Did I tell you that my birthday was last week? It was. You missed it. Lucky for you I accept belated gifts.
Last Sunday, I went to my parent’s house to help winterize the pool. Afterwards, Momma San and Big Poppa went to work on my birthday dinner, which was the most magnificent show of Puerto Rican gastro-magnificence (Yes, I just made that shit up.) that I’ve ever been privy to. There was a plethora of pork. It was a Porkapalooza. Pork-tastic. Pork pork pork pork pork. Accompanied by rice and beans, tostones (toast-tonys), and pastelillos (pas-ta-lee-joes).
Mah Birthday Foodz, let me show you them.
Let’s start with the sophisticated set-up:
Dad hooks the propane tank up to some sort of jerry-rigged burner/stand cooker-thing. It’s so the fried food smell doesn’t linger in the house for a week. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
We started with the pastelillos as an appetizer.
Pastelillos are the Puerto Rican equivalent to empanadas, which are seasoned ground beef in a pastry crust that’s deep fried.
Like that. They’re my favorite thing ever.
Next up, Big Poppa did the first frying of the tostones, which are deep fried green plantains.
These are raw plantains. Also a beer.
These are the plantains after frying once. They’re blanched in the oil once to cook the inside, then flattened between pieces of wax paper. Then they’re fried again until golden brown and crispy.
We serve them with a mojo ajo (Mo-ho Ah-ho), which is a garlic oil dipping sauce. NOM.
The last thing dad fried up was the carne frita, a.k.a. fried meat.
Here’s how you make carne frita:
1. Dice up pork shoulder.
2. Season pork shoulder.
3. Fry pork shoulder.
Bonus points for fried pork skin, or chicharrones.
They’re usually fried up with a whole onion or two.
While dad and I manned the deep fryer outside, mom was hard at work in the kitchen. She made some red beans and rice, which is not as easy as you think.
This ain’t no Uncle Ben’s. Puerto Rican rice needs to be babied so it ends up not too gummy or wet, and cooked in the caldero it can burn easily. Believe me, I know.
To serve on top of the rice, mom made habicheulas guisadas, or as I call it, red beans and potatoes.
It was like Puerto Rican Thanksgiving. But for my birthday. Which you missed.
You really need to go shopping.