Cuba Libre!
October 13, 2006 4:34 PM   Subscribe

What's your favorite Cuban meal?

CubanFoodFilter: I’m throwing a dinner party for a friend who will soon be spending time doing research in Central / South America. I’ve been told that she loves Cuban food but I’ve never made it before. Can you suggest some authentic Cuban recipes that are not too hard to make?

I have a some idea of what I want to make but please share recipes that you’ve enjoyed making before. In particular, I’m looking for at least one vegetarian recipe (which isn't a salad) and dessert ideas.
posted by special-k to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
arroz con pollo. I highly recommend the versions in Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, which can be searched online from Amazon. This book and recipe came recommended by my ex-boyfriend's Cuban grandmother, and she is a top notch cook, as any Cuban grandmother should be. Their favorite is "Arroz con pollo de Rosalia," but there are a couple others, as well.

vegetarian... arroz con tofu? I'd search the book for more options. When I studied in Cubans, the vegetarians I knew ate a lot of black bean soup (delicious) and rice and beans (not at all uniquely Cuban).

Desserts. My GOD do I have a dessert for you. Imagine a sponge cake, with a hot syrup of sugar and water poured over it, topped with a natilla. This is the bocado de príncipe, from the same grandmother. Any guava-filled pastry will suffice, too. Very authentic... I'll post the recipe in a bit...
posted by whatzit at 4:48 PM on October 13, 2006

oh gooodness. Studied in Cuba. Blech. I got so wrapped up in the food I forgot about the sentences...
posted by whatzit at 4:49 PM on October 13, 2006

Response by poster: @whatzit: Looking for to it!

@luriete: Recipes with meat are fine too. I just need one good vegetarian recipe for some of my dinner guests.
posted by special-k at 4:55 PM on October 13, 2006

Bocado de Príncipe

12 Egg yolks
3 Egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
½ tsp. (baking powder)
2 tsp. sugar
6 tbsp. Corn starch

In a mixer, blend the egg yolks, egg whites, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Beat them at high speed until they have increased in volume, and can hold shape when a spatula is run through it. Sprinkle the corn starch (it can be dropped from the sifter and stirred carefully into the mixture). Put in a greased and floured cake pan, which measures 11” x 9”. Put the pan on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 350˚F. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until it is golden brown, and a cake probe in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool.


2 ½ cup water
2 ½ cup sugar
lemon peel (2 inches)

Mix the water and sugar in a pot and stir until the sugar is well dissolved. Add the lemon peel and turn the heat to medium. Heat without stirring until large bubbles form (they pop loudly). Count for exactly three minutes, then remove from heat and toss the lemon peel. Cut the surface of the panetela very lightly and slowly pour the almíbar over it, allowing it to filter through the panetela.

3 cups of milk
cinnamon stick
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
6 egg yolks
4 tbsp. corn starch
4 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. butter
ground cinnamon

In a pot, boil the milk with the salt and cinnamon stick. Remove from the heat and stir, adding sugar until it is well dissolved. Beat the eggs with the corn starch and water until the corn starch is well dissolved. Back on heat, add the milk little by little. Continue stirring until the mixture is well thickened. Stir in the vanilla and the butter. Spread it warm over the panatela. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it. Cut in squares to serve.
posted by whatzit at 4:59 PM on October 13, 2006

Response by poster: Whatzit: That dessert sounds fantastic. I found the recipe for Arroz con Pollo de Rosalia via Amazon. Thanks a bunch!
posted by special-k at 5:05 PM on October 13, 2006

Most definitely the Cuban Sandwich
posted by horsemuth at 5:31 PM on October 13, 2006

(well not for the "at least one vegetarian" option, though)
posted by horsemuth at 5:32 PM on October 13, 2006

oh yeah. and drink guarapo. the juice crushed from sugar canes. you could, um, make your own? or buy it at plenty of latin or asian markets.
posted by whatzit at 5:35 PM on October 13, 2006

for vegetarians:

Surely there are Cuban dishes that are fried plantains with something-or-other. Googling for plaintain or plantanos would turn them up.

