This month’s victim: Jairo Cordero Hernandez, Kitchen Leader of Harmony Hotel Restaurant. Jairo, born and raised in Nosara, started off as a dishwasher at Harmony Hotel Restaurant over 3 years ago. And for 2 years now, he is one of two Kitchen Leaders at this world-class establishment. He shares this role with another Nosara local, Yuliana, who is one of the few female top chefs in Guanacaste. Both Kitchen Leaders, under the age of 23, were nurtured and trained by the Harmony Hotel, and now manage a staff of 25 local employees.
Scene of the crime: Harmony Hotel, Playa Guiones. This is not just another glamorous hotel on the beach. This is a premier eco-sustainable, community-minded hotel and healing center, with an impressive native-plant organic garden; an acclaimed open-air bar and restaurant; a luxurious pool; a juice bar; and spa. Harmony is also highly respected for its local education programs on environmental awareness. Other businesses, from all over Costa Rica, send their employees to the Harmony for training in the hospitality industry.
The Stolen Recipe: Organic Rosemary Baked Bone-in Chicken, with vanilla, coconut, raisin brown rice (this will cost you $19 at the restaurant!) Basically, all the main dishes at the Harmony Restaurant seek to globalize traditional Costa Rican dishes. I have to admit, in Chef Hernandez’s organic rosemary chicken dish, the rice stole the show.
Steps 1 and 2
Secrets to preparing the chicken: Chef Hernandez pierces the raw chicken, allowing the organic herbs to soak into the meat when it bakes. He starts by sautéing the chicken in a mixture of olive oil, onion, red peppers, rosemary, and tarragon – just until the chicken is lightly browned. Then he pours some white wine and fresh basil, with a pinch of salt and pepper, to further bring out the flavor of the spices.
CHEF TRICK: To get extra crispy, but light, skin – coat a side saucepan with olive oil, and place on high heat. Then rub the chicken in the oil back and forth, on both sides.
To Make the Rice:
• Prepare the brown rice first
• Place raisins and roasted coconut into a saucepan of olive oil on high heat; then shake and flip the raisins and coconut until they are saturated with oil
• Add the cooked brown rice (shake and flip until the rice is toasted)
• CHEF TRICK: Flatten the mix, in the saucepan, with a spoon to make “sticky rice”
• Once the rice is toasty brown, add some mint and 2 tablespoons of vanilla; then shake and flip until all the liquid evaporates
• Add 1 cup of coconut milk and cook until the liquid evaporates
This will make light, creamy sweet rice (not too coco-nutty); the chicken actually subdues the sweetness of the rice. The chef suggests the house chardonnay, Carmen of Valle Central Chile (2007) that has 4 months of oak barrels giving intensity in the aromas and elegance in the palate. It plays off the sweetness of the rice dish, and you can buy this wine by the glass.
This is only one of many unique meals created these two young Chefs. The Harmony Restaurant has colorful breakfast menu; pizza of the day, as well as risotto and sushi, and all uniquely Costa Rican. I suggest you make a day out of your visit to the Harmony Hotel. Start off at the juice bar; get a professional massage; then have the pizza du jour by the pool for lunch. After lunch, go on an eco-tour at the Harmony and then, attend a yoga class or salsa dance class. End with a special dinner at the restaurant.
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