Christmas Comebacks and Family Recipes

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Ok, if any of you are still looking for a special Christmas dish to show off to your out of town guests, here is something out of the Puertorrican Christmas playbook.

According to my dad, when he was a kid, his aunts, grandma and his closest neighbors, would be making all sort of desserts and sweets all through the Christmas season and friends, neighbors and family would just drop in unannounced to wish you a Merry Christmas and of course to partake of a delicious Christmas dish that either they brought with them to share or that the ‘host’ would have ready to attack.

Meanwhile, aunts and neighbors would be constantly sharing goodies, sending samples around the neighborhood with the kids. So this afternoon Tía Lucy would send Majarete to Titi Marta, and tomorrow Titi Marta would send a dish of Cazuela to Grandma and the day after Grandma would send a plate of Tembleque to Doña Vangi. And the messenger would be the nearest kid at hand who would then get his just reward!

This recipe I am including is for one of my dad’s favorite dishes, one his grandma and mom would use to do every Christmas and that he specially liked because of it’s texture and because it was not too sweet, so you could really load up on it. Abuela is no longer with us, so we are going to make it in her honor to share with my uncle and aunt that will be visiting from Puerto Rico for New Year’s Eve.

And remember, it is not a Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve tradition, this is a 12 days of Christmas national pig out. Any excuse to party is a good excuse for a Puertoriccan! Dig in!

The name of the dish is Cazuela. There are many versions of this dish and there are even other dishes named the same way. Search me. My guess is that someone liked his cazuela so much that started naming anything he cooked cazuela.

The thing with this cazuela here is that you can tell it is a more recent and more Caribbean version, because it includes ‘yautía’ (taro root) a starchy root that can be eaten like yam or potatoes. It is very popular among Cubans and Puertorricans and it’s great just boiled and eaten as a side dish with good olive oil (as Jess would tell you, good Olive Oil is always, always crucial). Europeans had not been able to enjoy ‘yautía’ until they ran into it in the Caribbean. The very word is said to be Taino although some people think it is of Maya origin. But, really, by the time the Spaniards made it to Central America, yautía was already old news. So, we’ll still keep the credit. Just make sure you get the white flesh variety.

Ok, you are going to start with two cups of mashed yam, and one cup of pumpkin and yautía each (don’t worry, the list of ingredients follows below). You can get all of them, including the yautía at your nearest Publix or any Hispanic goods bodega. Peel and cook (boil) the yam and yautía for 20 minutes and then they are easy to mash. The pumpkin takes a little less, just check for when it’s ready. Don’t need to peel it, just boil it and spoon out the flesh when it’s done. Once they are ready, mash and measure two cups of yam and one of pumpkin and yautía each. Mix well and put aside to cool down a little.

Now run the blended mash through a sieve to pick out any fiber. All three will have some, you want a very smooth cream. Now you are ready to boogey.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a shallow baking pan. Add the eggs to your mash, the melted butter, salt and spices and mix well. Add the milk and sugar and run through the sieve again. You want a smooth batter.

Put your batter in the greased pan (would be too hard to bake if you don’t) and bake for 1 hour at 350 F. It is ready when you test it with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Feast your senses (smell and taste will specially go kaboom) and let me know how it worked.

Word of caution, this recipe is easier than it sounds (and it sounds pretty easy already) so brace yourself for some very impressed guests.

Next up, coquito for New Year’s eve! So stay tuned for a week of recipes.

Ingredientes:

2 cups mashed yam
1 cup mached pumpkin
1 cup mashed yautía
3 eggs, whisked
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk

All ingredients can be found at your local Publix.

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