Monday, December 29, 2014

A Cuban-Style Nochebuena Feast

Since both of our boys spent Christmas with their girlfriends' families out of state, we decided to have a traditional Cuban Nochebuena dinner, usually enjoyed on Christmas Eve, for our Christmas Day dinner. Before I started work in the church, I made this dinner on Christmas Eve, but had bumped it to different days, depending on the year. It works beautifully as a Christmas Day dinner.

It being just the two of us, it wouldn't make sense to roast a whole pig like they do in many Miami backyards on Christmas Eve. So, I did a pork roast, black beans & rice, maduros (fried ripe plantains), and avocado & onion salad. We had a local oddity called Bumpy Cake for dessert. It's kind of like a Ho Ho Cake.

This pork roast is fabulous, but if you're vegetarian or vegan, the mojo marinade would be really good for tofu, as well.

Puerco Asado
A 5-lb. boneless pork loin
5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. dry red wine
A few bay leaves

The morning you are going to cook this, piece the pork roast all over with a knife. Mash the garlic, oregano, salt, & pepper into a paste. Rub it all over the pork roast. Place in a gallon zipper storage bag or nonreactive dish/pan. Pour the juices, oil, and wine over it. Add the bay leaves. Cover the dish/pan or seal the bag. Let marinate a minimum of 2 hours (all day is better), making sure to turn the roast several times during the marinating time. Preheat oven to 350 degree. Remove roast from marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade for later, but discard the bay leaves. Roast the meat to an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 2 hours, pouring marinade over it halfway through the cooking time and basting frequently for the second half of the cooking time. When finished, allow to stand 10-15 minutes, tented with foil, before slicing. Serves 8. (Leftovers can be employed in Cuban sandwiches, with ham, swiss, & pickles.)

I am too lazy to use dried black beans and always use canned. I sometimes really cheat, when I can find Goya black bean soup, and just heat it up. For special occasions, though, this is the recipe I like:

Cuban Black Beans
1/3 c. olive oil (Spanish, if you have it)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
32 oz. canned black beans, with their liquid
1/2 c. beef broth (vegetarians & vegans can omit or sub veggie broth)
1 tsp. cumin
A few dashes of hot sauce, if desired
2-3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper
Chopped onion for garnish

Heat oil in pan, then add garlic, onion, and pepper until they are softened. Add the rest and cook another 20 minutes or so. Serve with onions for garnish and cooked long-grain white rice. Serves 8.

Maduros (Fried Ripe Plantains)
4 very ripe plantains (skin should be entirely black---this takes time, so unless you can find black plantains at the grocery, you'll want to buy the green ones 2-3 weeks ahead), sliced on the diagonal
Oil for frying

Heat an inch of oil in a large skillet until it sizzles. Place one layer of plantain slices in the oil and fry until browned. Turn over and cook until browned on the other side. Remove from pan to a paper-towel-lined plate. Salt. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all plantains are fried and you are ready to eat. Serves 8. Plantains are also delicious baked, so if you don't want to fry them, you can bake them 20-25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. 

Avocado & Onion Salad
Butter lettuce (or, if your wife prefers romaine, as mine does, do that)
4 avocados, sliced or diced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced into demi-lunes
Salt & pepper
1/2 c. (more or less) olive oil (again, Spanish is preferred)
Juice of 1 lemon or 2-3 limes

Arrange the lettuce in salad bowls or on a platter. Place avocado and onion atop the lettuce. Whisk salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar together. Drizzle over the salad. Serves 8. 

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