Cuban “Roots” – from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen
Ed. note: As promised, this is the first installment of Marta's Cuban American Kitchen where every other week or so Marta of My Big Fat Cuban Family will pique our appetites with a fresh comida criolla a lo Cuban-American recipe. I hope you all enjoy and we are not liable for any weight gained as a result.
Hello there, all you hungry Babalusians!
I made some Ajiaco in my crockpot and I just have to share it. But first some background...
In the 1930’s, Cuban President Gerardo Machado made a proclamation that once a week everyone on the island would eat an “ajiaco” – a type of country stew made mostly with root vegetables and flavored with meat. According to my mom (a 93-year-old guajira) every restaurant, fonda, and home followed the “weekly ajiaco” rule. It was a way to use all the different root vegetables indigenous to Cuba, taking advantage of what was available in each province.
The classic ajiaco includes tasajo (salt-dried beef), which I don’t use at all. Some have chicken pieces. I favor the combination of flank steak, chicken broth and pork loin.
In other words, there are as many ways to make this tasty stew as there are Cubans in exile.
And so it goes today…. I use whatever I can get here in Southern California. Most of the time I have to improvise (resuelvo) and I favor adding more garlic, plantains, and corn. I also make a small amount each time, so I peel and cube the vegetables and freeze them for the next Mandatory Ajiaco Day.
What follows is my own Cuban American version of my grandmother’s recipe. The difference? My chicken broth comes in cubes as opposed to my grandmother’s which began with “choose an older hen from the pen….” =D
Crockpot Ajiaco Criollo
Place the following into a 6 quart crockpot:
¼ lb. Flank steak, cubed into bite-size pieces
½ lb. Pork loin, cubed into bite-sized pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine
¼ cup boniato (sweet potato) peeled and cubed
¼ cup yuca (cassava) peeled and cubed
¼ cup fresh pumpkin (or butternut squash) peeled and cubed
1 ripe plantain, peeled and cubed
1 ear of fresh, sweet corn, husked and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. pepper
2 tsp. Paprika
1 bay leaf
1 fresh lime, cut into slices
Prepare the sofrito:
3 Tbls. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
¼ green pepper, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
½ tsp. Cumin
½ tsp. Oregano
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and green pepper until the onion is transluscent. Add the garlic, tomato sauce, cumin and oregano.
Add this to the vegetables & meat in the crockpot.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4-5 hours.
Makes 4-6 servings
Remove the bay leaf, squeeze in the lime and serve with hot (Cuban!) bread.
You can thank me later when you're nice and full.