It’s Advent and Christmas is around the corner, if you are Puerto Rican you know what that means pasteles and coquito time!
These are two of the staples on a holiday table in the Puerto Rican household. It doesn’t matter if you live on the island, in NYC or Milwaukee WI. The holiday gatherings all look the same.
The dinner table will have a roast pork butt, rice with black eyed peas, pasteles and coquito. Then there are the NOT so traditional foods turkey, potato salad, pasta salad, roasted veggies the list is long. As Americans living stateside we adopted many foods eaten by our neighbors and added the item over time.
What are pasteles Rachel Wharton a writer for the New York Times said it best in her article Pasteles, a Puerto Rican Tradition, Have a Special Savor Now published on December 1 2017,
“A centuries-old blend of Taino Indian, Spanish and African flavors, pasteles are a prime example of Puerto Rico’s cocina criolla — Creole cooking — The tamale-like treats…made…with a mash of green bananas and plantains bolstered by sturdy Caribbean root crops like yautia and yuca. Wrapped in a smoky-sweet banana leaf, they’re typically filled with seasoned meat, stained with sunset-hued annatto oil and boiled up by the dozen at any gathering”
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, Christmas memories are of all my aunts from both sides of the family in the kitchen grating green bananas and chopping onions, garlic, gathering the banana leaves brought from Puerto Rico, by a visiting aunt, pulling out the sofito to season the chicken or pork to make the pastles.
The magic ingredient of Puerto Rico culinary cooking, sofito is olive oil, garlic, peppers, cilantro that is all chopped up and mixed in the blender. Sofito is used to make Spanish rice, flavor beans, soups and marinate meat such as pork and chicken
Every time I cook with sofito and the mixture hits the hot oil in the pan the house smelled like home, Puerto Rico.
Every summer as a child I visited Puerto Rico for the entire summer, being shuffled to each of my grandparents, cousins and great aunts homes for summer. I’m an island girl that loves God and the Caribbean. In my heart and soul, Puerto Rico is home.
Coquito is the Puerto Rican version of egg nog. There are many versions of Coquito but the one ingredient that is always in Coquito is Coco Loco Crème of Coconut.
I love crème of coconut I use it in many dessert recipes. I love to make homemade coconut ice cream.
Each time I book a client to Puerto Rico they come back and rave “the people are so nice, friendly and helpful.” During Christmas time the people of Puerto Rico are even friendlier. Christmas is a time of hope and sharing which is the essence of the island.
She has been battered but she will recover over time. This holiday season remember that the Caribbean is STILL and always will be a great vacation destination no matter what island you chose to visit.