Forget turkey or ham! Bring Guavate home this holiday when you surprise your family with a Puerto Rican gastronomic heritage and legacy: some roasted pork. Lechón is the whole pig, while pernil refers to a leg or shoulder of the animal you can cook to perfection in your oven. Be patient; it takes a while!
For the adobo (marinade)
1 tablespoon peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon of oregano
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lime, squeezed (optional)
½ cup olive oil
For the meat:
8 lb. pork leg or shoulder (whole, with bone)
2 tablespoons of marinade
2 tablespoons garlic powder
7 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of salt
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and set aside. Place the pork shoulder or leg in a baking dish that can be refrigerated. Mix the garlic powder with the salt and season the pork. Add the garlic cloves on top of the meat and let it marinate for about three hours in the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, remove the meat's fat by letting it stand on one edge and keeping it in one piece. Make deep cuts all over the meat and season with the marinade, ensuring it penetrates well into all the cuts. Put the fat on the meat to look the same as before cutting and sprinkle with salt. Cover the meat and let it marinate overnight (8 to 12 hours) in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 400°F as you allow the pork to come back to room temperature and place it in a deep dish with the fat side up. Bake for an hour and reduce the temperature to 300°F and cook covered for another three hours, then uncover and cook for an additional hour. Cooking time should add up to five hours. To make sure the meat is done, stick a fork and check if it falls from the bone. If the cuerito (the fat on top) is not crisp enough, cook for an additional 15 minutes or until crisp. To serve, let it rest for about 20-30 minutes and remove the cuerito before cutting. You can cut the cuerito and sprinkle it on the meat before serving or set it on the side.
Note: If using a meat thermometer, the pernil will be ready at 185° in the center.
Guineítos en escabeche
Have you ever tried pickled green bananas? Yes, you read that right. An escabeche refers to a food marinated in an acidic (usually white vinegar) mixture. This Puerto Rican delicacy tastes fantastic, and it pairs perfectly with some roasted pork.
2 pounds (about 10) of unripe, green bananas (the greener, the better)
2 large onions sliced into thin rings or chopped
½ cup of white vinegar (can be substituted for apple cider vinegar)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
8-10 Spanish olives (optional)
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 -4 bay leaves
1 cup of olive oil
*Additional salt and pepper to taste
Cut the unripe banana tips and add them to your large pot with the skin still on. Add water to slightly covering the bananas. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of oil to make them peel easier. Boil the bananas for approximately 20 minutes on medium-low heat. If you boil them too long, they will come apart. While the bananas cook, prepare the escabeche by heating a large size saucepan to medium heat. Pour in some olive oil for sautéing and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir them well and place on medium heat until the mixture gets hot. Then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for approximately one hour. Peel off the skins of the bananas and cut them into 1-inch size rounds. Place them in a bowl and add the escabeche sauce. Stir and mix well. You can serve the guineítos hot or cold.
Holiday Traditions in Puerto Rico
Guanimes or Guanimos
Before pasteles there were guanimes, a corn-based patty that is representative of our Taíno heritage during Christmas. They can be both sweet and savory, and they taste amazing!
1 pound of yellow cornmeal
¼ cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of salt
3 quarts of salted water
8-10 banana leaves or parchment paper
Butcher's twine (for wrapping)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a large saucepan, pour the milk, salt, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil. Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the milk slowly to the dry ingredients. Mix until the liquid is absorbed. Now, cut the plantain leaves in pieces so you can wrap about 1/4 cup of the mix in each square (approximately 8x8 inches). Place the mixture in the center of a leaf and fold up the sides and ends and tie with butcher's twine. In a large pot, bring the salted water to a boil, add the guanimes. Bring the heat down and let them cook for about an hour. To serve, simply unwrap the guanimes and place them on a plate.