The frita is a classic regional American burger created by Cuban immigrants in South Florida. While the standard is a thin, griddled patty with a spiced ketchup-based sauce, my take on it is a slightly larger version designed for the backyard grill with a boldly seasoned pork and beef patty, a creamier sauce, and more vegetables. The crisp shoestring potatoes that are the hallmark of a traditional frita remain the same.
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Ripe plantains are slow-fried in oil until deeply caramelized and sweet. They get served with an herbal mint and parsley mojo sauce that brings a bright, acidic element to the sweet-and-savory snack.
My aunt-in-law introduced me to this ultra-simple dessert of roasted sweet plantains enriched with a touch of cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. As it roasts, it turns custardy soft, taking on an almost pudding-like texture.
This Colombian take on a cottage pie is flavored with tomatoes and onions and topped with creamy mashed yuca.
A rich and hearty four ingredient Colombian soup made with fried plantains flavored with onions and cilantro.
Huevos rancheros—ranch-style eggs—are one of Mexico's most instantly recognizable breakfast dishes: a pair of fried eggs topped with a thick layer of spicy tomato sauce. It sounds rather simple, and it is. However, as with all recipes made with only a handful of ingredients, the treatment of each one is important.
A traditional dish from the mountainous region near Bogotá, boiled potatoes are covered in a creamy, cheesy, tomato and onion-based hogao.
Forget chicken noodle soup, and matzoh for that matter. This Latin American soup has corn masa-based chicken meatballs spiked with culantro and mint. Once you go Latin...
Fried yuca is like the crispier, creamier version of french fries. Ours is served with a sweet, hot, and tangy mayo for dipping.
Deeply flavored and rich, these refried beans are cooked slowly and with care. The results are a big step up from those bland restaurant versions.
The best part of the steak is always the fatty, crispy bits near the bones. Here's a secret: You don't have to eat the steak first. This recipe for Colombian-style beef rib barbecue delivers the goods. Fat will render. Connective tissue will soften. Bark will be formed. Dinner will be had.
This Peruvian Style Grilled Chicken is a recipe I back-hacked from the awesome chicken and green sauce they serve at Pio Pio in NYC. The basics are simple: butterflied chicken with a vinegar and spice rub gets slow-cooked on the grill, followed by a quick stay directly over the coals to crisp the skin. It comes out tender and juicy and goes perfectly with a simple spicy and cream sauce made with jalapeños and aji amarillo peppers.
At its core, a meal of frijoles needs nothing more than cooked seasoned red beans and rice, but from there it can grow in many directions. The greatest bean dinner is a fast-worthy plate called the bandeja paisa, and it reminds me of a full British breakfast in its makeup and extensive application of fried foods. Beans, rice, arepas, fried green or black plantains, avocado, a thin slice of grilled steak, deep fried pork rinds (known as chicharrones), a chorizo or two, a side of ají to sauce everything up, and a fried egg to top it off.
A quick and easy lobster ceviche. The ultimate refreshing summer appetizer.
Picadillo is a Cuban-style hash made with ground pork, ground beef, or both. Layers of flavor in this traditional dish come in the shape of olives, capers, and raisins.
Fried creamy yellow potatoes with a fresh and hot ají are one of my wife's favorite appetizers, and incredibly simple to make.
A sweet-and-savory combination of fried ripe plantains, baked in a creamy casserole with sharp cotija cheese, cinnamon, and sugar.
Like Mexican salsas, there are countless variations of this Colombian sauce: some made with hot chilies, some with avocados, some with pumpkin seeds, even some made with hard boiled eggs. But, as with Mexican salsa, there is one that immediately comes to most people's minds when they hear the word. In this case, it's the tomato and onion-based ají.
At its core, arroz con coco is a pilaf—rice grains toasted in oil before being steamed, but in this case the oil comes directly from coconut milk. You start by dumping a can of coconut milk in a pot, and slowly boiling it off until all of the water content is removed, the coconut oil breaks out, and the solids begin to brown. From there, it's a slow process of stirring and toasting until they are a deep, crunchy golden brown before finally adding sugar, salt, and rice.
Arroz con pollo finds its way into nearly every Central and South American country in some form or another. The Nicaraguan version is more soupy and stew-like than the fluffier versions you may be used to, but no less delicious.