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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Arroz Con Mango

How do you impart your culture to your child, if you live outside of your homeland?

Chances are that you do so through your language, first, then followed by your native cuisine.

This is the perfect symphony of interaction, which allows any person to be able to relate to their parents' fellow citizens.

Everyone can talk food, after all.

You might think the children of parents born in different countries, have a special, indeed, privileged position -- they are automatically more cosmopolitan than your average child, by definition.

That might be the case with me, but sadly, there is a spanner in this particular works.

You see, whilst I speak both my parents' languages, naturally...neither of them know how to cook, and that crucial, crucial aspect of acculturation was completely lost on me.

So when I decided, this past year, to learn how to cook through dint of self-instruction, I couldn't conjure up any tasty memories of past mealtimes at home, growing up.

I was on my own.

Certainly, at school I received "Home Ec" classes the kind almost every child experiences (or used to, anyway -- God only knows how it is, these comprehensive school days) but I cannot honestly tell you if I remember the difference between a rue and a Hollandaise sauce.

Anyway, I always thought a rue was that woman on The Golden Girls.

What then, did I have to go on, menu-wise?

Well, as everyone on the Food Network knows, English cuisine is hardly the stuff of taste-bud tinglings.

Please. Have you ever tasted Brown Windsor soup? I rest my case.

And German food is heavy, and time-consuming to make, which is why I am convinced they have the best buffet cold cuts breakfast in the world -- it takes no time at all to make. Just slice and serve.

Fortunately, I do have two cultures I adore which surround me, and whose cuisine I love.

Most people think American food is even worse than the pub grub in Britain.

These people are stupid, and we all just laugh and point at them because they obviously have never had hot water cornbread and eaten meatloaf so appetising, my mouth waters at the thought of it.

As for hamburgers, you ain't never lived until you've had the Bill Blass sirloin and bleu cheese burger (my mother was once invited to his home in Palm Beach, and this is what he served...he may have been a has-been designer, but he was a fantabulous cook).

And then there is Cuban Food. Mmmm!

So yummy, although not to be eaten daily if you wish to maintain that girlish figure, lads.

With these visions of American dancing dumplings, and Cuban renegade ropa vieja, I screwed up the courage to make those Peruvian guests of ours, a meal they would recognise.

And I must say, it was a success!

Did I dare to branch out to make more intricate dishes?

Well, so far I have concocted with my fair little hands:

Shepherds Pie
Paella Valenciana
Crepes Suzettes
Sauerbraten with Apricots and Plums
Lasagna Surprise


And yesterday, I made this:



It looks like Paella, but it tastes like chicken -- and that's because it's the world-famous Arroz Con Pollo!

I had to search carefully for a recipe with a distinctive Cuban taste to it, since that is what I am used to by now.

For whatever reason, I didn't think to look up the archives of Three Guys From Miami, but I did find a very serviceable substitute here.

Don't get me wrong.

I don't mind lechon asado, though I'm not much for pork, and Cuban palomilla steak should be a World Heritage landmark, in my opinion.

But it's their arroz con pollo that lights up my Cuban-loving embers into a blaze.

The other recipes called for salchichas (sausages) and what-not, that just seemed so South American, and not anything I was used to at Versailles or Sergio's or La Carreta, the three down-to-earth restaurants specialising in Cuban cusine in Miami.

But when I read this recipe, I realised it was bang on.

Any dish which is supposed to be Cuban which doesn't mention sofrito or lime juice, is just a rip-off.

(Interestingly, I used to think "sofrito" was somehow related to the verb, sofrir -- to suffer. As in, "Pobre Jose! Esta todo sofrito". Look, I'm still a dumb gringa at heart, okay?)

The recipe preambled with this bit of insight:

"Of all the islands in the Caribbean, Cuba is the most typically Spanish in background and cuisine. The major ingredients of this popular dish--rice, chicken, and oil--are all of Spanish origin. Still, a Cuban arroz con pollo is unmistakably Latin American. It derives its characteristic taste from the "sofrito, " a basic blend of garlic, onions, and green peppers, which lends flavor to most Cuban stews, enchiladas, and soups.

Another characteristic of Cuban cuisine is the "adobo, " a mixture of lime juice or bitter Seville orange juice, crushed garlic, and salt, and used to marinate most meats and poultry. Maricel Prescilla, a native of Cuba and a food consultant, advised me on the following version of this popular dish.

Platanos fritos (sauteed sweet bananas) are the classic accompaniment to this dish.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, marinating: 2 hours minimum, cooking: 45 minutes."

