Pictured is asopao de gandules, one of the cheapest stews you can make, an alternative to the puerto rican dish asopao de camarones, which is the classic rice stew with shrimp. Photo courtsey of Raul Rivera. 

Four quick and easy Latin-style recipes for the holidays

Four quick and easy Latin-style recipes for the holidays

MERIDEN — Looking for a quick and tasty dish to liven up the holiday menu?

Here are three quick and easy Puerto Rican-style recipes from Meriden culinary chef Raul Rivera and one swift Mexican-style recipe from Frida Cano, owner of Viva La Vida Mexican Restaurant, located at 1140 E. Main St. in Meriden.

1. Almojabanas: rice flour fritters with cheese


■1 cup of rice flour ■3 eggs ■1 cup of milk ■1 tbsp unsalted butter melted ■2 ½ tbsp of baking powder ■½ cup of grated mozzarella ■½ cup of grated gouda cheese ■ 1 pinch of nutmeg ■ 1 tsp sugar ■1 pinch of salt ■ Canola oil for frying 


In a large bowl combine flour, nutmeg, salt and sugar. Add a cup of milk and let it rest for one hour. Then, add eggs, one-by-one, and melted butter and let it rest for 30 minutes. Next, add cheeses and mix all ingredients together. Start pouring with a big spoon and little dollops of your mix into a shallow pan with oil at medium heat.

When your mixture is golden brown turn, turn until both sides are that golden brown color. Next, take out the oil and place it in paper napkins and then transfer it to another plate. You can serve as is or you can dust with a little powdered sugar. Rivera recommends making the mixture early and letting it sit in the fridge for better consistency before frying.

2. Yuca en escabeche: pickled yuca casserole


■1 small bag of frozen yuca ■4 to 6 cups of water to boil the yuca■1 small pack chicken bullion ■½ a pack of smoked bacon  ■1 tbsp salt ■1 tbsp of dry oregano ■1 cup of olive oil ■3 garlic cloves ■1 small  roasted red bell pepper or 1 small jar of roasted peppers cut in fine strips ■2  red onions (you can use yellow if you like) cut in strips or julienne ■½  a cup red wine vinegar or apple cider ■2 bay leaves 1 tbsp of fresh black pepper 


In a stock pot, place water with one chicken bullion pack and add yuca and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until the yuca is soft in the center, check with a fork. Next, drain the yuca and make sure to take the center membrane by cutting the yuca in half and exposing it, the center membrane is not edible. Set the yuca aside in a bowl.

Next, take your bacon and cut into little strips and cook in a pan until it’s crispy. Then set the cooked bacon aside in a paper towel and in the bacon fat with your heat on low. Next, add onions, peppers, garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add oregano, oil,vinegar, two bay leaves and salt. Then mix your ingredients well and cook for one more minute. Next, cover the yuca with all of your warm mixture and add black pepper and mix all together with a rubber spatula. Let it rest for one hour before serving and sprinkle it with bacon bits.

3. Asopao de camarones: rice soup with shrimp


■2 pounds of clean shrimp ■64 ounces water (set shells a side for stock ) ■2 cubes of shrimp bouillon ■2 cups of medium grain rice​​​​​​■3 cups of water to soak the rice■2 tbsp of canola oil ■3 tbsp of sofrito from Puerto Rico■2 ounces of dice cooking ham■1 green bell pepper small dice ■1 jar red roasted peppers cut in strips ■1 large yellow onion small dice■3 garlic cloves  ■1 medium can of roasted diced tomatoes ■4 to 5 pieces of cilantro chopped ( make sure you include the stems ) 


Take your shrimp and clean, take the shells, put them in a stock pan with the water and bouillon cubes and cook for 20 to 30 minutes on low heat to make a strong broth and set a side.

Soak the rice for 10 minutes and set aside.

In the large stock pot put oil and bring heat to a soft medium, add the ham and cook for a few minutes. Then add sofrito, peppers, onions, garlic and a can of tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Add your shrimp stock and cook for 15 minutes. Then, drain the rice and add to the pot. Finally, add your shrimp at the end and finish cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

4. Ensalada de zanahoria: carrot salad

“Growing up Christmas was filled with tamales, atole and delicious desserts. Ensalada de zanahoria or carrot salad, was something that we all looked forward to after dinner during the holidays,” said Frida Cano, owner of Viva La Vida.


■3 to 4 cups of freshly grated carrots■½ to 1 cup of raisins■2 large apples peeled, cored and chopped■1 cup of cream (Mexican crema, or sour cream)■2 tbsp of sugar or to your liking (can substitute with honey)■½ cup of chopped walnut


First combine the cream and sugar in medium bowl. Next, add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat all. Finally, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until ready to serve.

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