Do they eat empanadas in Cuba? Thems are good. You could probably even make a vegetarian empanada if you really wanted to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 PM on October 13, 2006

This is a bit of a derail, but I've never understood why people rave about the Cuban sandwich. Like, they'll talk about this or that place that makes a great Cuban sandwich. And then you get it and, I mean, it's a sandwich... that has been smashed. Hoorayyyy! Smashed plain sandwich! Wow, this is fanTAStic!

I bet they have absolutely crazy salads in Cuba. Like, with bent LETTUCE! Havana, I'm coming home.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:14 PM on October 13, 2006

posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2006

mi tres el Ropa.

but it's not exactly easy. You gots ta bile the flank down, boys, bile the flank down.

I will say when you get it right and your beloved Cuban inlaws start raving about it it's worth the effort.

MMMM. I lurves me the Cuban food.
posted by mwhybark at 6:36 PM on October 13, 2006

This is a standard we make for holidays and anytime I'm missing Ybor City. Nowadays I'm lazy and buy my boliche prestuffed at Cacciatore's in Tampa.

6-7 lbs. eye round
3 chorizo sausages, chopped
1/2 lb. chopped ham
2 bacon slices, chopped
1/2 c. orange juice mixed with juice of 2 limes
2 large onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 T. veg. oil
1/2 c. dry sherry (vino seco)
2 large green peppers, sliced
2 parsley sprigs, chopped
6 bay leaves4 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Cut a pocket lengthwise in center of beef or ask the butcher to do it. leaving opposite end closed. Mix chorizo, ham and bacon and stuff meat. Mix orange and lime juices, garlic, pepper, onion, bay leaves and pepper. Marinate meat in this mixture for at least 2 hours, but better overnight. In a heavy casserole or pot, brown meat on all sides and add sherry, salt and all the marinade ingredients. Cook it covered at medium low heat for 1 1/2 hours or 2 till meat is fork tender. Strain the sauce and pour over the meat.

Serve it with white rice and black beans:

4 slices bacon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, small dice
1 can black beans or 1/2 pound dry black beans soaked overnight and cooked in water until tender
2 cups Basmati rice
2 cups water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt and pepper
1 large green bell pepper, small dice

In a large casserole pot or Dutch oven fry bacon until crisp, add the chopped garlic and onion. Next, add tender black beans and mix for a while, add 2 cups of rice that has been washed and drained, 2 cups water, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the green pepper and mix until all is well incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until rice and beans are cooked, approximately 30 minutes. Fluff with a big fork when done.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:40 PM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Fried plantains are easy. Buy green plantains, peel and slice them and fry them in hot oil. Salt and pepper and eat them like potatoes. Personally, I think they're repulsive, but the rest of my family eats them like potato chips.

You can omit the bacon from the black beans if you want a totally vegetarian dish, btw.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:42 PM on October 13, 2006

"Fried plantains are easy. Buy green plantains..."

They are easy (I don't salt/pepper mine), but if you want them sweet, wait until the plantains are overly ripe (blackened peel). Peel and slice generously at an angle and fry in oil until they start to brown. Remove from pan and pat off extra oil with papertowels. If you do it right, they will be a bit gooey in texture when you eat them.
posted by Sangre Azul at 6:49 PM on October 13, 2006

absolutely crazy salads

Actually, they're pretty crappy. Like, iceberg lettuce with sliced tomato, maybe black pepper. But yeah, I totally forgot the plantains. Some sweet maduros (fried when the peel is black like a dead banana) and fritos (fried when the peel is green and hard), topped with adobo.

Oh, oh, and here's your veggie dish! Cubans eat a lot of yucca, whether they're veggie or not, because it's really cheap. This yucca with garlic sauce sounds representative, though this is not a recipe I've personally tried.

Sorry to be commenting so much, but you've hit on food and Cuba, two of my favorite things.
posted by whatzit at 7:00 PM on October 13, 2006

The wife from Tampa says Sopa De Ajo (garlic soup). Can be made with meat stock or just water for a vegetarian version. May not be specifically Cuban, but many Cubans in Tampa make it.
posted by qwip at 7:09 PM on October 13, 2006

I don't know if it is specifically Cuban, but a Cuban restaurant close to me serves the most amazing dish. They call it "Chicken Supreme." It is a roast chicken breast, stuffed with shrimp & avocado.
posted by wilde at 7:13 PM on October 13, 2006

Pretty much any cuban food I've had, in restaurants or from my cuban relatives, has meat, fried meat, sometimes stewed and THEN fried meat, and lots of it.

