Cuba

So way back in October, we cooked Cuba!  Today we cooked The Gambia, which is 20 countries later in the list…

I remember reading about a popular Cuban sandwich but wasn’t excited about the prospect of eating pickles on it. So I went with a slow cooked beef recipe called ropa vieja (the fact that it could be made in the crock pot definitely made it a winner!), yet another rice and beans recipe called “Moros y Cristianos” (“Moors and Christians” … the black beans represent the Moors and the white rice represents the Christians… yep.), and a sweet plantain dish called platanos en tenacion.

Ropa Vieja (recipe)

This was a slow cooked beef recipe with tomatoes, peppers, and a tomato based sauce.

What went in the crock pot in the morning:

ropa_vieja_uncooked

The finished product:

Cuban_ropa_vieja

Moros y Cristianos (recipe)

This another pretty simple rice and beans recipe.  Sauté onions, garlic, and peppers.  Add beans, tomato paste, and some spices.  Add chicken broth and rice.  Cook until done.

Cuban_moros_y_cristianos

Cuban Platanos en Tentacion (recipe)

The recipes I read (including this one) were very insistent that this is a side dish, not a dessert!  It involved plantains (the riper the better), cinnamon, sugar, butter, and white wine.  All good things.  The brown things sticking out of the bananas are pieces of cinnamon (we did not eat them).

Cuban_platanos_en_tentacion

The full meal:

Cuban_meal

The flavors in this meal were great.  The rice and beans (of which there was a LOT) was good.  The meat tasted great, but the cut that the recipe called for was very stringy after cooking.  I had a hard time getting past the texture, but Tyler was okay with it.  The bananas, which were as sweet as you would expect bananas baked in butter, sugar, and cinnamon to be, actually worked reasonably well as a side dish and complemented the other foods.

Overall, not bad!  I gave the meal a 4/5 rating.

Here’s to catching up on these blog posts…

Canada

We were very excited to get to Canada a few weeks ago!  We live just a few hundred miles from the Candian border, so, aside from the US, this will probably be the least exotic meal of the project.  Also, Tyler has been talking about making poutine, which is a Canadian pub food of gravy and cheese curds served over fries, for Canada since day one of this project!  He also has a coworker from Canada who gave the stamp of approval on making poutine, and according to the internet, it is one of the few dishes that is ubiquitous across Canada.  But it wasn’t a full meal.  So I also came up with a maple salmon recipe from CandianLiving.com… I figured salmon is big in coastal parts of Canada, and Canada is also pretty well known for maple syrup.  I also thought salmon would be light enough to help counteract the poutine and butter tarts we picked for dessert. 🙂

Poutine (recipe)

We hardly needed a recipe for this, as simple as it is, but we did follow a recipe for the sake of getting the correct ratio of fries, cheese curds, and gravy and to have a gravy recipe.  We felt like it was cheating too much to buy frozen fries and a jar of gravy, so we made our own.  Although we made our own fries for Belgium, we didn’t particularly enjoy the smell and smoke that filled the house while frying them.  So we turned to the internet and followed an alternate method of tossing the potato slices in oil and broiling them.  They weren’t the best fries I’ve had, but they were smothered in gravy and cheese, so they didn’t need to be!

uncooked_fries_for_poutine

cooked_fries_for_poutine

 

I made the gravy per the recipe, using half chicken and half beef stock.  That is apparently one of the most controversial topics of poutine… beef vs. chicken gravy.  A bit of each seemed like the safe option.

gravy_for_poutine

When it was time to eat, the fries were topped with cheese curds, then gravy.

poutine

 

Pepper Maple Salmon (recipe)

We first mixed together the pepper and maple syrup and rubbed it into the salmon filets.  This was supposed to be refrigerated for 30 minutes next.

uncooked_salmon_for_Canada

Since it was a nice evening, we decided to grill the salmon, rather than cook it on the stove.

Canada_maple_salmon

 

We also made a sauce that went with the salmon–white wine, whipping cream, stock (I think we used a combination of chicken and beef), more maple syrup, and more pepper.

maple_salmon_sauce

 

The sauce was drizzled over the salmon and garnished with parsley to serve.

 Butter Tarts (recipe)

Tyler made the dough for this ahead of time.  Nothing too unusual… butter, lard (we used shortening), salt, and flour, then vinegar, egg yolk, and ice water were added.  This was cut into small circles.

butter_tart_dough

These went in a standard sized muffin pan, then they were filled with pecans (I have read that currants or raisins are most traditional, but pecans are what we had and what I happen to like best of the options given in the recipe), and the filling.  The filling was a thick goop of corn syrup, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, butter, vinegar, and salt.

uncooked_butter_tarts

They baked for the recommended 12 minutes and came out looking great.

butter_tarts_in_pan

Yum.

butter_tarts

Canada_meal

Meal Review

As expected, this meal was great.  I’m really not sure where we could have gone wrong, though.  Grilled salmon with pepper and maple syrup, fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds, and gooey filled pastries… all good things.

The salmon was definitely something I would like to make again.  I felt that the poutine detracted from it a bit, though… it was hard to go between the two, and I thought the saltiness/greasiness of the poutine masked a lot of the flavor in the salmon.  That said, the poutine was fantastic.  Definitely not something I could eat a lot of without feeling sick, but I enjoyed it.  And the butter tarts were basically mini pecan pies, so obviously they were a winner.

Overall, this was one of those much needed “all around winner” meals that make this project worth it!  Going into a span of three African countries, it is exactly what we needed!