Flavor can mean comfort and familiarity or the spontaneity of trying something new. To Latinx-Americans, culinary cuisine can be a reminder of their homeland and childhood. The Puerto-Rican recipes my father brings to our home provide priceless memories and exciting new adventures.
Here are a few recipes from the island so you can experience a little tropical paradise in Connecticut: Tostones
A quick and easy snack that involves very little preparation and only three ingredients.
The first step is to prepare the plantains. Using a paring knife, slice off the ends of the plantains and cut a long slit along the length of the plantain to more easily remove the peel. Once the peel is off, slice the plantain into rounds. The slices should be about one inch each (or about 10 pieces per plantain).
In a large skillet, heat about two cups of vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is brought to a simmer, add the plantains. Fry them until they start to turn golden or for about one minute per side. While keeping the oil simmering, use a spatula to move the plantains to a cutting board.
Working with one piece at a time, use a tostonera (or if you’re like us, a large tin can) to gently press each plantain to about a half inch thick. Avoid crowding the pan or they will cook unevenly. Remembering the one minute per side time frame, refry the pieces until they’re golden brown. Using the spatula again, move the tostones to a plate lined with paper-towel.
While hot, season with salt and adobo to taste. These delicious bites are best served hot, with MayoKetchup as a dipping sauce. For this sauce, simply create a mix of half ketchup and half mayonnaise and add a dash of minced garlic for flavor.Pernil
This meal is worth the wait.
The first step is to create a seasoning mixture by combining minced garlic, Adobo, salt and pepper. Next, place your cut of meat in a large, shallow pan, leaving room for juices and drippings. Use a boning or utility knife to make roughly 20 slits, about 1 inch deep throughout the meat. Then, rub the mixture and a packet of Sazon all over the meat, paying special attention to filling all slits. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, bring the meat to room temperature while the oven is preheating to 200F°. Slow-bake the meat for four or more hours or until the pork is browning and peeling apart. After the four hour mark, raise the temperature to 375° and switch oven mode to “broil” for fifteen minutes to acquire the coveted crispy skin. Once the pernil is out of the oven, let it cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.Piraguas
A unique dessert for a summer night.
These flavored shaved ice treats are indigenous to Puerto Rico, but have been adapted by many cultures. (They tend to remind us of either the homeland, or hot summer days in New York City). For an at home DIY version, no block of ice or expensive ice shaving machine is necessary — a simple blender will do the trick. Choose the setting that’s closest to shaved ice and blend away to set up the base of this iconic treat.
As for the syrup flavor, two classics are crema de coco (coconut cream) and parcha (passion fruit). One small can of coconut evaporated milk, one can of condensed milk, a half cup of heavy cream, and a splash of vanilla will create the creamy coconut combination for the more decadent of the two flavors. The parcha syrup can be created simply by blending the contents of a passion fruit with one quarter cup of sugar and a cup of water. Drain out the seeds through a strainer, and the vibrant orange mixture should have a sweet and tangy contrast to the creamy flavor of the crema de coco.
Shape out the ice into a plastic cup with a traditional pointed top, drizzle your flavor of choice generously, and enjoy!
These recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, and have their own flare that comes with family traditions. If you make your own versions of these recipes and are moved to add your own special touches, please do and remember two things. The first is to have fun with it! The second is meals like these are best when shared with those you hold dear.
Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she's not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School, she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@ eastsidevibes on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach. Email Francesca at email@example.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!