Just because you never worked at an
overrated Cuban restaurant for a couple of years doesn’t mean you can’t be taught how to make Cuban food yourself. The fact that you don’t have to unlearn many of the dirty shortcuts you would have been taught means you have a slight advantage over me.
In the years since I worked at
redacted, I’ve had to research the more traditional techniques and flavors that Cuban cooking requires. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult or challenging; it’s just my restaurant experience left me with the false impression that Cuban cuisine could come entirely off the back of a Sysco truck and still be considered tasty and authentic.
Most of South Minneapolis still suffers from this misconception. (burn)
Real Cuban food, made with fresh ingredients and attention to detail, is delicious, filling and usually cheaper to prepare for large groups of people than a lot of other cuisines. One of the cornerstones of Cuban food is pork roasted in garlic and lime juice.
Since I’m a reasonably observant Jew, I don’t eat pork anymore, but I still use the same technique for turkey and chicken that I would for pork. The result is equally delicious, moist and versatile as the original, without all that nasty swine.
If you dare question the authenticity of cooking poultry in this style, please note that Jews have been in Cuba since at least 1493, and have been cooking chicken and turkey in this manner for almost as long.
So below I have your chicken recipe; plus some notes on the required sides to this dish (black beans, rice, mojo criollo, fried yuca) and more.
For the Poultry:
- Either: 3 Chicken Breasts (split into 6) or 2 large Turkey Breasts (split into 4). Both must have skin & ribs intact.
- 1 head of Garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups Lime Juice (preferably fresh, but if not, use the bottled Key Lime juice)
- 1 1/2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon dried Oregano
- 2 Bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the Mojo Criollo:
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped.
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup sour orange juice or 1/4 cup sweet orange juice and 1/4 cup lime juice.
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably Spanish)
- 1 teaspoon salt.
Preheat your oven to 375°
Rinse and pat dry your chicken breasts. Arrange them in a deep roasting pan so that they aren’t overlapping too much.
Sprinkle with salt and cumin.
Carefully pour the olive oil all over the chicken making sure the garlic/herb mixture gets a decent coat of it. Tightly cover the pan with foil and roast in the 375° oven for 1 & 1/2 hours.
You’ve pretty much got the hardest part out of the way; so consider some sides…
Make one package of dry black beans according to instructions. When fully cooked; do the following:
- Saute 1 medium onion, 1 green pepper (preferably a Cubanelle) and 6 cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil.
- When fully sweated add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano and 1 crushed bay leaf
- Stir that around a bit more, then add the mixture to your cooked beans with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon bouillon seasoning*.
- Heat the seasoned beans back up slowly, and they’re ready to serve.
- Serve with medium grain white rice.
*The bouillon is optional if you have a complex about MSG, but at this point in history it’s pretty authentic.
Okay; if it’s been an hour and a half; check on your chicken. Pull the foil off that bad boy and baste the surface of the chicken with some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat up to 400°. Put it back in the oven for another 45 minutes to an hour.
You should let all your mojo ingredients sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Right before you’re ready to serve; heat the 1/2 cup of olive oil on medium-high in a medium sauce pan. When it gets very hot (but not smoking) throw in the other mojo ingredients and stir quickly with a wooden spoon (watch out for splattering).
That’s it. You’ve made mojo. Now when you serve your Cuban food you can dump that stuff on all your sides. As a challenge to you the reader; I’m only going to list them until you DEMAND FROM ME THE RECIPES! The meal just won’t be complete without:
- Boiled or Fried Yuca (cassava)
- Twice-fried Plantains (tostones)
- Collard Greens
- A simple salad of Avocado, Grapefruit and Red Onion
All of these should get a healthy dose of mojo, but if you take the cowards way out and opt not to make them, you can always dump that mojo on your chicken…. Which should be ready by now.
- Let the chicken cool for just a few minutes then shred it with a pair of meat forks until it’s all a big mess of shredded chicken and saucy goodness. You can pick out the bigger bones; but expect that your diners will do some of that work themselves. This is the technique you want to employ if you’re serving it up on a platter with rice and beans. OR…
- Let the chicken cool for an hour; then pull it apart by hand (wear some rubber gloves for this part, please) taking extra special care to remove all the little rib bones. This technique is perfect if you’re going to use the chicken in tamales, empanadas or sandwiches.
In addition to begging me for the secrets of yuca and plantain (one’s easy, the other is potentially toxic if you make it wrong) if you want to make the best use of your leftover chicken; you’re just going to have to come back to Reducer and learn how to make one of these bad boys: