Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What is going on with Cuban food?
In the last three months our cooking group, my dentist's dinner club and a neighbor have all done Cuban/Caribbean inspired meals. Why all the sudden interest in Cuba? Is it because Castro seems to be, once again, on his last legs? Has "Guy and Dolls", ("sweet of milk"), been the musical of choice at local high schools? Is Godfather 2, ("Michael, we're bigger than US Steel"), playing on some endless loop on cable somewhere?
The problem is that when I research Cuban food I have a very hard time coming up with a distinctive cuisine. Recipes tend to center around ceviche, pork, plantains and Coca-Cola, (Coke seems to be the marinade of choice, along with a little rum). I find very few, specifically Cuban recipes. Maybe it's because the country has been under embargo for the last 48 years, having been forced to live off of the scraps of the old Soviet Union. But I prefer to think of a more optimistic explanation,(I know, Crabby optimistic, it does sound funny).
The Caribbean has always been an ocean going highway of cultural exchange. Cuisine from Jamaica is not terribly different than that of the Dominican, or the Bahamas, or Puerto Rico, or any of the islands. It's not so much that there are individual country cuisines as much as there is a regional cuisine. The results are lush and varied. Cuba is simply one member of this culinary diaspora.
I would love to have some distinctly Cuban recipes. If you have any please post them in the comment section.
When I think of Cuba, I think of hot, sweet, spicy, tart, and that's just the women. No, no, the food too. Here's a recipe for grilled shrimp. I use an Asian sweet chile sauce, but feel free to substitute something hotter if that's what your crowd likes. Viva la Revolucion!!!
Grilled Sweet & Spicy Shrimp
adapted by Crabby from "Hot Barbecue", by Hugh Carpenter & Teri Sandison
2 lbs. Large raw shrimp (about 30), rinsed, de-veined and all shells removed
Flavorless cooking oil to brush on grill grates
1 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons Chile Sauce (I prefer a sweet-spicy sauce by Maggi-Taste of Asia)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 TBSP finely minced lime zest (about 2 medium limes)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 TBSP fresh chives, minced
2/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-veined then finely chopped
Place all the glaze ingredients into a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Heat until the butter melts and the garlic just begins to sizzle. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature,(about 1 hour).
Place the shrimp in a large bowl and combine with the glaze. Mix well to evenly coat all the shrimp. Refrigerate.
Pre-heat your gas grill to medium-high (15 minutes). Remove shrimp from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
When grill is hot, brush a grill screen with oil and place on top of the grates. Turn heat to medium. When the screen is hot (approx. 5 minutes), place the shrimp in a single layer on the screen. NOTE WELL: THE GRILL WILL BE VERY SMOKY!!! All that butter hitting heat causes a few flair-ups and a lot of smoke. Don't panic.
Grill for 90 seconds to 2 minutes (depending on size of shrimp). Turn and cook for an additional 90 second to 2 minutes.
Remove. Serve over white rice or with some roasted asparagus.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Passive Prep Time: 1 hour for glaze cooling
Active Cooking Time: 9 minutes (5 minutes for the glaze and 4 minutes for the shrimp)
Clean-Up: Sauce pot for the glaze and the bowl holding the marinating shrimp
Easy. Quick note: Don't marinade the shrimp more than an hour, the lime juice will toughen them by actually starting to cook them, sort of a mini-ceviche kind of thing.
OK. I still have no winners from the veal chop quiz. Questions too hard? Well here are two more, In today's post there are two quotes from movies, Guys and Dolls and Godfather 2, Name the character who spoke each. Bonus: Name the actor speaking the line from "Guys and Dolls".