Sunday, November 29, 2009

Frijoles Negros de Reinaldo (Black Beans)

Remember our MVP teacher Miriam? Well this time our teacher is a relative of her’s – Reinaldo is her daughter’s godfather. And he is also the family’s master chef. Reinaldo is the genius behind the magic that are the family’s holiday meals.

We got together at Miriam’s house – she recently renovated her kitchen so she enjoys having people over - a few weeks ago and Reinaldo taught us how to make two staples of Cuban cooking in general and of the holidays specifically: Frijoles Negros (Black Beans) and Yuca con Mojo,(Cassava with Garlic Marinade). This time you get the black beans, we’ll publish the Yuca in time for Noche Buena.

As usual from the lesson Miriam made a lovely lunch, her sister Nora made a roast pork shoulder that was melt in your mouth delicious – we didn’t get the recipe because we didn’t know she was making it, but we will soon!

7 cups of water
3 medium green peppers
1 large onion - peeled
10 large garlic cloves
28 oz. dry black beans – picked over for any foreign items
1 pack or cube of chicken bouillon – if using cubes, crush before adding
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp powdered bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
Salt to taste
7 oz. roasted red peppers
1 oz. good olive oil


This recipe makes approximately 12 servings.

  • NOTE: This recipe was made using a pressure cooker. If not using a pressure cooker, follow the recipe but heat the mixture on high to boil and then lower to medium for approximately two hours or until it thickens. Check periodically to ensure beans are completely submerged.

  1. Soak beans in room temperature water for 8 hours. Put water and beans into pressure cooker.

  1. Core the green peppers and place whole garlic cloves inside one or two of them. Add to the pot.

  1. Add the whole onion to the pot.
  2. Seal the pressure cooker and cook on high until pressurized.
  3. Lower to medium and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
  4. Depressurize the pot. Remove onion, green peppers and garlic cloves.
  5. Place the onion, green peppers, garlic cloves, 1 pimento and pimento liquid in a blender or food processor. Add 2 serving spoons of the black bean mixture and liquefy.

  1. Taste the beans from the pot to determine if they are soft enough, if not continue cooking and checking until done.
  2. Add the liquefied mixture back to the pot. Set to Medium-Low.
  3. Add ½ cup of water (use your judgment here they may be thin enough), salt, cumin, bay leaf powder, oregano and bouillon. Taste for salt, season as needed.
  4. Add remaining pimentos and use the pimento can to add 7 oz of water (if needed because it’s been cooking down for a while).

  1. Boil on Low for 15 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in olive oil.
  2. Let the beans sit off the heat for about 30 minutes to continue thickening.

  • NOTE: To thicken the beans if they are too watery, liquefy a spoonful or two in the blender and add back into the pot. This will help thicken the soup.

Black beans are traditionally served with white rice, and they are integral to the traditional Noche Buena meal along side yuca and roast pork...

...but they also make a delicious soup on its own, garnished with sweet raw onions.

¡Buen provecho!

ingredient image source

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Fricasé de Pollo de Miriam (Chicken Fricassee)

    If you’re a regular reader, you’re very familiar with Miriam. She was our very first teacher - remember her ham croquettes? A few months she taught us how to make her delicious lentil stew. She’s a dear friend and has basically offered to be our “go-to” teacher when we can’t schedule someone else.

    This month she once again opened her home to us to teach us how to make chicken fricassee. This is really a family recipe in the sense that her sister Nora uses this recipe on Christmas Eve to make Turkey Fricassee - rather than having roast turkey again so close to Thanksgiving, we have it this way and it is fantastic! So, keep in mind this recipe works perfectly with turkey and pretty much any fowl.

    When we arrived at Miriam’s house she was not only ready to teach us to make the fricassee, no…she was making home-made mariquitas! She was preparing a complete lunch for us. So, in addition to the chicken, we had white rice, freshly made mariquitas, and freshly made plantains served with a light chilled pinot grigio followed by delicious home-made Bahamian guava preserves with cream cheese and of course, cafecito. We had a great afternoon hearing old stories about vacations past and I discovered that one of my closest friends - Miriam’s daughter - whom I’ve known for over 20 years knows how to gut a fish! OMG!


