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Miami Spice: The New Florida Cuisineby Steven Raichlen
This and the Vaca Frita on page 235 are mainstays of the Cuban-American diet. Both are made with skirt steak, a stingy cut of meat with the poetic name of fajita (girdle) in Spanish. Skirt steak can be found at Hispanic markets, Jewish butcher shops, and at an increasing number of supermarkets. Flank steak makes an acceptable substitute. Both recipes call for the meat to be boiled with aromatic vegetables. The resulting broth makes a fabulous soup--simply add cooked noodles or rice. Ropa vieja--literally means "old clothes," and is an apt description of the shredded appearance of the meat. It is traditionally served with white rice and fried plantains.
1 1/2 pounds skirt-steak
1 small onion, quartered
1 tomato, quartered
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
TO FINISH THE DISH:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1/3 cup tomato puree
3 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Combine the beef, quartered onion, tomato, carrot, and garlic cloves with 6 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over a high heat. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer the beef, uncovered, skimming often, until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
2. Strain the meat, reserving the broth for soup. Let the meat cool. Tear it, along the grain, into pencil-thick strips.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonreactive frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, sliced onion, and bell peppers and cook until soft but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the meat, cumin, tomato puree, wine, and salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is well coated with the sauce and the sauce is reduced and flavorful, about 5 minutes. Correct the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.
The name boniato ( a Cuban sweet potato) comes from the Spanish word for "good" or "harmless." The early explorers of the Caribbean encountered a bewildering array of new plants--many of them poisonous. In a world of strange and sometimes toxic foods, the nourishing boniato must have made a welcome addition to the settlers' diet. The coffee liqueur brings out the sweetness of the boniato.
2 pounds boniatos, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1/2 cup Chicken Stock (see page 329) or canned broth
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1. Boil the boniato in salted water to cover (at least 2 quarts) until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the boniato and return to the pan.
2. Mash the boniato to a coarse puree with a potato masher or fork. Work in the cream, stock, coffee liqueur, salt, pepper, an nutmeg. The mixture should be highly seasoned and moist. If necessary, add a little more stock.
3. Spoon the boniato mixture into a lightly buttered 8-inch gratin dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with the butter. (The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage.)
4. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
5. Just before serving, bake the gratin until crusty and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Nontraditional Key Lime Pie
Whipped cream or meringue? The question is hotly debated whenever the subject of key lime pie comes up. For example, I prefer meringue, while my wife, Barbara, favors whipped cream. So, this recipe offers both possibilities. Traditional key lime pie recipes call for the filling ingredients to be beaten but not cooked. Nowadays for safety's sake, we're better off cooking eggs rather than serving them raw.
SERVES 8 TO 10
1 1/4 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) melted and unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh key lime juice, or 5 tablespoons each regular lime juice and fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lime zest, preferably from key limes
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING:
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest, preferably from key limes
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Prepare the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter in a mixing bowl and mix to form a crumbly dough. Press the mixture into an 8-inch pie pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven, but leave the oven on.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk in a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the lime juice and zest.
4. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake the pie for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the filling is set and an inserted skewer comes out clean and hot to the touch. Remove the pie from the oven. If choosing the meringue topping, increase the temperature to 400 F and proceed with Step 5. If choosing the whipped cream topping, turn off the oven, set the pie on a rack to cool room temperature, and skip to Step 6.
5. Prepare the meringue: Beat the egg whites to soft peaks with a mixer, starting on low speed, gradually increasing the speed to high, and adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Beat in the sugar in a thin stream and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Spread or pipe the meringue on top of the pie. Bake the pie until the meringue is nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Let the pie cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours before serving.
6. Prepare the whipped cream topping: Place the cream in a chilled bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and lime zest and beat the cream until stiff. Spread or pipe the whipped cream on top of the pie. Refrigerate, uncovered, until serving. For the best results, serve within 1 hour of adding the whipped cream.
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