A few weeks ago the Supper Club celebrated Puerto Rican cuisine thanks to our host, Ellyn, who recently took a business trip to Old San Juan and was inspired for our theme. Although I have never been there, it was fun to learn a little about the culture as we prepared for our contributions to the meal. (And the destination has now moved up a notch or two on my vacation bucket list!)
Puerto Rico Fun Fact #1:
- Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, one year after he discovered the Americas. He named it San Juan Bautista, after John the Baptist.
Drinks: Ilise & Ann – Bamango Coladas; Beers (Red Stripe and Negra Modelo); Wines
Appetizers: Karen & Kathleen – Empanadillos stuffed with Pork Picadillo; Tostones with Smoked Salmon; Cheddar and manchego cheese topped with guava paste
Dinner: Ellyn & her guest, JoAnn – Pollo Guisado; Relleno de Camarones; Mofongo
Dessert: Dan and Greg – Banana Flan; Pineapple-Coconut Macaroons
Photos and recipes after the jump.
Ilise dressed the part of Caribbean Beach Bartender and worked the blender like a boss. She did extensive research and lab testing to perfect her Piña Colada recipe – did you know they were invented in Puerto Rico? – and then took it to the next level by adding banana and mango flavors. Delicioso por supuesto. In a clever move, Ilise whizzed up the drinks using ice cubes made with the colada mixture which minimized any watering-down as the ice melted. A separate post with recipe dedicated to the Bamango Colada will be coming soon. Try it right away – you won’t be sorry.
Karen and Kathleen outdid themselves with the appetizers, both in quantity (3) and quality (off the charts!) (This time Karen did the heavy lifting literally and figuratively, as Kathleen suffered an injury to her cooking arm just a few days before our dinner.)
Two of the three dishes required last-minute frying in the kitchen, so the rest of us began by nibbling on slices of cheese (cheddar and manchego) topped with a thin layer of guava paste. Exotic, easy, and delicious. (Easy if you have access to the ingredients, that is. Fortunately our neighborhood is home to many diverse ethnic and cultural communities – pretty much any ingredient can be found if you’re willing to venture away from the big chain stores.)
All three apps were tasty -- and how beautiful are those tostones with smoked salmon? take another look at the gallery photo above, these things are gorgeous! But the one I would seek out again and maybe even attempt to make myself is the Empanadillos – little empanadas or pasties stuffed in this case with pork Picadillo (beef is more traditional). The Ks were inspired by these websites. Very wisely, they saved a step or two by purchasing Goya Discos (both white and annetto) instead of making the dough themselves, and then fried them up in canola oil. Good move. Ain’t nobody got time for all that.
Puerto Rico Fun Fact #2:
There are five Miss Universe winners from Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Fun Fact #3:
Puerto Rico is home to the world's largest telescope, at the Arecibo Observatory.
The Banana Flan, which had a delightful tart-like crust, caused me to rethink my stance on flan - previously: only meh. I’ve only ever had regular flan, so banana is an automatic upgrade. The filling was more custardy than some flans I’ve had (yay) and, for me, the crust turned the whole thing into a dessert I’d like to have more of, please.
Inspired by an Oprah website recipe from Darren McGrady, a former British royal chef, Greg made the following comments after making this evening's dessert:
- As written, the recipe makes WAY TOO MUCH crust. You really could halve it.
- The vanilla paste does make for a delicious crust but the recipe proportions were a bit off (crust vs filling). I used a shallow 10-inch tart pan.
- I used melted mango paste (Goya brand) instead of apricot jelly for the glaze.
The Pineapple Macaroons were extraordinarily delicious, even for non-coconut lovers. I was transported to an island of Caribbean tastiness. Or maybe that was the wine finally kicking in, not sure. Try it yourself! Here’s a fun idea: Tuck a lightly salted macadamia nut inside each macaroon before baking. Yum!
Pineapple Coconut Macaroons
Recipe by Gregory Beckett
Adapted from the classic Macaroon recipe from the Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut package
Method for caramelizing pineapple comes from the Foodista blog
- 1 (14 ounce) package sweetened coconut (5 1/3 cups)
- 2⁄3 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon almond extract Cook’s note: Do NOT skip or substitute the almond extract (or worse yet, use artificial almond flavoring) -- this is an important component in the deliciousness of the macaroon!
- 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Combine one 20oz can crushed pineapple with 1 cup dark brown sugar in a small saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes or so to evaporate liquids.
- Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in egg whites (not whipped) and almond extract until well blended.
- Stir the caramelized pineapple into the macaroon mixture.
- Drop by the tablespoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
- Bake macaroons for at least 30 minutes at 375F to brown them nicely.
- Immediately remove from cookie sheets to wire racks. Cool completely.
- The tasty and spicy food of Puerto Rico comes from a mixture of Spanish, America, British and African inspirations.
Be on the watch for the Bamango Colada post/recipe coming soon – you will not want to miss this super-tasty summertime treat. Goodbye for now -- adiós por ahora!
Puerto Rican fun facts come from these sources.