Puerto Rican Heritage Festival

17 12 2008

jibarito-plateEvery two years, the Puerto Rican Heritage Society (Sociedad Herencia de Puerto Rico) organizes and hosts a festival that features food, music, and cultural art. This year’s event was held at a different location than in past years and seemed to attract three times the attendance.  My favorite part of the event, of course, was the food.

We got there about an hour after the start and the line for food was already long. Several vendors were hawking food and the longest line was for La Marginal, a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Two lines formed at their booth to get one of two plates. The “Jibarito” (directly translated as “hillbilly”) consisted of roasted pork, rice and pigeon peas, small salad, and a choice of either tostones (fried plantains, aka “patacones”) or amarillos (baked sweet plantains. The other plate was fricaseed chicken with the same sides. My plate, shown here, was the “Jibarito” with both tostones and amarillos, and a chunk of potato stewed with the chicken. I also opted for the white rice and beans instead. Very yummy.paella

Each line was about 30 minutes long. My opinion is that they were just serving slowly. But the wait was worth it. While waiting, I hopped over to a booth run by Azuca, a restaurant serving Nuevo Latino cuisine. They offered a Spanish Paella and two desserts, a tres leches cake (three milks) and a flan (custard). My wife and I inhaled the Paella before I could get a picture of it. It was absolutely delicious. The rice was tasty, although overcooked just a tad, but it was full of seafood, peas, and carrots. For just eight bucks, I got a heaping plate of Paella that Azuca would probably charge about $24 for at the restaurant.

The Paella was made in a giant pan, probably about 36″ in diameter. It was gone in about 2 hours. La Marginal ran out of food seven times. The owner had to get his restaurant to keep bringing more food. My estimate is that the owner made in excess of $25k that afternoon. La Marginal also ran another booth out back serving fried food and roasted pork sandwiches. As much as I wanted some of this, too, I didn’t have the patience to stand in line again. There was another restaurant serving tapas, and a couple of other minor food sources, none of which I tried. The coffee was decent, the music was good, and the food was great. Maybe you’ll join me next time.

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Who wants some eyeball?

10 12 2008

Its time to claim the eyeballs!

The roast pig we are serving up on 12/20/08 is sure to offer a bonanza of meat and crispy skin.  However, there are several parts of the pig’s anatomy that can only be savored by a few.  Therefore, those need to be claimed ahead of time.

There are only two eyeballs on this pig, and they really can’t be shared.  Its like popping a jaw breaker in your mouth. To be honest, I’m not really that interested. However, whoever claims an eyeball also needs to agree to be featured in a video of you enjoying a taste explosion. C’mon now, don’t be squeamish. I once convinced my daughter, Isabel, to eat a fish eye. I’m not really sure how I got her to eat it since the usual enticements like encouragement, threats, bribes, or outright deception just don’t seem to work anymore on the kids. Yet, she popped it in and crunched. She didn’t say it was good, and she didn’t say it was bad – its a texture thing, you know?

However, I am willing to share the brain. Anyone?  Anyone?

While you’re thinking about it, take a look at this Man vs. Wild video.  Man, I love Bear Grylls.





Oh, Divine Pork skin

7 12 2008

I recently consulted with a Puerto Rican restaurant owner about roasting pigs.  He is well-known in the San Antonio Puerto Rican community for his food and caters pigs often. So, I figured I better consult with an expert.  He said that roasting such a large pig for a get-together like mine, or as a hobby, should be a great experience. As a restauranteur, however, roasting large hogs is unprofitable. So, he normally sticks to the smaller variety (25-40 lbs.).

His explanation as to why, however, befuddled me (you like that word, don’ cha?). A hog this size has more fat than a smaller pig. Leonel said that people are very concerned about their health these days (hmm, this is San Antonio, one of America’s fattest cities, remember?) and thus, the large hog is not as popular. I’m not totally convinced of this explanation. People who order roasted pig are probably not so conscientious of their diet. I mean, goodness gracious, San Antonio is built on corn tortillas and refried beans. I mean, a bean and cheese taco is nothing more than lard inside lard (with cheese on top).

But even more disturbing was his assertion that non-latinos (my term, not his) are not very interested in the crispy pork skin produced by these larger hogs.  Can this really be true?  One of man’s greatest achievements to food-kind is the ability to turn pork skin into something crispy and delicious and succulent and…and…oh, I’m out of breath and I can’t think of any appropriate enough adjectives. If Anthony Bourdain was there he would have had a heart attack (that’s probably coming anyway, if you are familiar with his show).

Well, for those of you who have eaten at my home, you know that I’m all about pushing people’s paradigms about what they like or dislike, or what they THINK they like or dislike.  But maybe I shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag (or the pig off the grill, if you like). The more people that enjoy the skin, the less I get to eat.  That’s ok, I’ll get mine.

[So, first one to correctly identify all pigs in the pictures above gets an extra helping of pork skin. If you’re lucky, I’ll give you a cheek. Just leave your answers in the Comments.]





What is so special about pig, anyway?

30 11 2008

Special? May my ears never indulge such blasphemy, and may the infidels who utter such a question be anathema. I pray that my first attempt to roast a pig on December 20 may bless your palate and not rain curses on my household and the children of my grandchildren (um, you should pray, too).