I generally don't like cuban food, but I find myself craving it from time to time anyway.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:22 PM on October 13, 2006

Marinate chicken and thick slices of onion in a mixture of mojo criollo, bitter orange (same link) and pineapple juice. Let it the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 24 hours, best if it sits for more than a day. Grill (broil, whatever) chicken and onions.

I am guessing this will work with fish or pork, as well, though I've never tried it.

Serve with black beans and rice:
General recipe, don't have exact measurements because I just make it from memory

at least 2 cans of black beans (drained)
a can of chopped tomato (drained, reserve the juice)
lots and lots and lots of minced garlic
1-2 large onions (chopped, smallish)
Lemon juice

Saute onions till soft, add garlic and lots and lots of oregano (I never use fresh oregano, btw). Add black beans and tomato. Add in enough tomato juice so that the mixture isn't too dry (but not soupy). Cover with lid, let simmer for a while. Add rum (an ounce or two) and a couple dashes of lemon juice. Let simmer for longer. After everything is really soft, take out about a cup or so of the mixture, mash really well, add back in. Simmer for a bit longer and serve.
posted by necessitas at 7:31 PM on October 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oooh, and fried malanga (a root, like yucca) is awesome. Peel and slice into thin slices then fry. Sooooo good.
posted by necessitas at 7:34 PM on October 13, 2006

I don't know much about Cuban food but I do know I love plantains.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:53 PM on October 13, 2006

A pretty standard Cuban plate is pork, plantains, and "moros y cristianos" (black beans and white rice). But this only works if you use the fattiest cut of pork you can find--not the lean, flavorless stuff that tends to be in your local supermarket.

Also, guanábana juice (found at Latino grocery stores) is a delicious Cuban fruit drink.
posted by clair-de-lune at 9:20 PM on October 13, 2006

On eof my coffee-loving friends are really into Cuban coffee and café con Leche. One or both of these might be a nice after-dinner drink. Here's a tutorial for both.
posted by PY at 10:30 PM on October 13, 2006

Most definitely the Cuban Sandwich

I love 'em too (if you're in NYC, try Margon on the south side of 46th between 6th and 7th -- mmm, good! -- or one of the others listed here), but you can't make 'em at home unless you've got a plancha, which you don't.
posted by languagehat at 6:51 AM on October 14, 2006

Cohiba Siglo VI.
posted by NekulturnY at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2006

There's a wonderful little Cuban restaurant in Manhattan that I frequent just for the roasted corn on the cob slathered with butter and rolled in cheese. The greatest meal combined with simple yellow rice and beans. Not for the weight conscious
posted by aisleofview at 9:11 AM on October 14, 2006

Moors and Christians
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 green bell pepper
2 tomatoes
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup rice
2 cups water

Chop and cook the first three ingredient in oil, chop and add the tomatoes then add the remaining ingredients cover and cook over low heat until the rice is ready (about 20 minutes). I like to add hot peppers but I don't think that is traditional.

Pastel de Maiz (Corn Pie)
16 ears corn or 4 cups frozen
1 stick butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 egg yolks
salt to taste
Puree the corn and then add all but the yolks to a saucepan and cook gently for 20 minutes or so until it thickens. Cool it slightly and add the yolks. Line a pie or baking dish with this crust.

2 1/2 lb chicken poached and cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion
2 lbs tomatoes
a few chopped green olives
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp raisins
12 pitted prunes reconstituted in hot water
2 hard boiled eggs sliced
Saute the onions then add the tomatoes and cook until quite thick. Add the rest of the ingredients except the eggs and then pour into the prepared baking dish. Cover with the egg slices and then with more of the crust. Bake at 350 F until done, about 45 minutes.

These are both from The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking by Elisabeth Ortiz which I highly recommend.
posted by caddis at 9:32 AM on October 14, 2006

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