Last week my dream came true - my neighbor, Maytee, offered a Cuban cooking class for a handful of folks from the SoCe. We gathered around 5 pm to learn how to cook traditional, as in BC (before Castro), black bean soup, rice, and Fricase de Puerco (Pork Fricassee). What difference does BC make? Maytee explained that before Castro, some ingredients such as olive oil and vegetables were more readily available.
Maytee had pre-cooked the black beans so they would be soft when we arrived. This meant her house already smelled amazing! Peppers and onions were diced in tiny bowls on the counter - just like a cooking show! We quickly learned Maytee’s rule of thumb that one must use 5 cloves of garlic per pound of anything - beans, meat,... The secret to great garlic is using a giant mortar and pestle to grind it - rather than using a garlic press. We all decided we needed to purchase a mortar and pestle immediately - and a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker is indispensable in Cuban cooking. You just wait for the chug-a-chug-a train sound and then you can begin timing whatever you happen to be cooking - pork fricassee for example.
Once the meal was ready, we sat down to savor it. We had rice with black bean soup served over it and then freshly fried plantain chips to dip in the soup.
Delicious! Mmm… utter delight and contentment on the faces of those gathered round the table. After the pressure cooker reached the chug-a-chug-a stage one last time, we waited 7 minutes for the potato to cook with the pork. We had tried to save a little rice and beans to enjoy with the pork, but some of us had not mustered sufficient restraint so the rice and beans were gone. Heck - we might have licked our bowls had we been at home!