    1 whole chicken - skinned and cut into 8 pieces (split breasts in two)
    salt to taste
    pepper to taste
    1/4 Tbsp Italian seasoning
    6 garlic cloves - chopped
    Juice of 1 medium sour orange - juiced (can be replaced by 1/4 cup of bottled bitter orange marinade)
    Olive oil - enough to coat pan
    1/2 medium green bell pepper - cubed
    1/2 medium red bell pepper - cut in strips
    1 medium onion - chopped
    11/2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes in oil - reserve the oil
    16 oz tomato sauce
    1 cup dry white cooking wine
    4 1/2 oz sweet red pimientos – cut in large strips - reserve about 2 oz of the liquid
    1 bay leaf
    3 small potatoes - peeled and chunked
    1 tsp capers (optional)
    7 Tbsp manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos - reserve the liquid  

    Process This recipe makes approximately 6 servings.
    1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, Italian seasoning and garlic. Marinate in the sour orange juice for at least two hours.
    2. Coat pan with olive oil and brown the chicken pieces.
    3. Remove the chicken from the pan.
    4. In the remaining oil with drippings, add onion, red and green peppers. Saute until soft.
    5. Add sun dried tomatoes with reserved oil. Stir into onions and peppers.
    6. Add tomato sauce, cooking wine, a pinch of salt, bay leaf and sweet red pimientos with reserved liquid.
    7. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture. Cover and cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes.
    8. Turn the chicken and add potatoes. Cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
    9. Add capers and olives if desired. Continue cooking for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
    • NOTE: Although traditionally this dish is prepared using a cut up whole chicken, you can easily substitute your favorite chicken parts. When using boneless chicken you should re-introduce the chicken into the sauce later in the process to avoid over cooking it.
    Serve with white rice and plantains, mariquitas or a salad - avocado salad compliments this dish beautifully.
    We all came away agreeing that this was definitely a doable recipe - even during the work week. Remember you can substitute the chicken with turkey for a fantastic alternative to roast turkey on Noche Buena or Christmas.
    ¡Buen provecho!
    Image sources: Bitter Orange Marinade, Dry White Cooking Wine, Pimientos, Olives

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Las Fritas de Graciela

    “Fritas” are usually described as Cuban hamburgers, but they are so much better! Everyone has their own recipe and our friend Millie told us that her Aunt Graciela’s fritas were fantastic and that she was willing to share it with us. YAY! Needless to say it wasn’t a hard sell - not only did we learn to make them, but we got to eat them too!

    We met at Millie’s house a few days ago and got into the process of making fritas Graciela’s way. Her version is different from the traditional recipe in that she doesn’t use “pimentón” (Spanish paprika), so the flavor is less complex than what you may be used to - but when garnished with crunchy potatoes (she actually has a machine that makes the thin stringed julienne potatoes), chopped raw onion and ketchup on a potato bun - fantastic!

    As usual, generations mingled as we drank wine, told stories, and most importantly laughed and had a wonderful time.


    1 large onion
    2 eggs
    3 slices of white bread - torn into small pieces
    1/4 cup milk
    2 Tbsp ketchup
    2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    3 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    4 lbs ground sirloin
    20 potato slider rolls (smaller than hamburger buns)

    For Garnish
    4 large potatoes - peeled, julienned and fried crisp (these can be replaced with one can of potato sticks)
    1 large onion chopped
    Ketchup to taste


    This recipe makes about 40 patties or 20 servings of two fritas per person - but most people will go for a third!
    1. Puree the onions, eggs, bread, milk, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in blender or food processor.

    2. Knead or fold the puree into the meat and let it sit for at least one hour.

    • NOTE: If making the julienne potatoes from scratch, this is the time to make them by peeling, "julienning", putting them in water for about 15 minutes, draining thoroughly and frying them until very crisp.

    1. After an hour, roll the meat mixture into 2 inch balls.

    2. Fry the meat balls until lightly brown, then flatten them and continue frying.

    3. Put the meat patty in a potato roll and garnish with the potatoes, raw onion and ketchup - and if you like, although not traditional, with mustard.

    • NOTE:They're great to make ahead of time, just freeze the meat balls in wax paper and thaw before you fry them.

    We ate a lot of fritas! You'll be amazed how easy it is to eat two or three of them. They're a great summer lunch, maybe by the pool accompanied by beer, wine, soda - or my personal favorite "frita drink"...Mamey shake!

