Brooklyn

CUBAN DINNER WITH A FRENCH ENDING


Summer in New York is frenetic. It’s almost always too hot and we compensate by staying outside. Long rides end at the bar, so do days spent at Rockaway Beach. All of a sudden it’s October and we remember that everything good has an end. The relief of being able to sit comfortably in your own apartment is accompanied by sadness and a realization that beach rides will soon be replaced by snowy walks to the subway. This melancholy is best shared with friends, preferably over dinner.

This is a time for heartier meals. Cuban Ropa Vieja is easy enough to prepare when you've got a few helping hands. Also, waiting while it cooks in the oven for three plus hours allows plenty of time to enjoy too many glasses of wine. A french twist of flaming baba au rhum to end the meal adds a bit of fire to the table-sometimes literally.




ROPA VIEJA WITH RICE, BEANS & PLANTAINS

ROPA VIEJA: INGREDIENTS

3LB CHUCK ROAST

2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 LARGE ONIONS, CHOPPED

2 RED BELL PEPPERS, CHOPPED

2 TABLESPOONS SALT

8 GARLIC CLOVES, FINELY GRATED

½ CUP DRY WHITE WINE

4 TEASPOONS SWEET PAPRIKA

1 TABLESPOON DRIED OREGANO

2 TEASPOONS GROUND CUMIN

1 TEASPOON FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

½ TEASPOON CAYENNE PEPPER

1 28-OUNCE CAN WHOLE PEELED OR CRUSHED TOMATOES

2 BAY LEAVES

¾ CUP PIMIENTO-STUFFED SPANISH OLIVES, HALVED

2 TEASPOONS WHITE VINEGAR

CHOPPED CILANTRO


INSTRUCTIONS

Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 250°.

Pat roast dry. Heat oil in a large heatproof pot over high. Cook chuck roast, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate.

Cook onion, bell peppers, and salt, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12–14 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pan, until vegetables are golden brown, 3–5 minutes. Stir in wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Stir in paprika, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne until vegetables are coated; continue to cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Nestle roast into tomato mixture and tuck in bay leaves on either side. Cover and transfer to oven. Braise roast and vegetables until meat is very tender and shreds easily, at least 3 hours.

Skim excess fat from sauce; discard bay leaves. Using a potato masher or 2 forks, tear and smash beef into sauce until it’s shredded and incorporated into sauce. Stir in olives and vinegar.



MADUROS: INGREDIENTS

4 LARGE, VERY RIPE PLANTAINS

1½ CUPS VEGETABLE OIL

SALT


INSTRUCTIONS

Trim, peel, and cut plantains into 1" pieces.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

Working in batches, cook plantains, turning once, until beginning to brown, 1–2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until soft and deep golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet tray.

Season with salt if desired. Serve hot.


BEANS

INGREDIENTS

1 POUND DRIED BLACK BEANS

1 BAY LEAF

1 MEDIUM ONION, FINELY CHOPPED, DIVIDED

1 GREEN BELL PEPPER, FINELY CHOPPED, DIVIDED

8 GARLIC CLOVES, FINELY GRATED, DIVIDED

5 TEASPOONS SALT

1 TEASPOON DRIED MEXICAN OR ITALIAN OREGANO, DIVIDED

¼ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

CILANTRO


INSTRUCTIONS

Bring beans, bay leaf, ¼ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup chopped bell pepper, 1 tbsp. grated garlic, 5 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. oregano, and 5 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water if needed to cover, until beans are tender and covered by about ¼" liquid, 2–3 hours. Discard bay leaf.

Meanwhile: heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low. Add remaining onion, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and beginning to brown, 15–20 minutes. Stir into cooked beans.

Top with cilantro.


RICE

Prepared as desired

Divide ropa vieja between plates, serve over rice with sides of beans & plantains




FLAMING BABA AU RHUM

INGREDIENTS

2 TABLESPOONS SUGAR

1 (1/4-OUNCE) PACKAGE ACTIVE DRY YEAST

4 LARGE EGGS

250 GRAMS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR (2 CUPS)

4 GRAMS FINE SEA SALT (1/2 TEASPOON)

10 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER, SLIGHTLY SOFTENED AND CUT INTO CUBES, MORE FOR GREASING PAN

55 GRAMS BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE, CHOPPED (1/3 CUP)

150 GRAMS DARK BROWN SUGAR (3/4 CUP)

1 ½ INCHES FRESH GINGER, CUT INTO COINS

3 STRIPS ORANGE PEEL

2 WHOLE CLOVES

1 CINNAMON STICK

¾ CUP DARK RUM

½ CUP HEAVY CREAM

¾ CUP CRÈME FRAÎCHE

7 TO 15 GRAMS CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR (1 TO 2 TABLESPOONS), TO TASTE

1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT





INSTRUCTIONS

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in sugar and sprinkle in yeast. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

With mixer on low, beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in flour and salt. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, and beat until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Grease a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan with softened butter. Spoon half the batter into bottom of pan. Sprinkle chocolate over top of batter, making sure the chocolate doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. Spoon remaining batter over chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and transfer pan to oven. Bake until deep golden and firm to the touch, 30 to 40 minutes. Let baba cool in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack while it is still warm and let cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, ginger, orange peel, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. strain into a bowl; discard solids. Stir 1/2 cup rum into liquid.

Place wire rack with cake over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour rum syrup slowly over surface of cake, allowing excess to drip into baking sheet below. Pour extra syrup from pan into a bowl and then pour it back on top of cake. Repeat several times until most of the syrup has soaked into the cake. (reserve extra syrup for serving; you should have a least 1/3 cup left over.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Beat in crème fraîche. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, to taste, and vanilla.

Place cake on large platter. Place remaining 1/4 cup rum in a small skillet over high heat. Tilt skillet slightly so that rum catches fire. Pour flaming rum over cake and let it burn off. Dpoon whipped cream into the hollow center of the cake, then slice; or slice and then dollop with whipped cream. Serve cake with reserved rum syrup.