One of the first things I decided on making when Raul and I chose a Cuban theme for the party was vaca frita. Vaca frita literally means fried cow. Basically what it is is steak that has been boiled with flavorful spices and then fried to tasty deliciousness. Well since I was serving some other heavy foods at the party, I wanted to find a way to lighten things up. Luckily this had already been done for me. Although this recipe takes some time, most of it is inactive time and you can get to work on the other things you will be serving with this. In my case, it was cilantro rice and Cuban-style beans which were really a great accompaniment to this meat.
As you can tell, this menu was pretty meat heavy, but there were some vegetarian options including the recipes I shared yesterday. Another meat option I served were ham croquetas. A few months ago I made coxinha which I guess are technically Brazilian, but I wanted to make something similar, but with less work. I found this easy recipe for croquetas so I cooked some up. They were so good and crispy on the outside and creamy and full of hammy tastiness on the inside. One of the best things is that you can make the mix the night before and then fry them up on the day of the party.
(Adapted from Bitchin Camero)
Makes 10-12 servings
4 pounds flank steak, cubed
8 cups of water
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 bay leaves
5 medium-sized yellow onions, three halved, two chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 3 large oranges
Juice of 3 large limes
Salt to taste
Place the steak, water, onion halves, bay leaf and salt in a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer the steak for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until tender.
Remove the steak with a slotted spoon and let cool to room temperature. (Run the remaining liquid through a fine mesh sieve and use as a base for soups, or freeze.) Use 2 forks or your hands to pull the steak apart until it resembles pulled pork. Mix the orange and lime juice together in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Preheat your oven’s broiler. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the shredded steak and half of orange/lime juice.
Saute for 2 – 3 minutes, then taste and add more orange/lime juice and salt to taste. (I used all of the remaining juice and just a pinch more salt. It is very important to taste for salt because you may not need it)
Spread the contents of the skillet onto a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until the beef and onions crisp and brown, about 10-20 minutes, you may need to stir half way through cooking. Remove and serve with rice and beans if desired.
Croquetas de Jamon
(From For the Love of Food)
Makes 24-30 croquetas
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 a small onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups (12 ozs.) smoked or baked ham, minced and then ground to paste with a food processor
1 fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon white wine
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups fine plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons flour
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s soft. Add the 1/4 cup of flour to the butter and onions and whisk in the pan. Gradually add the evaporated milk; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally or until the mixture comes just to a boil and is thick and creamy. Add the ground ham, parsley, wine, pepper and nutmeg; mix well. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes over low heat. Taste the ham mixture. It should be salty enough, but if not, add some salt to taste.
Pour the ham mixture into an 8 inch square baking pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let cool in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes so that it will solidify a bit and be easier to work with. This can also be done overnight.
Beat the eggs with water in a small mixing bowl until frothy. Combine the bread crumbs and flour and place in a second wide bowl or plate. Divide the ham mixture in the pan by cutting it into thirds crosswise and in eights lengthwise. Shape into logs that are about 1 1/2 inches long and 3/4-inch wide.
Dip the croquetas into egg and water mixture and then roll in the crumb mixture until evenly coated. Place croquetas back in the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In the mean time, heat the oil in a large cast iron pan so the heat is at 177°C (350°F). Fry croquetas for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve the croquetas warm.