October 24, 2010

Cocina Criolla... in every Cuban household

Since I was little, I remember reading through Cocina Criolla by Nitza Villapol. This cookbook can be found in the houses of most of my family members. It is a Cuban classic. A friend from work has been asking me for a Cuban black bean recipe for months, and I've been slacking and not making him a copy. Last week, I finally took out the book and starting flipping through the recipes. I have not made any recipes from this book in years.

Last year, I read Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. I loved the idea of cooking your way through a book (although I think the way she went about it was pretty crazy). Also, in this case, the book is part of my culture and written in Spanish, which forces me to use my first language. So, I decided that I want to cook my way through Cocina Criolla. I am not cooking in the order of the book. I am also not giving myself a deadline, but I want to try to make at least one recipe each week.

Yesterday, I started with a bang. I made four recipes in one day. The recipes I chose were Frijoles Negros (Black Beans), Bistec Empanizado (Breaded Steak), Flan de Leche, and Carne Fria (literally translated "Cold Meat"). The black beans and breaded steak came out great (other than a slight excess of vinegar in the beans).Carne fria is something I grew up eating when we went to the beach. It is kind of like a cold meatloaf. This also turned out relatively well, but I like my grandmother's recipe better.

I've never made flan before, and I hate curdled flan, so I was really worried about overcooking it. The problem is that the recipe calls for a pressure cooker, and I don't have one. I decided to use the same recipe, but cook it in the oven in a water bath. About halfway through what I thought was the cooking time, I checked the flan, but it was already done. Unfortunately, that means I ended up with curdled flan (see picture below). The base was great, and I will definitely make it again, but I will take it out much sooner!

Not a bad first round, overall. I'm ready for round 2.

Oh, and Lonnie... you'll get your recipe on Monday.

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