I stuck to Maricel's recipe like a blind woman's braille underwear, minus the green peppers, and the beer, which I changed to white wine.

I just didn't have any malta Hatuey on me.

And it came out to die for, which is good, since on Sunday my lasagna went straight into the bin.

Even Schmoopsie turned up his nose at his bowl full.

I did notice one thing though.

(A) I don't have the imagination of a real chef, which can jazz up a dish instinctively with just a pinch of that or dab of this.

Maybe it will come in time?

But also (B) cooking takes incredibly long, from ingredients-hunting to stomach.

I am neither hater nor lover of the fast food phenomenon, but I can tell you, people who complain about fast food, should be condemned to make arroz con pollo every day of their lives.

2 hours to marinade!

What working mum or dad has the time these days, for this?

Mickey D's and their ilk may have lots of things against them, but they also freed women from the bondage of the sweating casseroles -- and anyone who thinks differently, is a fool.

P.S.: I can pre-empt your followup question immediately. Arroz Con Mango isn't really a dish, Cuban or otherwise.

I admit it does sound like a plate served at a particularly nasty "Latin fusion" restaurant, which like all fusion or "Pan" restaurants, (Pan-Asian especially) should be shot dead before they can replicate.

It is, however, a phrase used by Cubans to mean something which just doesn't go together -- like rice and mangoes, oil and water, peanut butter and squash...

Or Bill and Hill.

Although they're more like un potaje de tortilleras, if you ask me.

18 Comments:

  • I eat and enjoy just about every type of food available here in Miami, but Cuban food remains my favorite! In addition to the restaurants you mentioned, the vaca frita at Casa Larios is the best!

    After reading your posts for quite a while I had concluded you were almost perfect. Now that I see how you do your ironing and how you cook Cuban food, I am convinced it doesn't get any better than you!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Mar 22, 09:53:00 am GMT-5  

  • What you made was a hybrid version of Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera. Which means basically that it's a bit more moist and gooey than your regular arroz con pollo. The beer is essential to the dish. It adds a bit of something to it, plus its what makes it "a la chorrera."

    My wife makes a killer Arroz con Pollo. Even under the most dire of circumstances:

    http://www.babalublog.com/archives/002445.html

    Scroll down for a link to a mouth watering photo.

    I also notice the recipe you followed is missing a couple of minor ingredients: First, you need a pinch of azafran or Bijol (http://store.cubanfoodguy.com/product_info.php?products_id=219) for a bit of tatse and coloring, and a few asparagus tips for decoration prior to serving.

    Im not big on asparagus, but with arroz con pollo I can survive them.

    Ive also found that it doenst take that long to marinade chicken. A good half hour to 45 minutes will do.

    The most important ingredients, however, to any Cuban dish are the comino and the sofrito. Ya got those down pat and youre good to go.

    Incidentally, "to suffer" in Spanish is "sufrir", with a "u".

    And now Im starving. good thing Im headed to Moms to pegarle la gorra at lunchtime.

    By Blogger Val Prieto, at Wed Mar 22, 10:14:00 am GMT-5  

  • Not to be Word Castro here, but I think 'rue' is spelled 'roux!'

    I like the idea of 'rouxing the day!'

    By Blogger Ron, at Wed Mar 22, 11:06:00 am GMT-5  

  • Of all the wonderful cuisines we have here in Ann Arbor, Cuban is the one that we are lacking! I've never had it, and am quite curious! Is there a website with recipes that anyone recommends? I go to NYC a bit; is there a particular place there that people like?

    By Blogger Ron, at Wed Mar 22, 11:14:00 am GMT-5  

  • Mmmm that sounds so good! I may be able to make that on the weekend. What kind of rice does it use? Yellow rice?

    Soffriggere would be the italian version of sofrito but it has no cultural connotations and only means to lightly fry in oil.

    By Blogger Renato, at Wed Mar 22, 12:30:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I eat and enjoy just about every type of food available here in Miami, but Cuban food remains my favorite!

    Mmm, it's so good. And this from a girl with a rather bland "taste".

    Example: I love tapioca pudding.

    In addition to the restaurants you mentioned, the vaca frita at Casa Larios is the best!

    I like Casa Larios, but prefer Havana Charlie, if only for the music. ;)

    After reading your posts for quite a while I had concluded you were almost perfect.

    Aww, thanks, Jose!

    Now that I see how you do your ironing and how you cook Cuban food, I am convinced it doesn't get any better than you!

