“Ju got some ‘splaining to do..” from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen
It seems to me that being Cuban has always meant explaining things. Maybe it’s just living in Southern California where there are just pockets of Cuban communities, but the majority of the Hispanic population is Mexican.
I confess the questions sometimes sound ignorant to me. And I find I have to work at being gracious when I answer.
Yes, we speak Spanish.
Yes, I do have blue eyes.
No, our food is not spicy, it is flavorful.
No, we haven’t returned to visit since we left.
No, we are not immigrants, we are refugees.
And then there is the lengthy explanation of our love affair with bananas. Ok, technically they are plantains, but if you say plantains, you most likely will have to explain that they are in the banana family, but that they are not as sweet, and that they need to be cooked.
And furthermore, there are the various ways to cook plantains. Usually this statement gets a kind of quizzical look of its own.
“Various ways to cook plantains?”
Sure. Cut them up, smash them and fry them to make tostones.
Ripen and fry them and you have maduros.
Slice them thinly and fry like chips and you’ve got mariquitas.
Cook and puree to make a thick soup.
Plantains in any form are the Cuban side dish of choice.
There is only one plantain dish that I never, ever try to explain.
“Just try it,” I say.
It is only after they are making the yummy sounds, that I tell them that we call it “Fufú.”
The garlicky goodness speaks for itself and they don’t usually ask for an explanation…
but they always ask for seconds. =D
3 large plantains (not completely ripe – just a few flecks of black spots)
3 cups of chicken stock
¼ lb. Pork meat (a fat, boneless pork chop with the fat on it works great) – sliced into super small pieces
5 cloves garlic, mashed
¼ cup yellow onion, diced into small pieces
About 4-5 tablespoons soft butter
Salt and pepper to taste
I know there are a lot of steps, but don’t let that scare you. This is a pretty simple dish.
1) Cut the ends of the plantains (discard).
2) Score the plantain skin lengthwise – do not peel!
3) Slice the plantains into 2-inch rounds.
4) Place the plantains in the chicken stock in a large saucepan.
5) Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until tender – about 30 to 40 minutes.
6) In a separate saucepan or small frying pan, place the pork and just cover with water.
7) Bring that to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the water is gone.
8) Add a bit of olive oil to the cooked pork and fry until they are brown and tender.
9) Remove from the pan and set aside.
10) Sauté the garlic and green onions in olive oil or if there’s enough fat in the pan, just use that.
11) Return pork to the pan.
12) The plantains should be fully cooked by now, remove them from the broth (be sure to save that broth) and remove the peels (they should fall right off).
13) Mash the plantains with a hand masher using a little bit of broth. You are going for the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Don’t try to get all the lumps out. We like the lumps!
14) Add the softened butter and mash it into the plantains.
15) Add the mashed plantain to the fried pork, onions and garlic, stirring constantly over low heat.
16) Add salt and pepper to taste and generously squeeze the lemon over the whole thing before serving.
17) Serve it hot!