I can think of nothing better to tease you with than to have you watch a short clip (about 9 mins.) of Anthony Bourdain’s show, “No Reservations,” where he visits Puerto Rico.  As he explains in the beginning of the show, this is not your typical tourist travel show. Bourdain sets out to find the real culture of a city or country. He gets away from the tourist traps and the kitsch and explores the places we wish we could visit. He gives you an insider’s view of people’s homes, how they cook, how they interact with their families and friends.  Bourdain sums up his visits not with quaint descriptions of monuments or places, but by identifying a culture or society by its people and their beliefs, and exploring those beliefs through their food.

Here is a quote from Bourdain that I think best sums up this video: “Some people watch porn.  I…watch men chopping pork.





What was I thinking?!

25 11 2008

As I mentioned before, this upcoming pig roast I am hosting will be my first time (I’m the “39 Year Old Virgin”).  I’ve given myself plenty of planning time (about 2 months) to ask a lot of questions and do some research. But when the owner of La Marginal, the Puerto Rican eatery here in town (the only one, as far as I’m concerned), heard of what I was attempting when I visited him for advice yesterday, his eyebrows raised a little bit.  Part of me was a little concerned.  “What the $!#@ was I thinking? I’ve already invited everyone!” The other part of me doesn’t care, as my wife will attest to.  I always have big plans, but never really give the details too much thought. I’ll let someone else do that. I’m a big picture kind of guy. In this situation, however, the onus is completely on me.

Although Leonel has roasted some large hogs, he prefers to to stick to the smaller ones (25-40 lbs.). Right here you are probably wondering: “What size porcine are we talking about cooking here?” Well, it needs to be about 100 lbs. based on the number of people coming. For him, as a restauranteur, the effort needed to cook a large hog is too great for the minimal return. For my purposes, however, I’ll just have to wake up early – real early.

To make things easier for me, however, I will be asking everyone to bring something. As some of you may know, I’m real picky about people bringing food to my parties. I normally have a theme and I like for my sides to match the main course. No different here, people. Very shortly you will be hearing from me and how you can help. I’ve never hosted a party where there will be more than 75 people attending, so this will be interesting.

So, back to my question: “What was I thinking?” Roasted pig, that’s what I was thinking.





Preparing for the pig roast

17 11 2008
Lechon plate

Lechon plate

I thought I would continue to get you excited about the upcoming pig roast by providing you with a picture of a typical Lechon Asado plate.  The lechón (or roast pig for you gringos) is a typical Puerto Rican dish, usually served at large gatherings.  Common side dishes (for me, anyway) would include yellow rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), tostones (or fried plantains), and amarillos (literally translated as “yellows,” these are baked sweet plantains). No green stuff here except for in the marinade.

The lechón is the Puerto Rican version of pulled pork. The only difference, really, is in the marinade. Whereas your typical barbecue pulled pork would be marinated with a vinegar or apple cider base, the Puerto Rican version is marinated with a “mojo” (pronounced moho).  My mojo will consist of bitter orange, olive oil, garlic (enough to choke a brood of vampires), fresh oregano, salt, and pepper. Pretty simple, yet incredibly flavorful.  What is bitter orange, you might ask? Well, I can’t find it around here. Although it is pretty common in the tropics, even my specialty grocer doesn’t carry this particular orange.  Here, it is commonly referred to as a Seville orange.  However, you can make a semblance of the bitter orange by combining equal parts of regular orange juice and lime juice.  It will work just fine for me.

By the time this pig is done cooking, it will just completely fall apart. Get your appetites ready.





First annual pig roast

10 11 2008

pig

For those of you who have followed my blog before, please ignore the fact that I haven’t written a thing in quite some time. That’s what happens when you own two businesses, home-school three children, and are involved in law suits. Oh, well. Nothing gets my mind off of those things better than thinking of…food! (what did you think I was thinking about?)

I have been Jonesing for some well-made, crispy and tasty pork skin (chicharrón to you gringos). About the only way to get it is to make it yourself. So, that got me thinking: I should roast my own pig homer(mmm – pig).  Now, this isn’t such an easy undertaking, nor will it be cheap. And I’m certainly not going to roast a 100lb. pig just to get some skin. So, why not turn this into a huge shindig and invite my closest friends and family to enjoy it with me? Thus, our first annual pig roast!

As this process progresses, I will update this blog to show you how we’re putting this together. I’ve already spoken to several people about the idea and they are extremely excited, especially my mom. In fact, one of my friends even offered to provide the pig (sweet).  For those of you who are invited, you will be receiving regular e-mail updates. These updates will probably point back to this blog to give you further details and continue to whet your appetites.

This year I’ve decided to roast the pig “a-la-isla.” That’s what I call it, anyway. It will be done Puerto Rican style with many common Latin side dishes. I will be cooking the pig on an above-ground pit, somewhat like a concrete block caja-china.” If this goes well (and the stress isn’t too horrendous), subsequent years will feature the same pig, but be cooked in different styles: Thai, barbecue, Hawaiian, etc.

Keep watchin’,’cause I think this is gonna be good!