    Pobrecita de la Señora Aguirre! You're secret is safe with us. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 04:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • What you made was a hybrid version of Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera. Which means basically that it's a bit more moist and gooey than your regular arroz con pollo. The beer is essential to the dish. It adds a bit of something to it, plus its what makes it "a la chorrera."

    I did make it moist and gooey! I especially love it when it's like that (and the paella too, it goes without saying).

    What you see in my blogpic, is the leftovers (something I am getting used to, with my newfound cookery skill -- I never had leftovers in my life before).

    When I finished cooking the arroz con pollo, it was all chorreado, fear not!

    My wife makes a killer Arroz con Pollo. Even under the most dire of circumstances:

    http://www.babalublog.com/archives/002445.html

    Scroll down for a link to a mouth watering photo.


    Dios mio, que tremenda foto! In every sense of the word.

    It's big and delicious-looking enough to be my new wallpaper. ;)

    I also notice the recipe you followed is missing a couple of minor ingredients: First, you need a pinch of azafran or Bijol (http://store.cubanfoodguy.com/product_info.php?products_id=219) for a bit of tatse and coloring,

    It might be missing it, but I added it! That was no arroz amarillo pre-prepared rice. It was Goya rice, con bijol added.

    My Cuban street cred is intact.

    and a few asparagus tips for decoration prior to serving.

    That one I've never had, hmmm.

    Is that a Prieto family fave, or usual with other Cuban families?

    Im not big on asparagus, but with arroz con pollo I can survive them.

    I loooove asparagus.

    Debia ser gaita Asturiana en otra vida.

    Ive also found that it doenst take that long to marinade chicken. A good half hour to 45 minutes will do.

    Yeah, I confess, I didn't wait the full 2 hours. More like an hour and change.

    But even so, Val, you know that's a heck of a lot of time for most work-away mums.

    Say you leave work at 5, arrive at 6 (more if you live anywhere near the 826 expressway...), then it takes you about 30 minutes to get ready to start dinner -- please, it'll be las diez, before your family eats!

    Of course, people can say that arroz con pollo is not an every day dish, but still -- you can see why fast food is the ama de casa saver that it is. Sadly.

    The most important ingredients, however, to any Cuban dish are the comino and the sofrito. Ya got those down pat and youre good to go.

    I was going to say also comino!! (Cumin) Drat.

    Incidentally, "to suffer" in Spanish is "sufrir", with a "u".

    Ah gracias. See, I'm always confusing my Portuguese and my Spanish spellings.

    Sofrir = Port. :)

    And now Im starving. good thing Im headed to Moms to pegarle la gorra at lunchtime.

    Oyeme, que quiere decir 'pegarle la gorra'?

    Eso es como freeloading? ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:03:00 am GMT-5  

  • Not to be Word Castro here,

    What an awesome coinage. Take a bow, Ron!

    but I think 'rue' is spelled 'roux!'

    Si.

    But that spelling was vital to my Golden Girls followup joke. ;)

    I like the idea of 'rouxing the day!'

    Enter flour power.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:08:00 am GMT-5  

  • Of all the wonderful cuisines we have here in Ann Arbor, Cuban is the one that we are lacking!

    I've been to Ann Arbor, as I once mentioned, but didn't pay attention to the variety of restaurants there.

    I do remember seeing many many restos in that "high-end" district you have -- where I dined next to more blond, blue-eyed James Spader-a-likes than I could shake a stick at.

    Everyone in Ann Arbor looks healthy and rich.

    I've never had it, and am quite curious!


    Is there a website with recipes that anyone recommends?

    Sure! Check out the very one I list in the post, Three Guys in Miami.

    It's two Cuban-American dudes, and one Cuban-loving Americano, and their amazing recipes for everything from lechon (pork) to ropa vieja (shredded beef).

    Check it out and let us know if you need tips! :)

    I go to NYC a bit; is there a particular place there that people like?

    Hmm, I see no one has responded as yet.

    Lemme have a look-see, and talk to a few chums from the area.

    I'll let you know. :)

    (Remind me if not!)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:12:00 am GMT-5  

  • Mmmm that sounds so good! I may be able to make that on the weekend. What kind of rice does it use? Yellow rice?

    You can use "Valencian" type rice, with the yellow already added.

    But I prefer to use a turmeric based additive, which Val already mentioned above.

    For the record, all my spices and brands were Cuban-American.

    Goya rice, "Basmati".
    Badia spices.
    Iberia peas.

    Soffriggere would be the italian version of sofrito but it has no cultural connotations and only means to lightly fry in oil.

