Monday, January 19, 2015

Tamal en Cazuela de Raquel (Cuban Cornmeal Casserole)



We had been wanting to learn how to make Tamal en Cazuela for a long time, and we finally found someone to teach us - Raquel! Raquel is a fabulous home cook, specializing in several Cuban dishes we want to learn to make - if we're lucky you'll be seeing more of her on this blog. As a bonus, her husband David likes to cook too and has some specialties of his own!

Arguably Tamal en Cazuela is the ultimate Cuban comfort food - it has everything required to make you feel happy. There's thick, warm cornmeal - kind of like grits but way more flavorful, there's the familiar flavor of the Cuban sofrito, and there's pork!

Now to get to the business at hand...

Ingredients


5 lbs Fresh Prepared Yellow Corn Masa* (see below)
4 lbs Cubed Pork Loin - diced
3/4 Medium Green Pepper - finely chopped
2 Large Yellow Onions - finely chopped
3 Small Tomatoes - diced
2 Heads of Garlic - minced
1 Tsp Cumin
3 Small Bay Leaves
3 Tblsp Olive Oil
Sea Salt to Taste (approximately 1 tsp)
Ground Pepper to Taste (approximately 1/4 tsp)
Pinch of Saffron or Other Yellow Food Coloring

* Prepared Yellow Corn Masa

If you're in South Florida, you can find this at a "Palacio de los Jugos" type of place. However, if you can't find the fresh prepared yellow corn masa, use 2 lbs dry cornmeal (follow package directions) and blend with three 14 oz cans of creamed corn.

Process

This recipe makes approximately 10 servings
  1. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil and set temperature to medium. Sauteé onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes until soft.
  1. Dice the pork removing most of the fat.
  1. Add the pork to the onion mixture along with the saffron, black pepper, cumin and bay leaf. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  1. Add 4 cups of water and set temperature to Medium-High.
  1. Bring the mixture to boil and continue cooking for about 30 minutes until the mixture turns yellow and the pork is fork tender.
  1. Add the yellow corn masa. Mix thoroughly.
  1. Add 4 cups of water. Leave on Medium-High for about 15 minutes.
  1. Taste and add salt to taste. Cover and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until it thickens (the texture will be similar to smooth grits or polenta - add water and continue cooking if needed).

The finished product!


Serve the Tamal en Cazuela with sweet fried plantains and some fresh Cuban bread for a hearty, filling meal.


¡Buen provecho!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Coming Soon...Tamal en Cazuela!


Just in time for the worst part of winter - well, everywhere except in Miami - keep an eye out so you can learn to make a hearty and delicious Tamal en Cazuela. YUM!

We'll be meeting with our "chef" in the next few days and then share all the secrets with you.

Stay warm and ¡Buen provecho!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yuca de Reinaldo (Cuban-style Yuca)


You've met Reinaldo before, he taught us how to make his famous Frijoles Negros de Reinaldo (Black Beans). Well, during that same cooking session back in 2009, he also taught us how to make Yuca! That recipe somehow got lost in the shuffle, but lo and behold, it reappeared just before Christmas FIVE years later! (Yes five years! Don't judge me!)

So let's not dwell on that little wrinkle in time and move on with the yuca making. Yuca has a reputation for being difficult to make because it can go very wrong very quickly, but this recipe is fool-proof. First because Reinaldo is a phenomenal cook, but also because he uses frozen yuca. Yes frozen! For root vegetables especially, buying them frozen guarantees you'll get a perfect product since you don't run the risk of getting a "bad" vegetable - only the flawless ones are frozen, and they are frozen at their peak.

I eat this yuca every couple of years and I can tell you hands down, it's amazing.

Ingredients


4 cups of Water
32 ounces Frozen Yuca
1 medium Sour Orange - juiced
1 medium Yellow Onion - sliced
5 Garlic cloves - minced
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Salt as needed

Process

This recipe makes approximately 6 servings.
  1. Add a pinch of salt and one tablespoon of olive oil to water and set to boil.
  2. Add a minced garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of sour orange juice and a pinch of salt in mortar. Mash the garlic mixture until it becomes a paste. Set aside.
  1. Rinse the yuca and add to the pot of boiling water ensuring the yuca is completely submerged.
  2. Add the remaining sour orange juice.
  3. Set to high and return to rolling boil.
  1. After a rolling boil of about 15 minutes "scare" the yuca by adding one cup of ice to break the boil.
  1. Cover and continue boiling on high for about ten minutes or until the yuca is fork tender.
  1. Remove and drain the yuca. Set aside.
  1. Pour remaining olive oil into a skillet and set on high until it reaches the smoke point.
  2. Add the sliced onions to the garlic mixture and pour the boiling oil over the  garlic and onions.
  1. Pour the oil mixture over the yuca.

