Viva la Cuba! That’s right comrades, this week we ate cuisine that hailed from our “friends” from the south, Cuba! I want to start by saying that choosing Cuba was not politically motivated, but it also was not not politically motivated. I simply suggested Cuba because Dan is obsessed with Cuban pulled pork. But when I told my mom we were considering Cuba she encouraged it because of the current political climate. And I admit, hearing about Cuba every day on NPR influenced our decision to celebrate their cooking.
So just a quick note on the political situation (for those of you who possibly live under a rock), President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of a U.S embassy in Havana. The 54-year-old trade embargo is still in place, but this month the U.S Department of Treasury have begun issuing licenses to some companies to allow ferry travel between America and Cuba. Tourism travel is still banned to Cuba, so while we can’t go to Cuba, let’s bring Cuba to us! Cuban pulled pork sandwiches anyone?
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I absolutely love using a slow cooker. It takes away a lot of the stress of cooking. It’s so easy just letting it sit all day and slowly fill the air with mouth-watering fragrances. We followed the recipe we found here, but opted not to make the mojito sauce. It seemed unnecessary to make a second sauce, since it had been cooking in such a great marinade all day long. I was so pleased when it was time for dinner and the pork easily pulled off the bone. Success! We had some friends over this week to share the dinner with.
We set up a station so everyone could build their own sandwiches. We put out mustard, honey ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle chips. A side note, I had no idea what pickle chips were. Well, I knew what they were when I saw them, but I didn’t know that’s what they were called. So when I tentatively and nervously approached a Giant Eagle employee to ask about the location of pickle chips I was so relived when they knew what I was talking about. I was afraid it wasn’t a real thing (am I too paranoid? Looking back on it, why would a recipe list a fake ingredient, I need to get a grip). I obviously have a lot to learn.
The pork flavor was incredible. The only downside, it was a bit messy and juicy. My friend Ryan complained about squirting on his pants, but don’t worry I don’t think it’s the first time that has happened to Ryan. Besides that, the meal was a blast. We set up a table outside and 6 people found creative ways to cram around a small 4 person folding table in a narrow alley way.
Arroz y frijoles
Our side dish was arroz y frijoles or in English, rice and beans. We found the recipe here. The timing on our cooking was off and the long grain rice was slightly overcooked and a bit sticky for my liking. But remember, I’m not typically a fan of rice anyway. I did get some great tips from my friends for helping our rice in the future. Colin suggested making sure to thoroughly clean the rice with water beforehand to make it fluffier and Aaron said to add a splash of vinegar at the end to kill some of the stickiness.
The beans were great and also looked beautiful adorned with radishes and cilantro. Beans always seemed like such a “poor mans” dish to me, but adding the various ingredients really helped elevate this typically simple side into a more sophisticated dish.
One thing I didn’t know about the Cubans was they invented so many great cocktails! They are known for their daiquiris, cuba libre and my favorite, mojitos. So Dan crushed up some mint, split some limes and topped it with sugar, Bacardi rum and club soda to make cocktails for everyone. We were able to cheers to Hadley, who kicks ass and happened to get a promotion and raise on the same day as the dinner (shameless shout out, I’m so proud of you)! So, instead of making a dessert this week, I figured handing out mojitos was a good “adult” dessert. Although, don’t get any crazy idea that any of us are real adults!
This week was another great success. Having friends share in the libations and food made it so much more special. Not to sound too corny, but it’s so important to be surrounded by friends who fill my life with laughter and love. And what’s the point of making so much food if I have no one to share it with? Needless to say, no leftovers this week!