Wine Wednesday: Puerto Rican Cuisine, a Fusion of cultures and continents

Did you know that the cuisine of Puerto Rico is a fusion of European, Afro-Caribbean and Latin American cultures?  It has such a unique style, indigenous seasonings and uses ingredients such as coriander, papaya, cacao, plantains just to name a few.  There is also a Creole flavor that was traced back to 1493 because of the use of corn, beef, pork and rice.

African slaves brought to the island at that time, introduced sugar cane, okra and other flavors. It is the perfect blend of all these flavors and cultures that makes the food of Puerto Rico so unique and oh, so good!

Of course if you know nothing about the food of the island, you do know it’s drink is Rum. Bacardi (the most popular), Don Q, Ron Rico, Barrilito and Ron Llave are all brands that can be found on the island (and most in your neighborhood) and are used to create some amazing cocktails.

For me there is nothing better than great empañadillas (turnovers filled with lobster, crab or beef), chorizo (Spanish sausage) and of course arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). Are ya hungry yet? If you decide to have your wedding in Puerto Rico, I would suggest that you have a lechon asado (barbecued pig) and other island favorites.  It will create a true Puerto Rican festive feel and your guests will love it.

Making Empanadillas Makes 12 empanadillas.

“Baked or fried?” is the question. Traditional Puerto Rican empanadillas are fried, period. But if I make these at home, I often opt for the baked version as a healthier and easier alternative.

Once you’ve made these choices you are ready to make empanadillas. If you make a large batch, prepare them to step 5. Assemble them in a flat container with waxed paper in between each empanadilla, cover and freeze. When you are ready to bake or fry, simply take them out of the freezer and pop them in the oven/fryer.

Empanadillas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1 hard boiled egg, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
12 empanadilla pastry disks, thawed
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, pepper, garlic, and meat. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Drain the fat and add the ketchup, cumin, olives, raisins, and boiled egg. Cook for another 5 minutes until well incorporated. Remove pan from the stove. Add cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

4. Prepare your work surface to assemble the empanadillas by having the following handy: empanadilla pastry disks, baking sheet, fork, bowl of water, and the cooled filling.

5. Place a disk on your work surface and add 2 to 3 tablespoons filling. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle. Crimp the edge with a fork, turn over and crimp the edges with a fork again. Set the empanadilla in the cookie sheet and repeat.

6. Brush the empanadillas with oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

If you’re making these at home, of course Rum or your favorite frosty beer will bring the flavor of the island into your home one bite at a time.

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