Friday, February 20, 2009

Havana Nights Birthday Celebration!

"Moros y Cristianos" (black rice and beans - those cubans are so clever).

The gloomy and cold winter days don't inspire celebration, so Malia and I had to think up something good for our February 15th birthday party. We wanted a theme that would exude heat, and inspire dancing! What better place to get away to than Havana? This would also give us an opportunity to cook up some great Cuban dishes.

We knew we wanted to do some empanadas, black beans and rice, and cuban sandwiches. For dessert we strayed a little from our theme - baking up some vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with some bright festive colored frosting.

We had a lot of cooking to do, luckily my mom agreed to make the black beans and rice. We found the recipe on While this recipe isn't totally authentic, using canned beans and turkey sausage, it certainly was tasty!

Spicy sausage and potato filling.

Cutting out the empanada dough. 

Filling the dough!

Fresh outta the oven! 

The most time consuming of our dishes was the empanadas. We made the dought the night before, but when we took it out of the refrigerator it was quite cold and hard. Punching the dough out was certainly a good way to get rid of some aggression. We thought to ourselves, isn't it OUR birthday? Why are we doing all of this work. But it was totally worth it. The empanadas were warm and flaky with a spicy pork filling that warmed the belly.

Cooking our cuban sammies in the skillet.

Mmm toasty. These little babies were the hit of the party.

While I had never actually had a cuban sandwich before making these, I knew this traditional dish was a must have at the party. I searched for cuban bread at the grocery store but found none. If I had more time I might have attempted to make my own, but a nice soft italian or french loaf (don't use a baguette) works very well. We roasted a pork tenderloin, carved it up and piled it on the toasted bread. Topping with ham, swiss, yellow mustard and dill pickles. Our friends devoured these! I think we could have made twice as many and they would have all been gone by the end of the night.

You can't have a birthday party without cupcakes!

Malia and I have become cupcake fiends, finding any occasion worth baking for. We decided to make martha's one bowl chocolate cupcakes in mini version. Not wanting to discriminate, we baked up some yellow butter cupcakes as well. We made our own buttercream frosting - making a chocolate version as well. Malia and I couldn't find any mini cupcake liners, so these cupcakes baked up like little balls. They were the moist, bite size, and the perfect way to end our cuban feast!

Recipes follow.

(Based on a Tyler Florence recipe)

4 waxy red poatatoes, peeled and sliced.
1 tsp salt
1 lb spicy pork and provolone sausage, casing removed
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (JAM Note: used Italian seasoning)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 recipe empanada dough

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water; add the salt and bring to a boil, uncovered. Simmer until fork tender, about 15 min. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium flame. Add the chorizo, and cook for 5 minutes until renders its fat and gets crispy. Add onion, garlic, and seasonings. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, until mixture is soft. Pour broth in and simmer for 3 min. Drain potatoes and fold them into pan. Break potatoes up into nickel-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow filling to cool. Can be made the night before and then when assembling the empanadas the next day.

Empanada Dough:
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Butter for greasing pans.

In a large bowl, sift flour, masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Stir in melted butter. Gradually add 1/2 c to 3/4 c water, working it in with your hands to incorporate; the dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes, up to overnight. The dough will be hard and cold the next day, but should soften up with 5-10 min of kneading.

Lightly flour the countertop and rolling pin. Divide the dough in half and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie or biscuit cutter (or large glass mug) cut out circles of dough. Roll out scraps to make more circles. Repeat with second half.  Spoon 2 tbsp of filling into the center leaving a 1/2 inch border. Brush the edges with the egg wash and then fold dough over to enclose filling and form a semi-circle. Tightly seal by crimping edges with your fingers or a fork. Chill at least 30 min before baking, if not using ingredients that have been chilled overnight. Preheat oven to 375 and place empanadas in greased baking sheet. Brush tops with eggwash and prick with a fork (JAM Note: we omitted this step). Bake 30 min until golden brown.

2 out 3 JAMs


Gastronomy said...

Happy Birthday, galz! A well-executed themed party ;-) P.S. Did you guys watch Havana Nights and smoke some Cubans?

Ariel said...

Reply - Thanks! There were some cigars, but I am almost 100% sure they were not cubans. lol

Raisin Canes said...

Did you really give your own cooking only 2 out of 3 jams?