    ¡Buen provecho!

    image source, image source

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Rabo Encendido de Lilian (Ox-Tail)

    Last week we went to our friend’s Marky’s house to learn how to make the Cuban classic – Rabo, or Ox Tail. The interesting thing is that Lilian, Marky’s mother-in-law and our teacher for the day isn’t Cuban! She was born and raised in El Salvador! While living there she never really cooked, however when she married a Cuban she learned – but she learned how to cook Cuban food.
    Lucky for us because after she made it we ate it and it was delicious! While the “rabo” was cooking and later while we ate we chatted with Lilian and her husband Mario who worked in the beef business for many years and gave us all sorts of helpful “insider tips”. As always we had a wonderful meal and a wonderful time.
    I want to clarify the name of the recipe. This is commonly called “Rabo Encendido” which roughly translates to “Tail on Fire”. I have always heard that it is called “Encendido” because it’s supposed to contain hot sauce. Now, traditional Cuban cooking doesn’t really use hot sauce as a staple – yes, there are exceptions, but for the most part our food is spicy from spices, but not “hot” in the Mexican sense. Therefore, this recipe does not contain hot sauce, but it can be added to taste if you like.
    3 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot)
    6 lbs Fresh Beef Ox Tail – cut in package
    2 tbsp Badia Sazón Completa (this can be replaced by any Cuban complete seasoning)
    1 large green bell pepper – diced
    1 large onion – diced
    4 medium garlic cloves – mashed
    2½ cups Edmundo Golden Cooking Wine (this can be replaced by any dry white wine)
    1½ cups of water
    salt to taste (if needed)
    32 oz tomato sauce
    2 packs Sazón Goya with Coriander and Annatto (this can be replaced with any seasoning with coriander and annato)


    This recipe makes approximately 6 servings
    1. Add olive oil and meat to pot. Set on Medium heat until the meat browns.
    2. Set the temperature on High. Add complete seasoning, bell pepper and onion.
    3. Cook until onions and peppers wilt. Add garlic.
    4. Lower temperature to Medium High. Add wine and water to almost cover the meat.
    • NOTE: If more liquid is needed, add a mixture comprised of a higher wine to water ratio.
    1.  Cover until the mixture comes to a slow boil. 
    2. Stir and lower to Medium. Cover for about one hour, stirring approximately every 20 minutes until the meat can be pierced with a fork but not so tender it falls off the bone.
    4. Once the meat can be pierced with a fork raise the temperature to Medium High, taste for salt (add to taste if needed) and cover.
    5. Begin to check the meat often, continue boiling until the meat is fork tender and the liquid has reduced to about half.
    6. Add tomato sauce and Sazón.
    7. Continue cooking on Medium for about half an hour until the liquid has thickened into sauce.

    Serve with white rice.

    ¡Buen provecho!

    image sources: ox tail, Badia Sazón Completa, Edmundo Golden Cooking Wine, Sazon Goya.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Vaca Frita de Esther

    On Sunday we set out to learn how to make “the best Vaca Frita in the world”, according to two very reliable sources – the “chef's” teen-aged grandsons. Who knows more about food than teen-aged boys? The teacher was Esther, our friend’s mother, who took over her daughter’s kitchen to teach us how to make this delicious Cuban staple.

    We’re dividing the recipe into two parts – Part One is cooking the meat and Part Two is frying the meat.


    Part One
    ½ head garlic – smash the cloves
    3 Roma tomatoes – quartered
    1 large onion – cut in large wedges
    1 green bell pepper – cut in strips
    1 teaspoon of Sazón or other Latin seasoning mix
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1½ lbs Beef Flank Steak
    Water to cover the ingredients

    Part 21 large onion – thinly sliced
    3 heaping teaspoons minced garlic
    Juice of 1 lime
    1 tablespoon salt
    Olive Oil to coat the pan


    This recipe makes approximately 6 servings

    Part One

    1. Cut the meat vertically, with the grain, in half or thirds (depending on its width).

    1. Add the meat, vegetables and seasoning to pot.

    1. Add the water to cover the ingredients.

    1. Set pressure cooker as usual. Cook on medium for 30 minutes until the meat is fork tender.

    • NOTE: If you’re not using a pressure cooker, just follow the recipe as indicated, except let the meat and other ingredients slow boil for at least an hour until the meat is fork tender.

    • NOTE: You can also use a slow-cooker setting it on Low for about 8 hours.

    1. Turn the heat off and take pot off heat source. Let the pressure release completely.

    2. Remove meat and set aside.

    • NOTE: The broth and vegetables make a great base for soup.

    Part Two

    1. Shred the meat using your hands and/or a fork.

    1. Add salt, garlic, half of the sliced onions, and the lime juice.

    2. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and add mixture to the cold pan without heating the oil.

    1. On medium heat stir the meat constantly, adding additional onions and more oil gradually as needed.

    1. Once the onions are soft and the meat cooked, raise the heat and sear the meat until it’s slightly brown and crispy.

    Serve with white rice and black beans, or plantains, or all three!

    As usual there was wine and great conversation, with some family gossip, memories and secrets being shared – fun! We all enjoyed a wonderful lunch of Vaca Frita and since we doubled the recipe we had enough to take some home!

    ¡Buen provecho!