chicago's first Colombian restaurants when Jorge Suarez and his wife Soraya Campos opened its doors in 1991 on the city's North Side.
Colombian food is a fusion between protein-heavy Argentinian fare and Carribbean flavor, according to Chef Nicole Suarez, who was happy to share a few of her family's recipes with NBC Chicago.
For over 20 years, the menu has remained a traditional cuisine through family recipes with Jorge's secret sauce. The sauce is so popular, the family began selling their own product line called "Cocina Las Tablas."
Here are four recipes from the Suarez family:
BRAISED LAS TABLAS SKIRT STEAK
- Two 8 oz. portions of thick skirt steak
- 3 tablespoons of Cocina Las Tablas "Aji Casero" multi-use salsa and marinade
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 1/4 oz Cocina Las Tablas all-purpose seasoning
- 3-4 teaspoons soy sauce
- First season the steaks using the desired amount of Cocina Las Tablas all-purpose seasoning and rub into the steak with a few splashes of soy sauce (low sodium is recommended). No marinating time is necessary, you may season and immediately grill.
- Grill the steaks to desired temperature* (we recommend medium or medium rare).
- While steaks are grilling, combine the 3 tablespoons of Cocina Las Tablas "Aji Casero" with the half cup of chicken broth in a large frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
- When steaks are grilled, add the steaks to the frying pan, cover them with sauce and let sit for 2-3 minutes over low heat and the pan covered.
Serve with rice and steamed vegetables (for example steamed broccoli and carrots).
*Steaks can also be prepared to medium/medium-rare in your oven's broiler.
COLOMBIAN AREPAS STUFFED WITH GUACAMOLE & CHEESE
(makes 6 to 10 arepas depending on size)
- 4 large eggs
- 6 oz shredded cheese (monterrey jack or mozzarella)
- 1/2 bar butter
- 8 oz corn flour
- 10 oz water
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- Salt according to personal preference
- First combine water, salt, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.
- Combine and thoroughly mix the eggs, cheese and the cream cheese together in a mixing bowl.
- When saucepan starts to boil, turn off flame and add the ingredients to the mixing bowl.
- Taste to determine if salt level is to your liking, then while continuously stirring, very slowly add the corn flour in order to evenly distribute all ingredients throughout the dough.
- Form dough into thick discs (similar to a tortilla, yet thicker) and cook on a skillet over medium heat until both sides are slightly crispy and golden brown.
- Cut through the middle and stuff arepa with Cocina Las Tablas guacamole and crumbled queso fresco.
COCINA LAS TABLAS GUACAMOLE
- 2 avocados
- 3 tablespoons of Cocina Las Tablas all purpose "aji casero" multi-use salsa and marinade
- Salt according to personal preference
- Simply mash the avocados into a puree in a mixing bowl and add 3 tablespoons of Cocina Las Tablas “Aji Casero”, distribute salsa evenly.
- Add desired amount of salt
- Stuff arepa with guacamole and desired amount of queso fresco*
*You can also stuff slices of skirt steak in the arepa (grilled or broiled the exact same way as for the steak dish above).
CHICKEN BREAST AND VEGETABLE EMPANADAS:
(Serves 12-24 empanadas depending on size)
Empanada Dough Ingredients & Steps:
- 1 lb corn flour
- 1 oz Cocina Las Tablas all purpose seasoning
- 1/2 oz salt
- 32 oz water
- Simply mix all ingredients together in mixing bowl and knead. Then roll dough into small balls and flatten with a tortilla press or between two cutting boards.
Filling Ingredients & Steps:
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
- 6 oz diced tomatoes
- 5 oz diced red pepper
- 5 oz diced green pepper
- 5 oz diced white onion
- 4 oz soy sauce
- 1/2 oz Las Tablas seasoning
- Grill the chicken breast, first seasoned with Cocina Las Tablas all-purpose seasoning and rubbed with soy sauce (as with the steak dish above), then dice (to be added to pan later).
- Add onions to a large, oiled pan over medium heat. After onions are lightly cooked, add tomatoes, both types of peppers and soy sauce.
- Cook on medium heat, lightly stirring for 5 minutes, then add diced chicken breast and cook together.
- Once the filling is ready, take a disc of dough and place one tablespoon of filling in the middle of the disc. Then fold dough over and cut away excess dough (can be done with the edge of a bowl or other round object). This is much easier if you flatten the ball of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, then use the plastic wrap to fold the dough over the filling.
- Fry in non-trans fat vegetable oil, pre-heated to 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oil, remove residual oil with paper towel, let cool and eat with Las Tablas aji casero hot sauce.