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Mar 18, 2012 05:48 PM

Cuban appetizer

Going to a neighborhood dinner group this coming weekend, and the host has selected a Cuban theme. I'm on the hook for an appetizer. I've thought about empanadas. Does anyone have any good suggestions for anything else? This is not a cuisine I have much cooking experience with, so all help is appreciated.

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  1. Your easiest bet? Guava paste and cream cheese, on crackers. Light, tasty, completely authentic. If you're not into cooking. But if you are, nothing wrong with empanadas or mini cubanos!!

    11 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      i love the guava paste and cream cheese! trust me, it'll be gobbled up!

      1. re: alkapal

        Right? And could anything possibly be easier?

      2. re: mamachef

        Guava and cream cheese is certainly very popular. My tastes skew more savory, so I really like the idea of empanaditas, maybe even filled with a ropa vieja type of shredded beef. Yucca fries with a cilantro and lime pesto, fried plantains, potato or bechamel croquettes would also be appropriate.

        1. re: JungMann

          Oh ho ho, JungMann. Those Yucca Fries sound just amazing. Filing it in the mental "Things I Want To Try" drawer. I also wanted to mention to the OP that the guava/cream cheese combo could be wrapped in a half-moon of pastry and feed two birds w/ one empanada. : )
          (I hate that other term...) It would also be fun to put the ingredients (ham, pulled or sliced pork, dill pickle, swiss, mustard...) into an empanada. But the Ropa Vieja I made the other night, now Jung Mann's mentioned it, will be my next empanada filling choice.

          1. re: mamachef

            the pasteles de guayaba are the pastries filled with guava paste and cream cheese that is a great dessert, and one i don't ever miss at my favorite cuban restaurant in cape coral, florida.
            i just had an idea, not as an appetizer, but for the guayaba treat: use the "cream cheese crust" often used for the mini-muffin-sized quiches, then fill the baked crust with cream cheese and guava paste as little bites….. these would be pretty for a ladies' lunch with each one having a slim lemon peel curl on top.

            1. re: mamachef

              Pastele de Guayaba in the dough that i recall from the cuban restaurant…. not a regular empanada dough, but a flaky dough. i'll bet everyone has their own version of dough to use, anyway. ;-D.

              1. re: alkapal

                Whilst visiting Miami, whenever I asked for a pastelito (or even a "pahtelito" I tried in my best accent), I was disappointed to get the puffy, sweet pastries you have pictured. It was only later that I realized that, unlike their Caribbean neighbors, Cubans call savory pastries "empanadas," although they also seem more enthusiastic for sweet fillings, which I don't like.

                1. re: JungMann

                  well, i don't know what is quite the issue here….i think that we perhaps agree that cubans' "empanadas" are not the dessert kind of pastries. all i know is that the place i know in cape coral is definitely cuban, and their pasteles de guayaba are the flaky pastry kind. as i said, i think this is one of those…."my momma made it this way" kind of things.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    No issue; just an anecdote from my first visit to a major Cuban community. I thought I had nailed Caribbean Spanish when I started calling empanadas "patelito," but then my trip to Miami had to go and muck up my dialectal prowess.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      i guess you might have been stepping into a "quagmire." ;-)).

          2. re: mamachef

            yummy!!! My mother was born in Havana Cuba and guava paste on crackers with "queso blanco" one of the treats I remember always having at my Grandparents house.....We moved to Denver when I was 13 and there is relatively few "Cuban" stores and restaurants so I am limited to what my mother cooks or what I can recreate on my own via recipes and cook books....although I think mom has shanghaid me as far as that goes, since mine never taste the same as hers....another idea is maduros, which is basically a fried sweetened plantain you basically slice them up and fry in oil AFTER they basically look black and rotten...although this is best served as soon as they come out of the oil as they lose much of their allure after they have cooled. Best of luck!!!

          3. At the Cuban restaurants I've been to in the past, Fried Codfish Balls are always a popular item.....made with dried codfish.

            1. I'm not sure how helpful this might be, but about 4 years ago I did a Cuban-themed brunch for about 75 or so. This is the menu. The recipes were chosen for their ability to be prepared ahead of time and with as little last minute labor as possible. I know you asked for something other than empanadas, but maybe you'll get another idea from this menu.

              Ensalada Cubana

              Empanaditas de Hongos y Queso

              Mojito Salmon

              Tortillas Cubanas

              con Pimientos Dulces y Hongos

              con Aceitunas

              Arroz y Frijoles Negros

              Yuca con Mojo


              Arroz con Leche

              Flan de Coco

              Frutas Tropicales



              Fruta Bomba



              Edited to add: Sorry about the formatting. CH won't let me change it, for some reason.

                1. It's been a while since I've been to Miami, but my favorite was always Plátanos maduros.