Culinary Ambassadors: Navidades in Puerto Rico
Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Here's the latest! (Find out more about CA or join here!) —The Mgmt.
Puerto Rico celebrates the best holidays in the world — and the longest stretch, too. Our holiday season starts right after Thanksgiving and lasts until the middle of January with the Fiestas de San Sebastián. Locally, we call them Navidades, and, to me, it's the best time of the year to visit Puerto Rico.
The typical Navidades menu consists of:
Pernil/Lechón Asado: This is typically a whole pig roasted on a spit, or, for smaller gatherings, just the rear leg. It's seasoned heavily with lots of adobo, garlic, and oregano, and the most prized part is the crisp skin or "cuerito"
Rice with Pigeon Peas (Arroz con Gandules): This is a yellow rice cooked together with pigeon peas seasoned with sazón, achiote, and sofrito
Pasteles: This is a patty made with ground green banana and yautía filled with a stew (usually with pieces of pork) and wrapped in banana leaves. They're boiled for about 1 hour before serving. These can certainly be made vegetarian by substituting the pork filling with a vegetarian stew made of chickpeas, lentils, mixed vegetables, or textured soy protein
Potato Salad: I was once told that potato salad is a summer salad, therefore not suitable for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Well, Puerto Rico has a summerlike climate year-round, and no holiday menu is ever complete without a serving of a mayo-based potato salad. You'll see it on Easter, on Thanksgiving, and certainly all throughout Navidades
Coquito: This is Puerto Rico's version of eggnog. Coquito is typically made with a mixture of coconut, evaporated and condensed milks, and light rum. If eggs are added, we call it "ponche"
Morcillas: These blood-sausage appetizers are made from pig's intestines filled with rice and pig's blood. They're fried and served cut into pieces. I've never in my life had one — not even when I ate meat did I like morcillas
Guineítos en Escabeche: These are boiled green bananas lightly pickled with vinegar, olive oil, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves. They're also served as appetizers at holiday parties
Tembleque: This is a coconut milk custard served especially at Christmastime
Arroz con Dulce: This is the Puerto Rican version of rice pudding. It's made with coconut milk, condensed milk, and cinnamon
Want to tell us about holiday food where you live? Go here! »
To find out more about the Culinary Ambassadors initiative or sign up, see this SE Talk thread »