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The Toronto Star
Puerto Rican Recipes
24 November 2004
To know a country, eat its food. And so we did while in Puerto Rico recently for the annual Association of Food Journalists conference.
Our host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, put an island spin on the many meals (from breakfasts to banquets) it prepared for us. "The perception of Puerto Rican cuisine is that everything is fried and it's just rice-and-beans, but really it's so much more," says executive chef Alain Gruber, who is from South Africa. "It's very underrated."
Instead of serving continental breakfasts, we were treated to Puerto Rican flavours: guava and cheese muffins (see recipe below), sliced Spanish-cured meats and cheese, vanilla-scented cornmeal, pastries and tropical fruits.
During a beach dinner we had guava barbecued pork tamales, fried plantain chips, shrimp skewers with pineapple rum sauce and even rice with red beans (see recipe below).
While we were there, the hotel unveiled a "Nuevo Boricua" menu based on Puerto Rican classics given a fusion twist. At a final banquet, we feasted on Cantonese Spiced Duck Pinon With Tamarind And Lemongrass Demi, Plantain And Chicharron Souffle and Chayote And Mango Spring Rolls.
Authentic or not, it was, for the most part, a delicious reprieve from cooking. Here are two recipes for those of us who can't stay out of the kitchen.
Ritz-Carlton Muffins With Guava And Cheese
The Ritz-Carlton served these fab muffins (pictured at right) for breakfast. Latin grocery stores sell queso fresco and guava paste (in tins and clear packages, it's a solid paste). Try Perola at 247 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market.
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup each: whipping cream, milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz (350 g) firm white cheese such as queso fresco or Monterey jack, coarsely grated
12 oz (350 g) guava paste, diced
In mixing bowl, beat eggs and salt. Add cream, milk and oil. Slowly whisk in flour until batter is smooth.
Stir in cheese and guava cubes. Pour into greased 12-cup jumbo/texas muffin tin, about 1/3 cup batter per cup. Bake in preheated 425F oven 15 to 18 minutes until golden. Let cool slightly; remove from tin. Serve hot.
Ritz-Carlton Red Beans
Adapted from a Ritz-Carlton dish served with white rice.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced ham
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow sweet banana pepper, diced (optional)
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup pureed tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
Two 19-oz (540-mL) cans red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp each: paprika, curry powder
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt + pepper to taste
In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add ham, bell pepper, banana pepper, if using, and onion. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add tomato and wine. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Add beans, stock, paprika, curry, cilantro and bay leaf.
Raise heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer to desired consistency, about 1 hour. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 10 cups.
3 February 2005
ADOBO-RUBBED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH SWEET PLANTAIN PUREE AND CARIBBEAN BEAN STEW
The sublime combination of sweet, sour and earthy flavors in this dish adapted from Carmen González gives wings to three staples of the Hispanic Caribbean: pork, plantains and green pigeon peas (gandules, Puerto Rico's favorite bean). For superlative results, use Niman Ranch pork, available at Gardner's and Whole Foods Markets. A spicy Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernet with small percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Franc) from California's Napa Valley is a perfect foil.
FOR THE PORK:
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
FOR THE BEANS:
1 medium ripe tomato
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pork tenderloin, cut into small dice
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 medium cubanelle (Italian frying) pepper, stemmed and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen green pigeon peas (gandules)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
FOR THE PLANTAINS:
4 soft, yellow-ripe plantains
1/4 pound high-fat butter (such as Plugra), chilled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
To marinate the pork: In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Cut each tenderloin into two 8-ounce portions, add to the bowl and rub all over with the marinade. Cover tightly with plastic film, and refrigerate for at least 48 hours.
To prepare the bean stew: Place the tomato under a broiler, turning several times, until charred all over. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and chop coarsely.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Sauté diced pork and onions about 3 minutes. Add peppers and garlic cook 2 more minutes. Stir in gandules, cilantro, reserved tomato and bay leaf. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper; lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the gandules are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
To prepare the plantains: While the beans cook, peel the plantains and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the central vein and cut each plantain into 4-inch pieces. Bring 4 cups lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a saucepan. Add the plantains and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and pass through a ricer. (Or mash well by hand with a potato masher.) Gradually beat in the butter and then the cream. Season with salt and pepper and set aside, covered.
To finish and serve: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade (discard), dry with paper towels and brown well on all sides. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the pork 5 to 8 minutes, until barely pink inside. Let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing on the diagonal.
To serve, divide the bean stew among 6 broad, individual pasta or soup bowls. Mound the plantain mash over the center of the stew and fan the pork slices next to it. Garnish each with with a rosemary sprig. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving (excluding marinade): 716 calories (60 percent from fat), 39 g fat (17 g saturated), 155 mg cholesterol, 42 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 1,317 mg sodium.