Subject: The Cubano Lechon aka Pig
The Cubano lechon is a unique and grand centerpiece of any Cuban celebration. Perhaps lamb or goat comes in second but, I’ve yet to try one. To get it just right (the cooking part) the pork needs at least eight hours on the human turning rotisery. And so any family visiting the Cuban farm needs to place their order well in advance as the food has to be secured for the future celebration.
Every part of the meal is cooked in a natural wood charcoal fire that needs to be just so. A small part to the back of the farm is devoted to actually making the charcoal. And as we learned on this trip when the pork is done it needs to be given sufficient time to hang so that the grease drips and the skin becomes crisp before it is cut up into manageable portions. Aproveche! Similar to “Bon Appetit”.
So what do you do while the lechon is cooking for at least eight hours. In our case we visited, distributed presents, walked the farm, saw the crops and farm animals. Once that was done out came the bottle of rum that the men passed around while the women folk continued preparing and cooking everything. And I mean everything. The rice for instance is not rice until human hands sift through it removing, I don’t know – rocks, bugs? The yuca needs to be peeled like a potato. If you have not yet tried this Cuban delicacy you are missing out. Yucca is not cassava. Yucca is actually part of the agave family of plants. The outer covering is actually poisonous. When boiled it is cooked until tender, then it is well-drained. Then you prepare the olive oil, lots and lots of garlic, and lemon juice. Place in a pan and when ready pour it over the yucca. Next comes the congris. Congris is black beans and rice however, at I noted, it is prepared a little differently from town to town. In one town, red beans are used. And in some Cuban households it is also known as Moros y Cristianos. On this trip I brought several bottles of cumin to hand out as presents to the maiden of the household. A key ingredient that without it, will not give the taste smell or flavor of congris.