Summer temperatures are rising and the world seems to be heading in a different and wonderful direction like never before. With this revitalized existence, it’s important to consider what aspects of pre-pandemic life you enjoy and want to take with you, and which you need to leave in the past. Through it all, food speaks (and stays)!
Flavor can mean the comfort and familiarity or the spontaneity of trying something new. For Latin Americans, culinary cuisine can be a reminder of their homeland, childhood, or backyard roast pork. The Puerto Rican recipes my father brings to our home remind us of priceless memories and exciting new adventures to be had.
Here are some island recipes to experience a little touch of tropical paradise in Connecticut:
For a quick and easy snack anytime of the day, try tostones. There is very little preparation and only three ingredients.
The first step is to prepare the plantains. Using a paring knife, cut off the ends of the plantains and cut a long slit down the length of the plantain to make it easier to remove the skin. Once the skin is removed and discarded, cut the plantain into slices. The slices should be about an inch each (or about 10 pieces per plantain). In a large skillet, heat about two cups of vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is brought to a boil, add the plantains. Fry them until they start to brown or for about 1 minute on each side. While keeping the oil still simmering, use your spatula to move the plantains onto a cutting board. Working one piece at a time, use a tostonera (or if you’re like us, a large can) to gently press each plantain flat about half an inch thick. To avoid overloading the pan and uneven cooking, it is best to work in small amounts when frying the now flattened pieces. Remembering the one minute delay per side, fry the pieces until golden brown. Using the spatula again, move the tostones onto a paper towel-lined plate.
While hot, season with salt and adobo to taste. These delicious bites are best served hot, with MayoKetchup for a dip! For this sauce, simply create a mixture of half ketchup and half mayonnaise and add a pinch of minced garlic for added flavor.
For a meal worth the wait, the next recipe is pernil.
The first step is to create a seasoning mix by combining minced garlic, Adobo, salt and pepper for flavor. Next, place your cut of meat in a large, shallow pot, leaving room for any juices and juices. Use a boning knife or utility knife to make about 20 slits, about 1 inch deep throughout the meat. Then rub the mixture and a sachet of Sazon all over the meat, being particularly careful to fill all the slits. Cover meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, bring the meat to room temperature while the oven preheats to 200F °. Slowly cook meat for four hours or more or until pork is brown and peeling. After the four hours, increase the temperature to 375 ° and switch to oven mode on “broil” for fifteen minutes to acquire the coveted crispy skin. Once the pernil is out of the oven, let it cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Finally, as a unique dessert to start the summer off right, piraguas are the obvious choice.
These flavored crushed frozen treats are native to Puerto Rico, but have been adapted by many cultures. (They tend to remind us of either the homeland or hot summer days in New York City!) For a DIY at-home version, no ice packs or expensive ice shaving machines are needed – just a blender. will do ! Choose the setting closest to crushed ice and toss to create the base for this iconic treat.
On the syrup side, two classics are crema de coco (coconut cream) and parcha (passion fruit). Combining a small can of evaporated coconut milk, a can of condensed milk, half a cup of heavy cream and a hint of vanilla will create the creamy coconut combination for the most decadent of two flavors. Parcha syrup can be created by simply mixing the contents of a passion fruit with a quarter cup of sugar and a cup of water. Drain the seeds through a colander and the bright orange mixture should have a sweet and tangy contrast as opposed to the lighter, creamy flavor of coconut cream.
Shape the ice cream into a plastic cup with a traditional pointed top, drizzle liberally with any flavor of your choice and enjoy!
These recipes have been passed down from generation to generation and have their own style that comes with family traditions. If you create your own versions of these and find yourself adding your own special touches, please do and remember two things. The first is to have fun with it! The second is that meals like these are best when shared with those who are dear to you.
Francesca Fontánez is a journalist, educator and designer based in Meriden. A graduate of the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden to write about the city she loves. When not helping in the English department at Maloney High School, she explores the East Coast for her lifestyle blog (@eastsidevibes on Instagram) or works on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach. Email Francesca at [email protected] with advice on what you want to read next, or just say hi!