I am a first generation Cuban American, born and raised in Miami. Living in Cheyenne, I get homesick a lot. Cuban food is one medium I frequently turn to in attempt to satisfy these blues. There are three staples in Cuban cuisine: our coffee, pastelitos, and croquetas. Cuban coffee is like a supped up espresso. It can be enjoyed as a shot, straight up, or with half and half as a cortadito. Pastelitos are pastries. The most typical are filled with guava, a tropical fruit, and cream cheese. Croquetas are little snacks or appetizers of a ham mash fried in saltine cracker crumbs.
The most typical brand of Cuban coffee is Café Bustelo. It can actually be found now at Wal-Mart and the base commissary. To brew the coffee I use a Cuban coffee maker or an espresso maker. I brew it on high on the stovetop. Once brewed you add sugar to taste. This will be almost an equal amount of sugar to grounds.
This is a great little video on the steps of making Cuban coffee.
Guava paste is the main ingredient needed for these pastries. I use Goya’s guava paste which can be purchased at the base commissary or you can hunt some down at one of the specialty shops in Fort Collins. The paste must be warmed up and have sugar added to taste. I have has success with Pepperidge Farm’s puff pastry sheets. The pastries can take any shape or size you would like. Allow the pastry sheets to thaw. Spread the guava paste on one side of your pastry sheet and cream cheese to the other. Fold the sides over each other. Brush an egg wash over the tops of your pastries and if you would like you can sprinkle large sugar crystals over the tops. From there just follow the baking directions as listed on the puff pastry box. Just keep an eye in the pastries for a nice golden color.
There are a variety of croquetas, but the ham stuffed are the easiest to make here and the most common. You will need a food processor or a food bullet for this recipe.
2 tablespoons of minced onion salt
1 tablespoon of minced garlic ground white pepper
¾ of a stick of butter a splash of dry cooking white wine(I use a Sauvignon Blanc)
½ cup of flour 1 ½ cups of ground ham
¾ of a cup of milk Cracker meal
eggs vegetable or canola oil for frying
Begin with processing the onion and garlic. Separately process the ham. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter. Add the flour a little at a time and incorporate well. Follow by adding the milk and cooking on a low heat until you have a thickened sauce. Now you will remove the pan from any heat and add in the salt and pepper to taste along with the wine and ham. Return the pan to low heat for just a few minutes combining all of the ingredients well until a meat paste has formed. Chill the paste. Now you can form the paste into the shape of short hot dogs. Next coat the formed meat in the beaten eggs and then the cracker crumbs and fry them to a nice golden brown. These can also be served with lime wedges and crackers.