Cuban cuisine is the result of the mixing of Spanish, aboriginal, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions along with them.
Rice and beans are a culinary element found throughout Cuba, although it varies by region. In the eastern part of the island, “arroz congri oriental” is the predominant rice and bean dish. White rice and red kidney beans are cooked together with a sofrito and then baked in the oven. The same procedure is used for the above mentioned Congri (also known by the terms Arroz Moro and Moros y Cristianos – literally “Moors and Christians”) which instead uses black beans. Although the process of preparing the black bean soup contains basics (onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt) each region has their tradition of preparing it.
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chopped onion
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon dry wine or lemon juice
2 cups ground cooked beef
1 cup breadcrumbs or crackers
1 teaspoon soy sauce, if you are using the brisket from the soup
Lightly sauté the finely chopped onion in the butter, add the milk mixed with the flour, the salt and the pepper. Cook this sauce until it reaches a double cream thickness and it’s possible to see the bottom of the pot when stirred with a spoon; remove it from the heat and add the dry wine or lemon and the meat stirring vigorously. Let cool this thick paste and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Then take the paste by spoonfuls and shape it into croquettes, coat twice in beaten egg and breadcrumbs or ground crackers. Leave the croquettes at room temperature for a while before deep frying until golden brown. This recipe makes approx. 20 middle sized croquettes or 40 small ones for serving at parties or as appetizers.
3 slices (almost shaved) of boiled ham
3 slices of turkey (optional)
3 slices roast pork hot or cold
3 slices of salami
3 slices of Swiss cheese
3 or 4 slices of pickles
1/3 cut Cuban bread hard crust
3 slices of tomato
4 slices of green bell pepper
3 slices onion
1/3 cut French or Cuban bread
1 leaf Romaine lettuce
mayonnaise, mustard to taste
It is important that the sandwich be prepared on Cuban bread, French or Italian bread – any artisan style bread with a hard crust. All cold cuts should be sliced very thinly; almost shaved. Slice the bread in an open faced fashion and spread lightly with mustard first, then with mayonnaise. Remember this is not entirely traditional, but still good. Add the ham (roast pork), turkey and salami. Next add a layer of tomato, pepper, onion and lettuce. Top the sandwich and press. Press the sandwich on a hot skillet with a weight on top. A suitable weight would be a heavy (clean) cast iron skillet that has been heated until sizzling. Or better yet, use a sandwich press or panini grill if one is available.
- 4 sweet bread rolls
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup prepared mustard
- 1 pound thinly sliced cooked ham
- 1 pound thinly sliced fully cooked pork
- 1 pound sliced Swiss cheese
- 1 cup dill pickle slices
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Split the sandwich rolls in half, and spread mustard and mayonnaise liberally onto the cut sides. On each sandwich, place and equal amount of Swiss cheese, ham and pork in exactly that order. Place a few pickles onto each one, and put the top of the roll onto the sandwich. Brush the tops with melted butter.
- Press each sandwich in a sandwich press heated to medium-high heat. If a sandwich press is not available, use a large skillet over medium-high heat, and press the sandwiches down using a sturdy plate or skillet. Some indoor grills may be good for this also. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, keeping sandwiches pressed. If using a skillet, you may want to flip them once for even browning. Slice diagonally and serve hot.
In Cuban cuisine, sofrito is prepared in a similar fashion, but the main components are onions, garlic, and green bell peppers. It is a base for beans, stews, rices, and other dishes, including ropa vieja and picadillo. Other secondary components include, but are not limited to: tomato sauce, dry white wine, cumin, bay leaf and cilantro (coriander). Chorizo (sausage), tocino (salt pork) and ham are added for specific recipes, like beans. The secret to a good sofrito is to let it simmer a while so all the tastes meld.
21 cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
8 to 10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 or 2 bay leaves
touch of ground cumin
touch of dried oregano
3/4 cup Sherry, or to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste (optional)
Sautee tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin and oregano in oil slowly until all vegetables are limp. Add Sherry and let simmer. If you add the salt, taste beforehand as you might not need it at all.
* 1/2 cup olive oil shopping list
* 8 cloves garlic, minced shopping list
* 3/4 cup fresh lime, grapefruit, lime or pineapple juice
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin shopping list
* salt and ground black pepper to taste
To mince garlic, slice a peeled clove lengthwise, cut through once or twice horizontally, then chop crosswise into very fine pieces. Using caution when adding the juice to the hot oil, as it may splatter. A deep saucepan is a wise precaution. Mojo can be stored for a few days, but is best when fresh. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned, 20-30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Carefully stir in and bring to a boil the lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Let cool and serve at room temperature. This sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Makes 1 cup.
