Monday, December 1, 2008

Crème de Vié de Cris (Cuban Egg Nog - sort of)

We finally got Cris to teach us how to make her famous Crème de Vie (pronounced crehm deh vee or crehm deh vieh - it's supposed to be French!). She's been bottling this stuff and giving it as a Christmas goodie for years, and it is always very well received. Now she's decided to share the knowledge. She told us she's tried several recipes through the years and has taken elements from several until finally settling on this one.

After the lesson, we spent the afternoon enjoying pastelitos and other snacks. Cris had made a batch of Crème de Vie weeks ago so we were able to enjoy a glass or two. Everyone got a bottle of the fresh batch to take home and enjoy over the holidays.

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
8 egg yolks
12 oz evaporated milk
14 oz condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups white rum
Ground nutmeg for garnish

This recipe makes 1 quart of Crème de Vie


  1. Bring sugar and water to a rolling boil until the sugar dissolves and the syrup lightly coats a spoon. Set the syrup aside to cool.

  1. Separate and lightly whisk the egg yolks.

  1. Add the evaporated and condensed milks to the yolks and whisk.

  1. Add the vanilla and rum. Mix well.

  1. Slowly add the syrup to the egg mixture after ensuring the syrup has cooled. Mix well.

  1. Strain the mixture at least twice to ensure all solid pieces of sugar or egg are removed.

  1. Pour into bottles and let them sit for about an hour. Store in the refrigerator.

  1. NOTE: Cris recommends refrigerating the crème de vie for a minimum of three weeks, the longer it's stored the smoother it gets.
  1. Serve chilled in a liqueur glass or a small glass - a little goes a long way! Garnish with nutmeg if desired.

¡Buen provecho and feliz Navidad!

Do you have any traditional Christmas recipes to share?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carne con Papas de Grace (Cuban Beef Stew)

Several requests for a good and simple Carne con Papas recipe have finally been satisfied. Our teacher Grace welcomed us into her home so we could learn how to make this delicious Cuban comfort food. We were joined by family members who only added to the fun!
Grace served the carne con papas with white rice along with a delicious avocado and tomato salad followed by an amazing flan - we're going to have to recruit her to teach us how to make that flan - and of course, cafecito! Oh and there was plenty of wine to go around of course.


4 medium onions - chopped
2 medium green peppers - chopped
1/4 cup corn oil
5 lbs Beef for stew
2 tsps Lawrey's Garlic Salt with Ground Parsley
4 lbs medium potatoes - peeled and chunked
1 lb jar Ragu Traditional Pasta Sauce
2 14.5 oz cans cut green beans - drained


This recipe makes approximately 10 servings.
  1. Sweat the onions and green peppers in the oil until the onion is translucent.
  2. If necessary, cut the beef chunks into large bite sized pieces.
  3. Season the beef chunks with 1 tsp of garlic salt.
  4. Add the meat to the onion and pepper mixture. Stir to brown evenly.
  5. Season the potatoes with 1 tsp of garlic salt and add the potatoes to the pot.
  6. Add the pasta sauce.
  7. Cover and cook on medium-low for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the green beans.
  8. Cook for another 10 minutes, setting the lid ajar so some of the liquid can evaporate and the sauce thickens a bit.
  9. Traditionally served with white rice.
¡Buen provecho!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

El Potaje de Lentejas de Miriam (Lentil Soup)

Miriam, our very first teacher - the one who taught us how to make croquetas back in February - once again shared her culinary skills with us. This time we made Potaje de Lentejas – which was perfect for Saturday’s stormy weather.

The fact that Miriam was the one who taught us how to make this was inevitable, as she is in charge every New Year’s Eve for making lentil soup in order to observe the New Year’s tradition – eating lentil soup on New Year’s Eve will bring you prosperity the following year. So amidst all the other “traditions”, the lentil soup is a mainstay.

This time we met at her daughter’s house and then followed the “class” by having a great dinner – Miriam’s sister made a pork loin. (By the way, that same sister, her name is Nora, will be teaching us how to make Turkey Fricassee some time next year.) Accompanied by some hearty red wine, a salad and good friends, it was delicious!

We had a great time as always, sharing stories of Miriam and her sisters’ travels all over the world, reminiscing about early days in Miami, and just laughing and being silly. It was a wonderful afternoon.


