As we enjoy the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, we'd like to pay homage to all the wonderful dishes that hail from the Sunshine State. If you haven't had a chance to visit and taste them firsthand, then we've got good news for you: you can make them in your own kitchen with these famous Florida recipes. Think seafood and Cuban dishes, and ready your taste buds for a whole lot of Southern savor.
I continued walking until I came upon an eatery with the Spanish name La Carreta, which translates as "The Cart." I was getting down to the wire on time, so I hastily ordered a salad. That's when I spotted a machine full of empanadas. "What's that?" I asked the guy behind the counter, pointing to a round, puffy fritter. "Oh, it's a Papa Rellena — I like them very much and think you will, too," he told me.
He couldn't have been more spot-on — "loved" would've been a better word. It was shepherd's pie meets hush puppy, a battered exterior followed by a layer of impossibly creamy potato and a center of cumin-scented ground beef. I instantly regretted not having bought another. And as I settled into my plane seat with the latest edition of Saveur, I instantly regretted not adding a Cuban sandwich on top of that. Sigh. Anyone down to go to Miami this weekend?
What makes a real Cuban sandwich? Why, it's not just the slow-cooked pork, but also the bread. An authentic version of a storied sandwich is made from heavily-buttered pan Cubano, an elusive long, rectangular bread that tends to be flaky and crisp on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. In between goes sliced ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, and dill pickles, and the whole thing is warmed on the press, or plancha, where it's heated until the exterior's toasty and the interior steamy.
The variation I tried was made to order at David's Café, and it was so many things all at once: crispy, juicy, creamy, soft. I'd never eaten anything quite like it and decided that my pairing of the meal with a Dominican Presidente beer couldn't have been more spot-on. Have you ever had a real Cuban sandwich?
When it comes to weeknight cooking, nothing beats pork tenderloin. The affordable cut usually comes two to a pack meaning it easily feeds a crowd. It also cooks incredibly quickly, faster than a whole chicken, in about 20 minutes. The best thing about pork tenderloin, however, is its versatile adaptability. It can be seasoned with everything from fresh herbs to spicy pastes.
This recipe looks to Cuba for inspiration and marinates the pork in a generous mixture of fresh citrus, fragrant cumin and oregano, and lots of minced garlic. Thick slashes are made on the meat before it's dunked in the marinade; the result is juicy, tender pork packed with flavor. If you've got time, marinate overnight, but otherwise, give it a flash marinade for at least 30 minutes. For the uncomplicated recipe, read on.
I'll serve the fork-tender flank steak and bell pepper medley over steamed white rice, avocado, and my favorite herb, cilantro. Ready to make your own one-pot Latin meal? Then keep reading.
A little Cuban sandwich is called a "medianoche," meaning midnight, because it's often scarfed down after a night out. I made the mistake of consuming a much larger version of the sandwich smack in the middle of the day and, as a result, used up most of my energy until dinner digesting it.
Invented either in Cuba or by Cuban laborers in Florida (no one can quite decide which), a classic Cuban sandwich contains roasted pork, ham, pickles, swiss or provolone cheese, and mustard, all served on a roll that's flattened and grilled on a sandwich press or "plancha." Since Cuban bread isn't often found outside Florida, cooks elsewhere make them on hoagie rolls or regular sliced bread. For more details on my Cubano panini, read more
During the hot Summer, I hate to be indoors. Browsing through Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, I found the perfect recipe to escape my toasty kitchen, Cubano Quesadillas. The recipe requires a minimum amount of preparation and everything is cooked on the grill!
Traditionally, Cubano sandwiches consist of glazed ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, spicy mustard, and dill pickles served on Cuban bread. This recipe combines these delicious ingredients and contrasting flavors. They're topped with sweet, grilled red onions and sandwiched between two crisp tortillas. To learn how to make these fast and easy quesadillas, read more
In my opinion, the best part of a travel party is transforming each room to resemble a different country. With a little imagination, it's easy to come up with festive and fun decor.
- Mexico: Dress the table with Mexican blankets and hang a Mexican banner in a crisscross pattern along the ceiling. Plate chips and dips in plastic sombrero shaped serving platters. Use bright candles, flowers, and clear glasses for the tequila sunrises. Create a playlist with your favorite Latin stars: Luis Miguel, Mana, and my personal favorite Paulina Rubio.
- Japan: Set the scene with red, white, and black decorations. Instead of floral arrangements, place bamboo in small vases filled with black stones. Rest a cherry blossom Japanese shade along one of your walls. Floating candles add a zen and relaxing touch. Search iTunes for some fun Japanese tunes. I recommend Pizzicato 5 and Cornelius.
- Russia: Ornate metallic gold decorations with red accents are perfect to create a lux Russian room. Cover furniture with fur throws and arrange flowers in open Russian dolls. For music play Tatu and your other favorite Russian groups.
- England: Plaster the ways with images of the Royal family, soccer teams like Manchester United, and a Union Jack banner. Instead of a tablecloth, cover the table with old covers of Hello magazine. If using red, white, and blue decor, be sure to make it British rather than American. Robbie Williams, Anastacia, Joss Stone, The Spice Girls, New Order, Oasis, Elton John and the Beatles should be playing softly in the background.
- Cuba: Make posters that say, Abajo Fidel (Down With Fidel) in large block letters and pin to the walls. Wrap Cuba Libre glasses in Cuban flag beads. Allow more musically inclined friends to play the Cuban bongos or turn on a regatton radio station.
Do you have a great decorating or music idea for my travel-themed party? Tell us in the comments below!
I've already got a portion of the menu planned for this week's travel party - where the theme takes itself from five countries. The Mexican, Japanese, and Russian rooms will have delicious savory nibbles, dips, and tasty appetizers for guest to enjoy while they mingle. For an element of surprise, create an English cheese tasting platter for the British room. Generally cheese platters consist of Italian, French, or Swiss cheeses, so a platter with nuts, jams, honey, fig crackers, English cheddar, and Stilton will wow guests with your originality. Meaty Cuban sandwiches with pickles and mustard finish up the menu. Head over to Cost Plus World Market to supplement the rooms with sweet treats and exotic bites from the respective countries. For the recipes that will take you around the globe, read more