Sunday, March 18, 2012

BUENOS DÍAS Y FELICES FIESTAS! (good morning and happy holidays)

My friend Madelyn Rodriguez (She’s a vegetarian... see I really do have vegetarian friends!) wrote this nice piece about Puerto Rican traditional holiday dishes for Serious Eats as part of a series they were doing called culinary ambassadors. Well for one reason or another it didn’t get used, but I have every intention of not letting this good traditional Puerto Rican food go to waste. It was written for Christmas time, but I’m always good to go for some Arroz con Gandules! So get ready to get your Latin on (Put away the toga, not that kind of Latin!), download some Taíno to your IPod, put on some sun screen and imagine the smells coming from the kitchen that’s cooking these dishes (or you could get off your butts and try making some of these dishes yourselves)…cause it’s fixing to get hot in here! When you get done reading go ahead over to her blog and enjoy yourselves, because the dishes all look so good…now if only they had some meat in them…

volumen de la música y la danza! ¡Feliz Navidad!
(Turn up the music and dance! Merry Christmas!)*
*at least this is what it says according to google translate. Talking to my friend Hanneke from the Netherlands, Google is not very good...apparently after sending a translated message about The Cat in Dutch...Henneke wondered what my fascination with "watching kittens having sex" was all about....well at least it got the cat part right...Oy vey! 

Puerto Rico celebrates the best holidays in the world… and the longest ones too.  Our Holiday season start right after Thanksgiving and they last until the middle of January with the Fiestas de San Sebastián.  Locally, we call them Navidades and to me, it’s the best time of the year to visit Puerto Rico.

The typical Navidades menu consists of: 

Pernil/Lechón Asao – this is typically a whole pig roasted on a pit or for smaller gatherings just the rear leg of the pork.  It’s seasoned heavily with lots of adobo, garlic and oregano and the most prized part is the crispy skin or “chicharrón” o “cuerito”.

Rice with Pigeon Peas (Arroz con Gandules) – this is a yellow rice cooked together with pigeon peas seasoned with sazón, achiote and sofrito.

Pasteles – This is a patty made with ground green banana and yautía filled with a stew (usually with pieces of pork) and wrapped in banana leaves.  They’re boiled for about 1 hour before serving.  These can certainly be made vegetarian substituting the pork filling with a vegetarian stew made of chickpeas, lentils, mixed vegetables or textured soy protein.

Morcillas – these blood sausages made from pig’s intestines filled with rice and pig’s blood.  They’re fried and served cut into pieces to eat like an appetizer.  I’ve NEVER in my life had one, because not even when I ate meat I never liked morcillas.

Guineítos en Escabeche – these are boiled green bananas lightly pickled with vinegar, olive oil, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves.  They’re also served as appetizers at holiday parties.

Tembleque – this is a coconut milk custard served especially during Xmas time.

Arroz con Dulce – this is the Puerto Rican version of rice pudding.  It’s made with coconut milk, condensed milk and cinnamon.

Potato Salad – I was once told that Potato Salad is a Summer Salad, therefore not suitable for Thanksgiving or Xmas Dinner.  Well, Puerto Rico has a Summer-like climate year round and no holiday menu is ever complete without a serving of a mayo-based potato salad.  You’ll see it on Easter, on Thanksgiving and certainly all throughout Navidades.

Coquito – This is Puerto Rico’s version of eggnog.  Coquito is typically made with a mixture of coconut, evaporated and condensed milks and light rum.  If eggs are added we call it “ponche”.  I like to make it now with Coco Lopez, what we use to make pinas coladas…  I find it gives it a more rich coconut taste.

Here is the second article from Madelyn. It is commenting on the typical breakfast in Puerto Rico and looks very similar in size to a French Breakfast…. Man would I be starving by lunch time! Enjoy the Pictures!

Typical Breakfast –

In Puerto Rico, the breakfast staple is “café con leche” or coffee with milk.  On the side they would have either a piece of toasted bread, like “criollo bread” with butter or export soda crackers, like saltines but without the salt.  People like to dunk the bread or crackers in their coffee…

Also typical are “cremas” – like oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of corn, cornstarch (maicena) all made with milk and sweetened with sugar.  If people are in the mood for something heavier they’d choose eggs usually fried or scrambled or made into a sandwich inside “criollo bread” with cheese and ham.  OJ is optional…

I am definitely not the typical Puerto Rican – I like to eat cold cereal and fruit smoothies in the morning… and usually with a few slices of cheese on the side – cheddar, muenster, even manchego or gruyere…

Crema Oatmeal

soda crackers

Pan de Agua

Panecillos de Agua

Panecillos Sobao

Tostadas Criollas


  1. This sounds delicious! Wonder if I can get the right ingredienst here...
    And eh, no don't trust that Google translate...before you know you're in "trouble" ....hehe

    1. Right Hanneke, no more Dutch for me unless they personally write down what I need to say... I agree, this all looks so good. I'd love to try the Morcillas, cut on an extreme bias and served over crostini with a poached egg on top! Sorry, Madelyn....that's just my thing!