I like to check out cookbooks from the library. Public libraries in general have a shit-ton of cookbooks, and the Providence Main Library must have two or three rows of shelves full.
A recent find:
The author, like me, lived in South Florida but is not Cuban herself. She is, however, a restaurant critic so I trusted that the cookbook would be decent. And decent it is!
I decided to make myself a full dinner: Vaca frita, tostones, and black beans and rice.
I’d never made black beans from scratch, only from a can, and usually just got “black bean soup” rather than flavoring the beans myself.
The reason for this is that black beans from scratch take for-fucking-ever. It’s not difficult, and they do taste a great deal better than black bean soup from a can, but goddamn.
Black Beans, recipe adapted from two sources in Cuba Cocina
Simmer those beans!
- Soak 1 2/3 cups black beans overnight with a green pepper.
- Toss the green pepper. Dump beans and water in a pot and simmer for two hours.
- While simmering, chop up 1 large or 2 medium white onions. Take frequent breaks to cry like a bitch and blow your nose because your kitchen is poorly ventilated.
- Anyway. Chop the onion(s) finely, and mince 2-7 cloves of garlic. Recipes said 2 and 5, but I love garlic more than most people love their own children, so I used 7.
- Sauté the onions and garlic until tender.
- When beans are also tender, dump in onion and garlic mixture, 1 tsp each cumin, oregano, sugar, and salt, and 2 bay leaves. Add in a chunk of bacon, salt pork, or ham if you’ve got it.
- Simmer another 15 minutes. Add in 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro or to taste.
The original recipe specifically forbade me to eat these beans on the same day I cooked them, as the flavors blend better over time. Fuck that, they’re delicious. I will report back on the increased deliciousness of the leftovers.
If you can’t follow directions on the package of rice, there is no hope for you. Just cook some rice.
Tostones, from Cuba Cocina
Tostones are surprisingly easy to make, and now that I know this, I’ll definitely be making them more often.
- Peel two green plantains. This is not like peeling a banana. Cut the ends off, cut the plantain in half lengthwise, then use a paring knife to take the peel off in strips.
- Cut the plantains into slices on the diagonal, about 1/2-3/4 inch thick
- Fry in vegetable oil until light-gold (see above)
- Once cool, pat on paper towels or newspaper. Then take each piece and smush it between two paper towels into a patty.
- Fry once more, lightly. Pat again on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and maybe some lime juice
Vaca frita, from Cuba Cocina
I love brisket (the Jewish version- surrounded with a sauce and cooked on a low oven for hours) so it’s not surprising that I like this recipe as well. You can use either brisket or flank steak. I used flank because it was free range and mad cheap at Price Rite. Who knew?
Prepare to salivate. I wish I could show you the taste instead of the appearance.
- Last night, I thinly sliced 2 onions and 5 cloves of garlic (recipe said 3, do you sense a pattern?)
- I sautéed them in olive oil, then added 2 lbs of steak, and 1/2 cup each lemon and lime juice, and some salt and pepper, then flipped the steaks around to coat
- Since I don’t have a dutch oven (woe is me), I could not properly braise by tossing it in the oven, so I let it simmer on the stove for 2 hours instead.
- After the meat cools, shred it with your fingers and mix it back up with the lemon and lime and garlic and onion mixture. Marinate overnight.
- Today, all I did was squeeze out the marinade, then heat some olive oil, flavor said olive oil by toasting and then discarding a clove of garlic, and stir-fry the meat for a few minutes.
Then plate with a cilantro garnish and lime wedge. I like to squeeze lime over everything and add a dash of tabasco sauce to the beans.
That’s some professional shit right there.