    Verrry interesting! I wonder if there is a link between the two?

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:15:00 am GMT-5  

  • I had a problem all day with the word verification, and couldn't post to the thread until late.

    So I took it off temporarily.

    I'm putting it back on, obviously, since it takes out the spam 100%.

    But please let me know by email if you are having problems with the verification in order to post comments, too.

    It may not be all the time, but Blogger is definitely quirky, at nights.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:17:00 am GMT-5  

  • BTW, Val, check this photo of my Paella out.

    I posted it on Althouse earlier this month.

    Se parece a la foto del arroz con pollo de tu señora!

    Down to the huge frying pan.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Mar 23, 05:45:00 am GMT-5  

  • "pegando la gorra" is a Cubanism roughly translated "hanging my hat". Meaning, obviously, Im coming over and hanging my hat while I eat your food.

    And yes, your Cuban street cred is totally intact.

    te la comistes!

    By Blogger Val Prieto, at Thu Mar 23, 08:55:00 am GMT-5  

  • I do remember seeing many many restos in that "high-end" district you have -- where I dined next to more blond, blue-eyed James Spader-a-likes than I could shake a stick at.

    Everyone in Ann Arbor looks healthy and rich.


    Victoria, just as I feel if I went to Miami you would show me what la vida coca, er, loca would look like, I would gladly show you the better places up here in TreeTown.

    The James Spader types have their true Ann Arbor bona fides: Made Nixon's enemies list in high school, parents blacklisted by HUAC, grandparents still have their autographed photo of Sacco and Vinzenti,great-grandparents owned an Edison cylinder of "The Internationale," he probably has an iPod with Chomsky's signature molded into the case! Their ultimate fantasy vision is to introduce Howard Dean and his running mate Ali G as the candidates at the Democratic Convention with that Brokeback tag line: "Ahhh can't quit ewe."

    But then...I don't dine with these people.

    By Blogger Ron, at Thu Mar 23, 10:18:00 am GMT-5  

  • "pegando la gorra" is a Cubanism roughly translated "hanging my hat". Meaning, obviously, Im coming over and hanging my hat while I eat your food.

    Ah, bweno, makes sense.

    Thanks for the explicanication, as my Cuban-American porter says.

    And yes, your Cuban street cred is totally intact.

    Calle Ocho street cred -- hey, isn't it festival time soon?

    te la comistes!

    Enterita! ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Mar 25, 01:41:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria, just as I feel if I went to Miami you would show me what la vida coca,

    LOL!!

    I shall be using this many many times, believe me.

    er, loca would look like, I would gladly show you the better places up here in TreeTown.

    Question:

    Michigan isn't the Show-Me state is it? That's Missouri, IIRC.

    So what is your "handle"?

    Ours is the Sunshine State, but that's easy. :)

    The James Spader types have their true Ann Arbor bona fides: Made Nixon's enemies list in high school, parents blacklisted by HUAC, grandparents still have their autographed photo of Sacco and Vinzenti,

    Not to interrupt your wonderful flow, but I heard on NPR the other day, an exposé on Saccho and Vanzetti.

    Seems these two lads were as guilty as sin, just like the Rosenbergs, and Alger Hiss, although certain people will not admit it, just because they are closer to their ideology, than to others.

    But when an historian said they were guilty, one of the NPR guests said,

    "The truth of what they did doesn't matter. It's what they stand for that does."

    If you could encapsulate the mind-set of our friends to the port side, you couldn't get a better soundbite.

    great-grandparents owned an Edison cylinder of "The Internationale," he probably has an iPod with Chomsky's signature molded into the case! Their ultimate fantasy vision is to introduce Howard Dean and his running mate Ali G as the candidates at the Democratic Convention with that Brokeback tag line: "Ahhh can't quit ewe."

    LOL! x2

    But then...I don't dine with these people.

    I have dined. I just haven't whined.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Mar 25, 01:46:00 am GMT-5  

  • Michigan? We're The Food Stamp State!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Mar 25, 09:00:00 am GMT-5  

  • It's not Cuban, but there is a dish called "arroz con mango." Thais enjoy a dessert called "kow nee-oh ma-mo-ung" or sticky rice with mango. It's a delicious combination of freshly-sliced mango on a bed of sweeten glutinous rice. If you ever get a chance, try it, you'll like it. Ademas, segun el DRAE, "arroz con mango" es una manera de decir "desorden" o "confusión" en Cuba y Venezuela.

    By Blogger Joe, at Fri Jul 06, 08:44:00 pm GMT-4  

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