Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things we ate in Puerto Rico

Of the many good things about Puerto Rico, one of the best is the food. I don't believe I've ever had a meal I didn't love. And okay, that's partly because they recognize the innate perfection of salt and pork fat, but generally it's easy to find food that's simple, carefully made and delicious.

Some kind of meat, from the land or the sea, fried or braised or pressure-cooked, is always involved. There are beans (pink, mostly) cooked with cilantro and garlic and tomatoes and often a ham hock and calabaza squash.

There is rice, sometimes basic white,

sometimes yellow with pigeon peas,

sometimes rich with meat or seafood.

There are plantains, either yellow, ripe, fried, sweet and caramelized (amarillos), or green, fried, smooshed into flat disks and fried again (tostones).

If there is salad, it's generally iceberg with imported beefsteak tomatoes, finished with grated carrot or canned green beans or corn. Salad is not big.

This may give the impression that each dish is just a repetition of the previous one. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our first meal: The Boy's mom's own carne mechada, a version of pot roast in which the beef is stuffed with a mixture of ham and olives and braised in a rich tomato sauce with potatoes and carrots.

The next day, we had arroz con gandules and pernil, the second-most perfect thing one can do with a pig:

thanks to Norma (hi, Norma!):

Hola, Norma!

Other lunch experiences involved mofongo (garlicky smooshed plantains) stuffed with conch:

And mofongo stuffed with squid:

An amarillo boat stuffed with ground beef (which was $4.95 with rice and beans):

And an amarillo boat stuffed with fabulous ceviche:

Of course, as in every cuisine, there are some things that are not for the faint of heart. Sea snail salad is one example (this one was lovely, with tender snails in a light vinaigrette):

No meal is complete without avocado. And if the restaurant doesn't supply it? Bring your own!

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Blogger brookem said...

would love to hear where you stayed in puerto rico. im planning a trip there in the winter and am looking around at places as we speak...

4:46 PM  
Blogger Carmen said...

Oh, God. Now I'm hungry.

11:06 PM  

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