Saturday, December 17, 2011

Noche Buena de Cuba

Welcome to Noche Buena at the Montague-Kolz home. We're exploring the traditions surrounding Christmas for Cuban families. I’ll get credit for this creative project in my Spanish III class as well, but you don’t have to tell the people you’re cooking for.

Like any Cuban family or our English-Polish family for that matter, most of our gatherings revolve around food.

Noche Buena is the traditional Christmas Eve celebration. Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena--for Latin families is often the biggest feast day of the season, when friends and family, young and old alike, would sit around a table laden with traditional dishes, telling stories that grow more colorful each year.

The main course at any Cuban Noche Buena celebration is lechon-- roast pork, black beans -- frijoles negros and rice. Then comes Yucca root with mojito, yucca drizzled with mashed garlic
and olive oil, as the side dish. Fried sweet plantains, and salad will finish off the main part of the meal. A caramel bottomed flan, turned over, will end the meal. I’ll share some recipes for the roast pork, the plantains, and beans and rice. They’re really good!
Marinate a pork roast in orange juice, garlic, and lime juice mixed with orange juice and some Cuban spices, roast until fall apart tender, and you can celebrate – that it’s Tuesday, if you like.

Lechon de Asado
1 (6 lbs) fresh ham -bone in (or boneless pork shoulder)
1 cup sour orange (or ½ cup lime juice and ½ cup orange juice)
½ cup apple juice with 1 T apple cider or other vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 whole garlic heads (peel off cloves)
2 onions (minced)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground bay leaves
½ tsp ground black pepper
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt, pepper, ground bay leaf, cumin, oregano and 1 tbsp of olive oil until you have a paste.
Prick the pork on different parts using a knife. Rub the pork with the garlic mixture and insert some of it into the slits.
Place the pork in a large non-reactive pot or in large plastic bag, with all the mixture. On a separate mixing bowl, pour the sour orange, olive oil, onions and dry sherry and mix with a whisk. Add the sour orange mixture to the pork, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees F. Use a heavy roasting pan and lightly brush it with oil. Place the pork in the roasting pan and reserve the left over marinade.
Put the roasting pan in the oven. Cook for about ½ hour, turning every 10 to 15 minutes to get a lightly golden brown color on all sides. Pour in the left-over marinade with the onions. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F., and continue cooking for about 2 to 2½ hours, basting occasionally with the juices. Remove the foil in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Cooking time is about 20 minutes per pound, or you can verify if the pork is ready by using a meat thermometer. Pork is done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F or about 170 degrees F., if you desire it well done. Modern pork doesn’t need overcooked, like it used to be
Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil again, and let it rest (covered) for about 15 minutes before carving. It will continue cooking even after you remove it from the oven.
Carve the pork and serve. You may pour some of the juices on top of the meat, from the cooked marinade.

You can make this side dish, platanos maduros, to serve with your holiday meal like most Cubans, and who knows, it might become part of your family tradition!

Platanos Maduros

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

The sweet fried "banana" served as a side dish in just about every Cuban restaurant.
3 large ripe plantains, peeled and bias cut into 1-inch thick slices. Plantains must be very black skinned! See plantain notes
2/3 cup vegetable oil, or lard, or coconut oil (to cover half the thickness of plantains in the pan)
Pan – use a heavy bottomed skillet, a cast iron skillet is optimal.
Peel and bias cut (diagonal) the plantains into 1 or 1-1/2 inch thick slices. Heat the oil until medium hot – a drop of water will sizzle.
Fry the pieces briefly, about a minute or two per side until lightly golden brown. Reduce heat to very low and continue cooking, turning occasionally until they are darker brown and caramelized.
Plantain Note: You can buy yellow or green or brownish black plantains at most any grocery store, like your local Wegmans’, then let them get nice and dark black, which shows the sugars are properly developed for this recipe.

Black beans and Rice
are a Cuban staple.

Your family might enjoy this recipe – I know mine does.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield: 10-12 servings (one Montague-Kolz family dinner size)

Frijoles negros is a signature dish of Cuban cuisine. It's black beans cooked to perfection in a thick aromatic stew.
2 1/2 cups black beans, dried
9 cups water
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 bay leaf
3 tablepoons vinegar
3/4 cup dry Spanish wine or
I used apple cider from our apple trees
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil (to drizzle over beans in final step)

First, soak the beans in ample water, overnight, the day before you plan to cook them. Drain that water to reduce flatulence in the eaters. Then put the beans and 9 cups of fresh water in your pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes until tender, or simmer all day long in your slow/crock pot cooker.
Whichever method you use, do not drain the water from the cooked beans.
Meanwhile, chop onion and green pepper. Mash the garlic with salt and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
Sauté the onions and green pepper in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add mashed garlic and sauté another minute or so.
Add the cooked beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, vinegar, and wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf.
Some cooks – including us – like to thicken the beans by taking about 1 cup of beans and mashing them to make a thick paste. Mix the mashed beans back into the pot.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the sugar; then drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the beans. Immediately cover the pot, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve the by now fantastically prepared black beans over white rice.
You may garnish the beans with cilantro and chopped white onions. My children prefer no raw onions, thankyouverymuch. Kolz kids prefer – a spoonful of peach and mango salsa, homemade.

1 comment:

Adam Thomas said...

Nice blog.. Keep up the good work !

Holidays in Cuba