A quick survey of the dishes I’ve presented so far might present the impression that Puerto Rico’s and Cuba’s primary proteins are sausage, beans, and beef. Beef certainly has a prominent place in Cuban cuisine, but in Puerto Rico, the place of honor goes to the pig. (And we haven’t even started exploring the chicken possibilities that these gastronomies offer.) Like everything else about Puerto Rican cooking, the pig became the fixture it is today because pigs are easier to raise in Puerto Rico’s difficult terrain than cattle, and less expensive for an island with a long history of poverty and neglect from is colonial masters. I’ve neglected my way into a nostalgic fixation with the pork dishes of my youth, so, here are chuletas a la jardinera, or, “garden pork chops.”
He wasn’t odd.
Today’s dish holds a special place in my memories, even if it isn’t something my family ever made. Continue reading “Salmon Almondine, Alyssa Style”
Emma González gives me hope.
I cannot often say that about my people. I am by turns disappointed in each half of my heritage, but it is my Cuban half that inspires the most sadness. And when I watch Emma González, I feel that unfamiliar rise in my heart, and know that my people will be better than we have been.
This recipe is as much a requiem as a celebration.
Frijoles negros, black beans, are at the center of the Antillean Hispanic culinary constellation. Any group meal will have them, any celebration platter will center them, and any rotation of different dishes will find them eventually. One does not experience the food of Puerto Rico, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic without dining on black beans and rice. I made this meal the center of numerous efforts to impress non-Hispanic paramours, and I kept it in my repertoire because of how constant, and powerful, its memories are.
Sometimes, Christmas comes early. And when one is a trans woman who maintains any kind of public presence, Christmas takes the form of the occasional ingrown toenail in human guise showing up unbidden in one’s online life with bizarrely explicit comments on one’s gender, appearance, or sexual prowess. These can be hurtful or even dangerous, but most of them are just…kind of sad. A skilled tormentor could use comments like this to probe at one’s deepest weaknesses and anxieties and leave a psychological mark that takes months or years to heal, but these people are no such thing. Rather, these people try for “shocking” and come off as juvenile as the average South Park episode, and half as entertaining.
Which brings us to my old friend Niall Corbally.
The papa rellena, or “filled potato,” is some of Latin America’s finest party food. A papa rellena is mashed potato made into a meat-filled dumpling/fritter, breaded, and deep-fried. They emerge from the fryer looking like small loaves of golden-brown joy, and provide a deeply engaging combination of textures when bitten. I’m a big fan, and I challenged myself recently with learning how to make them, as part of a foray into more technically challenging Hispanic recipes.
I didn’t used to think of myself as a person who listened to the same song over and over again in emotionally trying times. A good look through my actual listening habits forced me to re-evaluate that image of myself, because…I actually do that a lot. My usual music habit is still to put my entire playlist on Shuffle and skip over anything that doesn’t suit my mood, but when my mind is sore and my heart ailing, it’s time for something that feels right, 15 or 20 times. Lately it’s Zard’s version of what is better known as Dragonball GT’s theme song by Field of View, but over the years, it’s been many, many different things.
Where there are Puerto Ricans celebrating something in the latter half of the year, there is coquito. My people’s answer to eggnog, coquito is much stronger and creamier than its American cousin, almost a dessert in beverage form. The family coquito recipe is a closely-held treasure, differing from those of other families and passed down by grandmothers. She will make the batch in semi-secrecy, usually without assistance, to maintain this mystique. To receive it in her practiced script is an honor, accorded to trusted daughters and daughters-in-law to keep the knowledge alive.
As the surreal hellscape of 2017 winds to a close, it’s time to look back on the past year of blogging and pick out some high points my dear readers might have missed. So, for your enjoyment, here are ten of Alyssa’s proudest creations of 2017.