14 oz. bag of lentils
1 medium green pepper - chunked
8 cups of water
1 medium onion – minced
5 cloves of garlic - minced
2 carrots – peeled and sliced
1 packet or cube of chicken bouillon
1 packet of Sazon Goya – the one with Coriander and Annatto (this can be replaced with any Latin seasoning with coriander)

1 chorizo – sliced
2 small smoked ham shanks
3 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp tomato sauce
Salt to taste


This recipe makes approximately 10 hearty servings.
  1. Sort through the dry lentils to remove foreign objects.
  2. Rinse the lentils.
  3. Add lentils and peppers to the water.
  4. Mince the onions and garlic together and add paste to the lentils.
  5. Add everything except the salt to the lentils and water.
  6. Set on high until it comes to a boil.
  7. Taste the liquid and add salt to taste.
  8. Set the temperature to Medium-Low. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes.
  • NOTE: Some lentils absorb more water then others and you may want to add more water to get it to your preferred consistency as some like it soupier than others.
  1. Once it has cooked and thickened, take out the ham shanks.
  1. Strip the meat, shred it and put back into the soup. Stir well.
  • NOTE: The green peppers are cut into chunks so they can be removed if desired. Their flavor may overpower the lentils if the soup is stored for later use.
  1. Take off heat.

  • NOTE: The longer the soup sits, the more it will thicken.

  • Serve as soup or over rice.

  • ¡Buen provecho!

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    La Carne Fria de Nora (Cold Meat Roll)

    Last Sunday Nora and her husband J.C. welcomed us into their beautiful home so that we could learn how to make the traditional party food Carne Fria, served sliced with crackers. It also makes a delicious snack or light meal.

    There was wine, and all kinds of yummies to munch on while we worked and home-made arroz con leche (rice pudding) for dessert. As a bonus, Nora showed us a culinary treasure – she had bound two composition notebooks full of her mother’s handwritten recipes! They were wonderful, and may be the source of future cooking lessons from Nora.


    For Meat Rolls
    1 lb. ground beef
    1 lb. ground pork
    ½ lb. ground ham
    1 onion – minced
    1 tbsp salt
    1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ cup garlic cloves
    1/8 tsp black pepper
    1/8 tsp nutmeg
    1/8 tsp cumin
    1/8 tsp oregano
    4 eggs
    1 cup cracker meal

    For Coating
    6 eggs scrambled
    1 cup cracker meal
    Pinch of salt
    Cheese Cloth
    Cooking Twine

    For Cooking
    1 onion – halved
    1 tbsp salt
    12 garlic cloves
    4 bay leaves
    1 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp oregano
    Water to cover meat at all times
    Aluminum foil

    The Process

    This recipe makes enough party snacks for 40-50 people.

    Meat Rolls
    1. Puree onion and garlic in a blender or food processor.

    1. Combine the ground meats, salt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg, cracker meal and spices with the onion and garlic.

    2. Knead the mixture into the consistency of a thick paste.

    1. Make three or four cylindrical rolls, approximately 8 – 10 inches long.


    1. Scramble and salt the eggs.

    2. Dredge each meat roll in the cracker meal, brush off any excess cracker meal.

    1. Dredge in the egg mixture.

    1. Dredge in the cracker meal again brushing off any excess cracker meal.

    • TIP: The carne fria can be prepared ahead of time and frozen in aluminum foil after breading.
    1. Double wrap each meat roll in a piece of cheese cloth.

    1. Tie the ends securely with twine.


    1. Add halved onion, salt, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and spices to the water and bring to a boil.

    1. Place the meat rolls in a single layer into the boiling water for two hours.
    • NOTE: As the water evaporates add more as needed so that the meat rolls are always covered. Add a pinch of salt to the water each time.
    1. Take the meat rolls out of the water.

    1. Remove the cloth from the meat rolls while still hot.

    1. Wrap the meat rolls in aluminum foil and allow them to cool.

    • NOTE: The carne fria should be prepared at least 24 hours prior to serving having been placed in the refrigerator over night.
    1. To serve slice into thin rounds – preferably with an electric knife.

    • TIP: To make the carne fria in a pressure cooker, use one cup of water and cook it for 25 minutes.

    We each got to take some carne fria home - talk about a great party favor!

    Make this for your next party and you'll have a taste of a traditional Cuban "saladito".

    Until next time...¡Buen provecho!