Recipes to try while in quarantine

Lauren Rivera, Features Editor

At this moment, you are probably reading this while lying in your bed. Just like everyone else during this never-ending quarantine, your boredom-meter has reached maximum level, and your sanity is at the brink of collapsing; you just don’t know what to do with yourself. However, I have a solution. Everywhere on social media–especially TikTok– I have seen families cooking themed dinners. I have seen Hibachi style meals, Mexican themed eats, Medieval munchies, and even a “Tiger King” themed dinner. Darn you, Carol Baskin! Now I give you an entirely new array of flavors and culture… Cuban themed dinner. My recipes include: the appetizer, pasta de guayaba y queso blanco, the main course is lechon asado, the side dish to add some flavor is moro, and the dessert to devour is flan. I hope you and your family enjoy! 

 

Appetizer: Pasta de Guayaba y Queso Blanco (Guava with white cheese on a cracker) 

This classic Cuban appetizer is simple, delicious, and most importantly, far from time consuming. I can’t remember how many times I’ve caught my mom and dad secretly eating this in their room, just so my sister and I wouldn’t come and steal it all. (Yes, this is an appetizer, but my family loves to eat it as a midnight snack). This would work great for your Cuban themed dinner. Although the ingredients are minimal, the guava paste can be difficult to come by. If you are shopping at ShopRite, try strolling down the international aisle, and you might have some luck there. Some good brands to look for would be: Goya’s Guava Paste, Predilecta’s Goiabada, and Conchita’s Guava Paste. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 container guava paste
  • 1 package white cheddar cheese
  • 1 package crackers

Directions:

Cut the cheese into squares that are about 1 inch. Then, cut the guava paste into squares that are also about 1 inch. Add both to the cracker, and make as many as you’d like. Enjoy!

 

Main Course: Lechon Asado (Cuban Style Roast Pork)

Cuban roast pork, or as we like to call it “lechon asado”, is a family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. My great abuela learned this recipe from her mother, who taught it to my grandmother, who taught it to my mom, who taught it to me–and now I will be sharing it with you,  Highlanders! In the Cuban culture, lechon asado is usually reserved for special occasions and is very popular during Christmas. This is mainly because the cooking process is very long, as Cuban roast pork is a two-day event. On the first day, you prep the meat and let it marinate overnight. After marinating, you roast it on low for many hours. During the cooking process, your house will be smelling like a restaurant right off the coast of Havana. The process may be long, but nonetheless it is completely worth it. Besides, everyone has nothing BUT time these days! 

Ingredients: 

  • 10-pound pork shoulder
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup orange juice 
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

The first step to making lechon asado is the Mojo marinade. First, you’ll need to peel the garlic, put 8-10 garlic cloves aside and crush the remaining garlic, this allows for the juices of the garlic to be exposed. You can either crush it with the side of a large knife or a meat mallet. Next, add the garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt into a bowl (or a mortar and pestle if you have one), smash the garlic and salt together until the garlic is broken down into small pieces. Then, add the smashed garlic, orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, and the remaining 1 ½ teaspoon of salt to a bowl. Combine well. Then, put the mixture in the fridge for about an hour. 

The next step is prepping the meat. First, place your meat into a large pan; this will be the pan you cook the meat in. At the top of your pork shoulder there will be a thick layer of skin, you’re going to cut that just enough that it can be folded over but still attached. Once the skin is folded over, you are going to be left with the bare meat. Take the 8-10 cloves of garlic that you put aside, and crush them. Next, take a big knife and cut small openings throughout the pork shoulder. Then, stuff the crushed garlic into the openings you have just created. At this point, the marinade should be ready. Take about half of the marinade and pour it onto the skinless meat. Then fold the flap of skin back onto the meat, pour the remaining marinade over the pork. Cover the meat with the lid, and marinate overnight. 

At this point, it is the next day and your meat should be marinated and ready to be cooked. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. Once ready, take your large pot and place it in the oven. Let this cook for about 40 minutes while covered (this will darken the skin of the lechon and make it crispy). After 40 minutes, decrease the temperature to 350 degrees, and let this cook for about 5 hours. Once completely cooked, take it out of the oven to cool down. Then, slice the meat however you like and it will be ready to serve. 

 

Side dish: Moro (Cuban rice and beans) 

If your Cuban dinner doesn’t have rice and beans involved…did you even have a Cuban dinner? Moro is a staple in Cuban cuisine, and this comfort dish is a must for this dinner.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can black beans
  • ½ red onion 
  • ½ green pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

First, in a pot, make your sofrito, which includes your pepper, onion, and garlic, chopped finely and sauteed in oil. Add your olive oil, bay leaf, and oregano. Let this saute. Then, add your can of beans, rice, and 4 cups of water. Let this cook on low. It should take about 30 minutes to completely combine and cook. Enjoy!

 

Dessert: Flan Cubano (Cuban flan)

When you walk into any Cuban restaurant, there will always be flan in the case of desserts. It is something that will never go out of stock, because it’s a fan favorite! Flan Cubano is the embodiment of all the sweetness that the Cuban palate loves and offers. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ½ cup sugar 

Directions: 

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Then take your cake pan, and place it on the stovetop. Once the pan is heated, you can begin caramelizing. Add sugar to the hot pan until it is liquified. Make sure the bottom and sides of the pan are completely coated with the sugar glaze. Then, in a separate bowl, add your milks together. In a food processor, add the milks and the rest of your ingredients. Next, pour this mixture into your flan pan. Then place in the oven in a water bath. A water bath is when you simply fill a large enough pan with water, then place the baking dish into the pan of water. The water should reach about half way up the pan. Once it is done baking, let it cool completely and place in the refrigerator until it is cold. Once cold, take a knife and cut along the edges to loosen the flan from the dish. Then, flip the whole thing over onto the serving dish. Enjoy!