The beautiful finished product


Yuca, along with black beans and white rice, is an integral side dish to the traditional Noche Buena roast pork dinner. It also serves as a fabulous and healthy side dish to any meat, pork or chicken dish.


¡Buen provecho!




Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guiso de Maíz de Miriam (Cuban Corn Stew)


Once again Miriam welcomed us into her home to share more of her delicious recipes. This time it was a hearty Cuban favorite, Guiso de Maíz - a stew combining corn, calabaza, potatoes and yumminess! We spent a lovely afternoon, evoking memories, sharing plans and munching on cheese and crackers while sipping a delicious Rosé as the guiso cooked. It was, as often happens at these gatherings, a multi-generational group of women sharing, thereby making the food that much more delicious.

Ingredients



3 tbs Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion - chopped
1 Medium Green Pepper - chopped
3 Garlic Cloves - chopped
½ lb Ham - chopped
2 Spanish-style Chorizos - chopped
1 8 oz Can of Tomato Sauce
¼ cup Vino Seco or White Cooking Wine
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube - dissolved in water
2 15.25 oz Cans of Corn - reserve liquid
4½ cups of Water
4 Corn Cobs - chunked into 1 inch thick pieces (Frozen mini cobs work as well, either whole or halved)
1 Medium Potato - chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1 Medium Calabaza (Cuban Squash) or Butternut Squash - Peeled and Chunked
Pinch of Annatto
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

The Process 

This recipe makes approximately eight servings.
  1. Soak the calabaza in water.
  2. Coat the pan with olive oil and set temperature to Medium - Low.
  3. Add green pepper, onion, garlic and salt and saute until vegetables are soft.
  4. Add ham and chorizo.
  1. Add tomato sauce, cooking wine, bouillon, black pepper.
  1. Add canned corn with its liquid, three cups of water, annatto, corn cobs, potato and the bay leaf. 
  1. Cover and cook at medium low for 5 minutes, then check for salt and add salt to taste. Cover and continue cooking  for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Once the potato is done, add calabaza and 1.5 cups of water into the mix. 
  1. Cover and continue cooking at Medium - Low until calabaza is soft, about 15 minutes. 
  2. Turn off and leave covered until serving.

The Finished Product



Miriam served the guiso over brown rice and with mariquitas (plantain chips), but it is can be accompanied by sweet fried plantains, fried green plantains (tostones), or a green salad. It's all good!


As always, we had a wonderful meal and a fabulous time. This is a great dish when you have company.


¡Buen provecho!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

And now for Something Different

 
If you live in Miami, have you ever had guests from out of town that are here for a short time and want to sample ALL the Cuban food and you don't want to cook it? Or have you ever wanted to play tourist during a staycation?
 
If you're not from Miami, maybe you'll stop by for a day before or after a Caribbean cruise or drive down after the family trip to Walt Disney World, and want to get an authentic sampling of Cuban food smack dab in the middle of Little Havana.
 
And maybe soak up a little Cuban culture between all the good food?
 
If any of those scenarios apply - or may apply some day - have I got something for you!
 
Last weekend Cris - my partner in Cuban Home Cooking crime - and I took a fantastic culinary walking tour right in our own backyard, my old 'hood, Little Havana!
 
Miami Culinary Tours' Little Havana Food Tour, offered by Grace Della and her wonderful staff was a lot of fun, with great food and after living in Miami - part of it in Little Havana - for 45 years I learned new things about the area!
 
We met Saturday in the heart of Little Havana. After our fabulous guide Steven wrangled the group of 17 of us, our first stop was the charming Mildrey Guillot Gallery. The artist herself welcomed us and briefly chatted about her work.
 
We left the gallery and walked around the corner away from "Calle Ocho" and a into the surrounding residential area where Steven gave us a short but informative talk about the history and architecture of the neighborhood.  From there...it was time to eat!
 
The first stop was the Little Havana mainstay El Pub (pronounced in Spanglish as "El Poob") Restaurant. At the entrance to the restaurant we were greeted by this handsome fellow
 
 
Once inside, amid the bustling lunch crowd, we were seated immediately at a table reserved for our group and prepared to have some appetizers. We had "Tostones Rellenos con Pollo" and "Empanadas de Picadillo".
 

 
The "Tostones" are smashed fried green plantains stuffed with a sort of chicken fricassee, and the "Empanadas de Picadillo" are savory turnovers stuffed with Cuban-style ground beef. Both were delicious and served to whet our appetite for more. The vegetarian option at El Pub consisted of Cuban-style Black Beans with white rice and un-stuffed "tostones" with Cuban "mojo" - a delicious mix of garlic, sour orange and olive oil used as a dipping sauce.
 
On our way to our next stop, we walked on Little Havana's very own Walk of Fame, a Latin-flavored replica of the Hollywood version.
 

What's a tour of Little Havana if you don't include a cigar factory and store? We stopped by Cuba Tobacco Cigar Factory, where the founder, and reputedly most photographed man in Little Havana, Don Pedro Bello sat outside smoking a cigar. Inside the delicious smelling store, Cuban seed cigars were being rolled.



After a brief stop at the cigar store, and a little shopping by some, it was time to eat again! Off we went to Exquisito Restaurant.  
 
There were several tables reserved for the group, so we were seated and served immediately. Our main course was half a Media Noche sandwich, which was as Cubans say "con todos los hierros" - roughly translated as "with all the trimmings".  A Media Noche or Midnight sandwich is made with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles (the pickles are, in my opinion, the magic ingredient) inside an egg sandwich roll which is pressed in a "plancha" - a kind of panini press. They even added potato sticks with the sandwich and also served "Mariquitas" which are green plantain chips, again, served with Cuban mojo dipping sauce. The sandwich was excellent. The Exquisito's vegetarian option was a choice between a Fish Sandwich or a Spanish Omelet Sandwich.
 
 
To walk off the delicious sandwich we strolled over to Maximo Gomez Park - a.k.a Domino Park - to watch some serious domino playing. This place is definitely one of Miami's must-see treasures.
 


Next it was time for Dessert - Part 1 at Ysell Bakery where we enjoyed "Pastelitos de Guayaba" or guava pastries and some elixir of the gods - "Cafecito" or Cuban coffee - one of the true pleasures of life.




There's Steven, our tour guide, tending to our culinary and cultural needs.
 
Since apparently we hadn't had enough sugar with the pastelitos and the wonderfully sweet Cuban coffee, we next went to Fruteria Los Pinareños where we had "Guarapo" which is sugar cane juice. It's not as sweet as you would think and it is a fantastic thirst quencher.
 



Above is a "guarapera" or guarapo machine. The sugar cane is inserted at the top and the juice comes out the little spigot on the side. It's then poured over ice, and yum! While at the "fruteria" Steven told us about several traditional Cuban fruits and vegetables that were for sale. Some in the group bought some to take home.

Behind the fruteria, we saw some chickens and roosters, adding to the "local color"...



Across the street from the fruteria stands the Bay of Pigs Memorial. We took a moment for Steven to give us a brief overview of that historical misadventure.


From there we walked to Azucar Ice Cream Company, for Dessert Part 2 and the end of the tour.
 

 
 
In addition to having what is arguably the coolest storefront on Calle Ocho, their variety of flavors and originality is amazing. The huge menu displays the huge variety they offer (availability varies), but don't be surprised if they've run out of some of them, as they are made fresh daily.
 

As part of the tour we were given one scoop of whatever flavor we wanted, I went with Avocado, which was creamy and refreshing, with a subtle avocado aftertaste - really delicious.


The Little Havana Food Tour is a great way to taste the tastes and learn a bit about this uniquely Miami neighborhood. It runs every Saturday at 12:30, but you have to make reservations as the tours fill up quickly. Grace likes to keep the  groups small so that it's a fun and friendly experience. As I mentioned, they happily accommodate vegetarian diets. I also liked that it wasn't only a food tour, participants learned about Cuban culture and the neighborhood's history.

We had lots of fun, ate and drank all kinds of Cuban treats, met some very nice tour-mates and learned stuff! What better way to spend an afternoon?


Check out the Miami Culinary Tours web site for details on the Little Havana Food Tour, as well as other culinary tours in the Miami area.

¡Buen Provecho!