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Jan 13, 2007 03:21 PM

Puerto Rican dinner - need simple starter, dessert

I'm planning to do a roasted pork shoulder (boneless, but skin on - marinated in garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vegetable oil, and vinegar overnight, then roasted for 3 hours at 350) for my sister and my husband in two weeks. I'll serve a salad of watercress with sliced oranges and onions with a vinaigrette that includes mustard and cumin, pan-fried sweet plantains and baked rice with pigeon peas. The recipes for the pork, plantains and rice came from Tyler Florence's Food 911 on TVFN and looked really good. I keep thinking I should have a starter, but I'm at a loss. I would like something that's light and ultra simple. Allergy consideration: can't have shrimp. Or do you think the watercress salad, served first, would suffice?

As to dessert, I've got a few things in mind and have to pick one: Coconut Rice Custard (from Real Simple's April issue); Cook's Illustrated Lemon Tart (from January 2000) - I've done this several times with great success, but it's a bit labor intensive and I'm not sure I want to go there; Mark Bittman's Date or Apricot Squares (NYTimes 3/9/2005). This looks pretty easy, a bit rustic, and can be done ahead and refrigerated for a couple of days. Anybody have an opinion on any of these three, or a suggestion of your own? Only one allergy to consider - cinnamon. Anything else is fine.

Thanks in advance for your input!

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  1. Guava paste with Puerto Rican white cheese is a good one. If you live near a Latin neighborhood, these will be a cinch to find. You simply cut each in chunks and eat together. Or make small slabs of cheese and top with a chunk of guava paste. Good for starters OR dessert.

    1. Dear Deenso,

      I like your menu. It’s similar to what we served for our Christmas dinner. I think the salad makes a good starter.

      It is a rich meal and you may want something on the light side for dessert.

      If you want to stay with the PR theme and have an ice cream maker; a coconut sorbet is very simple to make and refreshing . Make a simple syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar; add 7 oz. Sweetened cream of coconut. Let the mixture cool and then chill in the refrigerator. Once the base is chilled then use the ice cream maker.

      Another option would be to serve Dulce De Leche drizzled over sliced fresh fruits.

      No matter what you decide; don’t forget the strong black coffee - Bustelo or El Pico.

      ¡Buen Provecho!

      1. Flan or rice pudding are both great ways to end a Puerto Rican meal (if you haven't already eaten too much rice!) and tostones (fried green plaintains) with a simple dipping sauce is a traditional way to start the meal.
        My mom usually makes a sauce with mayo, ketchup and crushed garlic, which sounds weird, but it actually tastes good with the tostones.

        1. I've decided on the watercress/orange/red onion salad for our first course (maybe I'll throw in a bit of julienned jicama, too, for some nice crunch). As for dessert, I was leaning heavily toward coconut rice custard, but my husband has declared that he wants churros and cafe con leche. So churros it is. I suppose they're not strictly Puerto Rican, 'cause I found the recipe in "A Taste of Old Cuba."

          The recipe seems pretty straightforward: to make 12 to 15 pastries (that would be enough for 5 people, I should think), you mix a cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring them to a boil. Then add a cup of flour and stir it up til the dough gets thick and smooth. (No egg yolks and no added sugar, which was kind of a surprise.) Heat up about 1-1/2 cups of vegetable oil in a deep, heavy skillet to about 375 degrees. Put the dough into a cake decorator with a tip that will form strips about an inch in diameter. Press the dough right into the hot oil in 6" lengths, cooking 5 or 6 at a time. When they're golden in color and have swelled up, drain them on paper towels, sprinkle with superfine sugar while hot and serve right away.

          I'll let you guys know how it works out. The dinner's scheduled for a couple of weeks from now.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Deenso

            Sounds great! Churros are originally from Spain (I think), or at least, they're pretty ubiquitous there, often served with hot chocolate. The guava paste (pasta de guayaba) and white cheese (queso blanco) at the market) might be a nice addition, it's absolutely no work, can be served with crackers.They're readily available available in Puerto Rican markets and supermarkets that serve Latino populations. The middle is the best and the prettiest when you slice it.

          2. With such a rich, luscious sounding main dish, and the great side dishes, I would serve your salad, maybe a little jazzed up, as your starter. I just bought some lovely Blood Oranges, and they add a gorgeous color and nice taste. Onion and Jicama would add sweetness and crunch.

            re: your Puerto Rican recipes, could you give the source or post the recipes?

            Has anyone followed Daisy Cooks on PBS? Her food looks delicious.

            After such a rich meal, I would prefer a sorbet, maybe Blood Orange, Pineapple, Mango, or some other tropical fruit, with a fruit coulis. Serve it with your cookies.

            Please post the results.