Swine is fine…..

This saying always makes me laugh and as my dear roommate Rhonda used to say “I eat pork with a fork.”

Pork is a huge part of the Puerto Rican culture.  Here in New York the street food is hot dogs and pretzels. In Puerto Rico on any given road there are people selling “frituras y pernil” Fried food and pork shoulder.  You can not mention pernil to me without seeing my eyes twinkle and mouth water.  Last night I went to a cuban restaurant here in New York.  They say some chefs will make their cooks make an omelette to test their cooking skills, the simplest things may be difficult.  So much in that fashion when i go to a Caribbean Hispanic restaurant I eat pernil.  If thats good I return and try paella, if thats good then I try other dishes that are not so common.  The pernil last night was not good despite the menu description “from our owner’s mother’s recipe.”  So here is mine! :)  I hope this pernil recipe makes your house warm and belly feel the joy of love.

Mis En Place-
1 Pork shoulder
Sofrito
Sazon
1 whole garlic
3 Lemons
Fresh cilantro
This pernil was about 5 lbs.  It fed my family of 5 for Thanksgiving.  First I rinsed it off with warm water and patted it dry.  Place in the pan that you will use to cook.  The skin of this cut of pork will melt slowly and prevent it from sticking to the pan so no oil is necessary.  After patting the meat dry I rubbed it generously with sofrito, sazon and adobo.  Try not to use too much adobo you want to taste the flavor of the pork itself.  Using a paring knife poke small holes into the pernil and insert whole garlic cloves all around.  Juice the lemons and chop fresh cilantro into it.  Pour this liquid over the pernil.  To add extra flavor I rub this under the skin by lifting it carefully so it doesn’t completely peel off of the meat.
Cover the pan in foil and place in the oven at 250.  This allows the pernil to cook low and slow and in its own juices.  Cooking time is about 4 hours.  You will see a lot of liquid in the pan.  Basting is not necessary but will add more flavor.  About 3 hours in take off the foil and allow the skin to crisp and brown.  Once cooked cut up the pernil and serve with fresh slices of lemon.  :)

A Comer Pasteles…..

One of my favorite things about the holidays is the food we get to eat.  I remember waiting for the packages getting to NY from Puerto Rico.  they would have tembleque (coconut pudding), pasteles, arroz con dulce (rice pudding) and mangoes.  I never really like pasteles but always ate them because I knew it was a once a year thing.  My mom always told me they were too laborious to make and took too long but I always wanted to learn how to make them.  So i took to my library of typical Puerto Rican cookbooks and as usual read all of the recipes and bought the supplies.
10 green bananas (and yes BANANAS, I thought plantains but no)
1/4 yautia (root vegetable with a nutty earth flavor)
1 Green plantain
1 Package banana leaves (mine cost about $1.99 at fine fare in Harlem and i had plenty left over)
Pernil cooked (for the sake of small batches I used 2 pork chops)
1 can garbanzos (chick peas in water, drained)
1 small pepper diced
1 small spanish onion diced
3 tablespoons of green olives
1c olive oil
To prepare for the masa peel the bananas, plantain and yautia.  I suggest peeling the bananas and plantain under running cold water.  The bananas will stain your hands with a black ink.  The yautia is bumpy but easily peeled with a veggie peeler.  Cube them all to about the same size.
Masa (literally “mass” this is a heavy puree that surrounds the meat filling)
In your food processor blend the bananas, plantain and yautia.  Do this in small batches so the paste is consistent.  The mixture will be a bit dry so drizzle in olive oil when necessary but this whole 1c has to give to grease the leaves as well.  While mixing also season it with sazon, salt, pepper and some adobo.  You can also put the juice from the cooked meat to add flavor as well and if you do that don’t put olive oil.  One or the other.  Once this is all mixed it will have a light yellow color.  Put in a bowl and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top and press plastic wrap down on to it.  this prevents a skin from forming in the fridge.  let this rest 1 hour while you prepare the meat or overnight.
Meat Filling-
Fry the pork chops and dice them.  I usually season my pork chops with sofrito a few days before so it gets into the meat.  Once fried cube the onions and pepper and put it all back in the saucepan.  Add garbanzos and sliced olives (be sure to get the pitted ones).  once this is cooked drain any excess fluid.