¼ kilogram ground beef
¼ kilogram ground pork
1/8 kilogram ground ham
¼ cup lard
1 large pepper
1 clove of garlic
¾ cup capers with dressing
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup tomato sauce
¼ cup dry wine
Saute the chopped onion, the crushed garlic and the pepper in the lard; add the meats and the ham and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the meats from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes
2 1/2 lbs flank steak, cut in strips
5 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic or 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
6 ounces sofrito sauce
Heat 3 tbsp. oil in skillet on medium, brown meat on all sides. Remove from skillet, add remaining oil to skillet, stir in garlic, onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. Stir in black pepper, browned meat, tomato sauce, water and sofrito. Simmer until meat is tender and shreds easily, about 1 hour. Serve on top of rice.
Arroz con Pollo
1 three pounds chicken
2/3 cup oil
¼ kilogram onions
1 stalk of parsley
1 large pepper
2 cloves of garlic
12 small tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry wine
2 tablespoons salt (approx.)
½ teaspoon saffron
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ kilogram rice
1 can sweet red peppers
1 small can green peas
1 small can asparagus
Cut the chicken up in eights and fry it in hot oil. Then, using the same oil, make a sauce with the onions, the parsley, the garlic and the tomatoes. Add the stock and let it boil for some minutes until the chicken is tender. Add the wine, the salt, the saffron, the cumin, the pepper and the water from the sweet red peppers, the green peas and the asparagus. Let it boil and add the rice. Cook for about 30 minutes over low heat or in the oven at 400ºF for the same amount of time or until the rice is soft.
Black Beans and White Rice
1 pound dried black beans
4 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
¼ pound salt pork, chopped
1 pound smoked ham hocks, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place black beans and water in large stock pot. Cover and boil two minutes. Turn off heat and let stand covered for 1 hour. Remove the lid and add the rest of the ingredients, except the vinegar, salt and pepper. There should be enough water to just cover the beans, so if necessary add a bit or water. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Take out the hocks and remove the bones. Return the meat to the pot. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer long enough to heat the vinegar.
1 Cup Black Beans
2 Cups White Rice
5 Cups Water
1 lb of Salt Pork
1/2 Orange Pepper
1/2 Yellow Pepper
1/2 Green Pepper
9 Garlic Cloves crushed
2 tbsp Cumin
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Cook black beans in water (we used 5 cups of water in a pressure cooker; with dry beans it took approximately 20 min). Roughly chop the peppers and onions. Crush the garlic cloves. Note: The salt pork was purchased already cut. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to pan and cook salt pork in saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pork is golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add onions, bay Leaves, bell peppers, garlic and cumin sauté over medium‐high heat 3‐4 minutes or until onion is tender. Add rice and stir in. Add the cooked beans along with the water used to cook them and let sit, do not cover or stir. After water has absorbed (approx 10min) reduce heat, stir, and cover the pot. Let simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and serve.
- 2 green plantains
- Oil for frying
- Heat the oil to 375 degrees.
- While the oil is heating up, peel the green plantains and then cut them into 3/4 inch slices.
- Fry the slices in the hot oil for 3 minutes. They should be a light golden color and semi-soft.
- Remove the plantain slices with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- When the plantain slices are cool enough to handle (about 1 minute), smash them into flat rounds.
- Fry the rounds in the hot oil for 3 minutes. They will turn crisp and golden brown.
- Remove the tostones with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt to taste.
Tip: Maintain the oil’s temperature.
- 2 very ripe plantains (the skin of the plantain should be brownish black)
- salt (optional)
- Heat approximately 1/4″ oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Peel the plantain, and cut at an angle, making slices about 3/4″ thick. Brown plantain in oil, approximately 2 minutes a side, or until both sides are brown.
- When browned, remove from skillet and place on a paper towel covered plate to drain the excess oil off.
- Serve hot.
- The traditional way is to serve plain, but I like to sprinkle them with a little bit of salt for a nice, salty sweet taste.
1 Place the mint leaves, sugar, and a little club soda in a highball glass.
2 Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and release the mint flavor.
3 Squeeze the juice from both halves of the lime into the glass. Leave one half of the lime in the glass.
4 Add the rum, and stir well.
5 Fill the glass with ice cubes, and top off with club soda.
6 Garnish with mint sprig, and serve with a straw.
1 Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Put the sugar into a small sauce pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. Keep turning the pot from one side to the next until the sugar has melted completely. Once the sugar has melted completely, pour the liquid into the 2.5 quart metal mixing bowl. Tip the bowl back and forth so the melted sugar spreads evenly over the bottom and sides of the bowl. Set it aside.
2 In a heavy pot over low heat whisk together all the remaining ingredients (milk, eggs, vanilla, salt). Pour the liquid into your bowl.
3 Place the bowl in a large pan and pour enough hot water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil so the water won’t get into it.
4 Cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the flan comes out clean.
5 Remove the bowl from the pan and allow it to cool for about 30-40 minutes. Once it has cooled, flip it over unto a serving tray or dish. Cover it again with foil and place it in the refrigerator until it has chilled completely.