The Magic of Casado

A few weeks ago I had some friends over for dinner and wanted to make something welcoming and comfortable. The weather was warming up and for some reason it seemed perfect to make casado.

It’s basically a Costa Rican version of what I grew up knowing as “meat & three,” a set plate with a protein, vegetable, and
some rice and beans. The name casado may have come from restaurant customers asking to be treated as casados, or married men, getting meals like a wife would make for them. I liked the idea of making a simple, hearty meal for my friends.

It sometimes seems like I have a cookbook for every country in the world, but I don’t have one for Costa Rica. I looked a little north, to Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday, because I like his easy style and his food always turns out great. I found a recipe for chicken thighs with a Yucatecan Garlic Spice Marinade. I made a salad with a cilantro lime dressing, some Mexican rice, and easy pinto beans. The marinade was incredibly easy to make: take a bunch of ingredients, toss them a blender, and then put them on the chicken. It doesn’t need to marinate long at all.

Our only problem arose when we tried to grill the thighs and realized our gas grill was out of propane. Oops. We switched to the cast iron skillet and got cooking.

When we were in Costa Rica this March, we ate a lot of casado. It was inexpensive but delicious and filling after a long day of surfing (OK, mostly sitting and watching other people surf). Each restaurant made it slightly differently. One place served it with a piece of grilled cheese, some sort of Cotija cheese. When I asked for cheese at another place, they looked at me like I was crazy and threw on a piece of orange American. Some offered avocado and all had a blazing green hot sauce. With an Imperial beer chilled almost to freezing, the casado became our favorite meal. It’s one that allows for diversity and play.

I’m going to make casado again, maybe with pork instead of chicken, black beans instead of pinto, and perhaps brown rice instead of white. The beauty of the meal is that you can switch it up all you want and still end up with a delicious plate.

1 thought on “The Magic of Casado

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