Rinse the banana leaves.  e sure to trim off the center vein if you fail to do this-as I did for a few- the leaf will break when you wrap the pastel.  Cut the leaves into squares about 8″x8″.  
Assembly-
Take a leaf and drizzle olive oil and spread the masa.  I used the back of a spoon to make this easier and evenly spread the masa.  take a few table spoons of the meat and put in the center.  
Fold the top and bottom together, the left and right together.  The pastel should be rolled tight but not too tight- it will expand when cooked.  then tie with cooking twine.  There are many different sites that give directions on how to do this.  for the sake of not being sued i wont post it here :)  Once you are done wrapping boil in salted water for about 30 minutes and you are ready to eat.
I like mine with ketchup, Buen Provecho!

Cooking With Chef CutiePie: Sofrito, the staple of Puerto Rican cooking.

Just because you live in NY doesnt mean you can’t make home made sofrito like your abuelita.  I went to fine fare and was pleasantly surprised that they sell recao.  I hadn’t found this uptown since i moved here.    I use about 1/2 the recao as I use cilantro.  4 ajis (ah-hees- the little peppers that look like Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers but are NOT hot), 4 garlic cloves (I love garlic) 1 medium onion, 1 medium green pepper, 1 packet of sazon and olive oil.
I use my cuisineart mini processor.  First I put in all of the peppers, onion and garlic and blend those.  These have  a high water content so this is why I do this first.  I our that into a bowl.  Then i put in all of the leafy greens with some olive oil.  If you don’t put olive oil the blending takes longer since there is no lubrication.  When done i mix it all up together and add a packet of sazon.  This bunch seen in the picture made a little less than 1 pint.  I use sofrito to season meat and in almost everything i make- soup, beans, stews etc.

Arecibo, PR- Pollo Guisado

Arecibo is the largest town on the island of Puerto Rico. It is home to the largest radio telescopes in the world. It is also home to the cueva del indo (Indians cave).

Today’s recipe is Pollo Guisado- stew chicken

Chicken legs and thighs
Potatoes
Carrots
Corn on the cob
Tomato sauce
1 can beer

Seasonings-
Sazon, Cilantro, Adobo, Sofrito, Salt, Pepper

Wash and rinse the chicken. Arrange the chicken in one layer across a pan. The best way I can describe how to season is by saying that you should sprinkle the seasoning across the meat to evenly and lightly coat it. There is no right or wrong amount..ok well maybe there is a wrong amount lol. After seasoning the meat rub in the spices well and let it marinate while you get the veggies together. Peel the potatoes and cut into small uniform pieces. I usually cut a large potato into 6 pieces and i use baby carrots so no peeling or cutting necessary. Husk and wash your corn if it is fresh and cut an ear of corn into 3 pieces.In a glass or stainless steel pot (aluminum gives off a subtle taste) put a bit of olive oil in. Saute and sweat one small onion and 3 cloves of garlic… this is necessary btu adds a bit of extra flavor. Brown the chicken until golden brown. When you have browned all of the chicken place it all back in the pan and cover it with either chick broth or water. Add salt and pepper tot he water mixture. Let the chicken stew for about half an hour on simmer. Put in your vegetables and tomato sauce. give the broth a taste and season as you wish. This goes great with white rice.

Añasco, PR- Pastelillos de Guayaba

Añasco is home to a lot of fruit which is a great addition to Pitorro. Pitorro is a version of rum some people may make in their house. In the US i guess we would call it “infused.” You start out with rum and put in grapes, coconut passion fruit- whatever flavors mix well and let it sit. I have to do more research on this drink but I just know it will know you out cold! lol