We love the rich but bright tropical flavors of Cuban dishes. Here, a collection for a few of our favorites, from roast pork to tostones.
Food & Wine
September 16, 2014
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Cuban Sandwiches with Tomato Jam
Sandwiches are a classic choice for a tailgate, but Ken Oringer likes to go beyond plain ham-and-cheese. For these cubanos he roasts and shreds pork butt, then he layers the succulent meat on rolls along with homemade tomato jam, grilled onions, pickles and Gruyère. He cooks the sandwiches on a portable grill until they are crispy and warm.
This recipe for vaca frita ("fried cow") is a close cousin of Cuba’s famous ropa vieja, stewed shredded beef in tomato sauce. The beef for vaca frita, however, is marinated in lime, garlic and salt, then seared until crispy. The key to achieving the perfect texture is to cook the beef in small batches, so it sautés rather than steams.
Since people in Cuba don't usually have ready access to salad greens, Lourdes Castro says, many will start a meal with this simple avocado salad instead. Cubans tend to use Florida avocados, which are widely available in the Caribbean; they're larger and smoother than Hass avocados, stay bright green when ripe and have a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
The mojito may be Cuba's national cocktail. The drink gets its name from the African word mojo, which means "to cast a spell." Making mojitos in a pitcher doesn't work—it's impossible to distribute the lime and mint evenly, plus the club soda tends to turn flat. Instead, muddle a large batch of mint, limes and sugar, then pour the mixture into glasses and top with ice, rum and club soda.
A direct descendant of the Spanish Crema Catalana, natilla is a rich, creamy egg custard made without the crispy sugar topping. Adding eggs to the warm milk mixture can scramble them; to prevent that, add the milk mixture to the eggs very slowly in order to increase their temperature gradually.
No Cuban meal is complete without a café cubano (Cuban coffee). A well-made café cubano has a thick layer of sweet crema (cream) floating over strong espresso. To get the crema right, whisk about 1 tablespoon of the espresso with sugar until it turns foamy, then pour the pot of espresso over it. You can't overbeat a crema, so stir it energetically.