Winter Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Winter-brussels-sprouts

Winter just began 3 weeks ago and after all the holidays are over I’m still celebrating winter veggies and their leafy, hardy deliciousness– starting with Brussels sprouts. Roasted, steamed, seared, and fried- Brussels sprouts can be sharp and savory or caramelized and sweet. I prefer my Brussels sprouts to be crisp and seared on the outside or roasted to perfection.

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There are so many combinations possible for these tiny cruciferous cabbage heads. I’ve braised them in balsamic and topped with creamy goat cheese, roasted them and added crispy bacon, or shaved them for a winter slaw. Ever since I had Trader Joe’s Blue Cheese and Pecan Spread (don’t worry Publix you’re still #1 in my book), I have wanted to replicate some of those flavors with roasted Brussels sprouts.

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Oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with red onions are tossed in lemon and maple syrup and topped with blue cheese and toasted pecans. You can add guanciale or pancetta as great alternatives to bacon (or just use bacon) if you like or dried cranberries for a sweeter approach. I served the roasted Brussels sprouts with Blue Cheese and Pecans with maple rosemary pork tenderloin.

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Winter Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • ½ large red onion sliced
  • ½ cup toasted pecan halves and pieces
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add crisp pancetta, guanciale, bacon, dried cranberries, or orange segments (optional

Salt a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling blanch the Brussels sprouts for 3 minutes or so. Rinse under cool water or place in an ice bath to stop them from cooking. Preheat the oven to 400F. Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts. Slice the onion and toss with the olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the sprouts and onions to sit marinating for 15-30 minutes. Drain the excess marinade and save for drizzling later.

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Roast the Brussels sprouts and red onions until golden and caramelized about 25-30 minutes. Serve the roasted Brussels sprouts warm topped with the toasted pecans and crumbled blue cheese (or any other additions you choose). Squeeze a little fresh lemon on top to garnish the roasted brussels sprouts and add some of the marinade on top.

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Mise-for-sprouts

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Coquito

Puerto Rican Coquito

Coquito is coconut sweetened and cinnamon rich Puerto Rican eggnog. One drinks coquito in small little glasses, a teeny tiny bit at a time- as to not overwhelm the palate. The rich coconut milk, sweet rum, and warm aromatic cinnamon become familiar holiday traditions. And when rum and coconut are involved-  we always honor tradition.

Puerto Rican Coquito

Once there is a Puerto Rican in the family, coquito is bound to be present at every Noche Buena, and it becomes something everyone looks forward to each year. My tio Raul always makes the BEST classic Puerto Rican coquito for noche buena. This coquito would make my abuela giggle and my tias tipsy. Everyone always wants seconds, and the coquito is bound to quickly run out. This year I can’t go home for Christmas, so I called up my uncle to get his famous recipe. Noche Buena wouldn’t be the same without a few sips of the sweet coconut elixir. My uncle’s Puerto Rican coquito recipe is the very best and oh-so simple. It is perfect for Christmas celebrations- and will instantly become a family tradition.

Puerto Rican Coquito Puerto Rican Coquito Puerto Rican Coquito

Puerto Rican Coquito

  • 1 bottle white rum (or more to taste, Tio Raul says Don Q White is preferred)
  • 2 cans of Goya Leche de Coco (or more to your taste)
  • 1 can of Dulce de Coco (or more to your taste)
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 egg yolk (theoretically optional)
  • Cinnamon (to your taste)
  • Pinch salt

Whisk the coquito ingredients together to taste. Get the small dulce de coco cans and add one at a time while tasting. Rum has a lot of natural sugars and can get sweet quickly so err on the side of caution. Don Q silver rum is preferred for coquito, but if you must Bacardi will do. I couldn’t find Don Q here in my neighborhood so I used Bacardi white rum. The rum was quite strong so I used only 3/4 bottle for the recipe. I prefer to add an egg yolk because I think it adds richness to flavor and balances the sweet coconut in the coquito.

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Coquito is perfect for holiday parties because it is best when made in advance. Allow the coquito to sit overnight in the fridge to really blend well together. I swear sitting overnight makes all the difference! Stir or shake the coquito before serving. Remember you can always add a little more of this and that to get your coquito just right for you. Coquito is best served in tiny little shot glasses on noche buena, when surrounded by family around the Christmas tree.

Puerto Rican Coquito

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Cuban Stuffing

Cuban-Relleno-ingredients

I’m a holiday traditionalist. Each year I look forward to the tried-and-true dishes, seasonal favorites, and family specialties. While I love thumbing the pages of cookbooks and pinning new holiday sides, I always go back to the classics. One of these classics is my abuela’s Cuban stuffing (relleno) that everyone craves around this time of year. Scribbled on the back page of my mom’s beloved Cocina Criolla cookbook is my abuela’s recipe that she makes each year for the holidays, especially thanksgiving.

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I have to admit I’m a sucker for the bready and soft American version with plenty of butter, celery, and onion, but my abuela’s Cuban stuffing is a thanksgiving and holiday favorite. The mixture of beef, pork, and ham with warm cumin, plump raisins, crunchy almonds, and Spanish olives makes Cuban stuffing a blend of deliciousness with familiar flavors and comforting aromas. My mom makes the stuffing each year for Thanksgiving, but I think it would be great stuffed in small cornish hens for fancy dinners, baked in pastry, or just by the bowlful atop white rice.

delicious-cuban-relleno

I made this Cuban stuffing for the first time ever with my mom this year. The stuffing was easier to make than I imagined, and oh so flavorful. As the years go by, my appreciation for my family’s traditions and favorite dishes has only increased, and I’m happy I get to document them and share with younger cousins, baby brothers and sisters, and future generations.

Cuban Stuffing (Relleno Cubano)

  • 2 lbs ground beef (not low fat)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground ham (do not use smoked or flavored hams)
  • 1 large onion diced (about 1 ½ to 2 cups)
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¾ cup Spanish olives with pimientos sliced in thirds
  • ¾ cup sliced almonds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp Cumin
  • ½ tbsp ground black pepper or more to taste
  • 1 ½ packages cornbread stuffing
  • 1-2 cups turkey/chicken/ or vegetable stock

Dice the garlic and onions; grind the diced ham. I have made the mistake of purchasing smoked, honey, or mesquite diced ham. This totally kills the flavor of the relleno and does not work. I grind the diced ham in the food processor. Add the pork, beef, onion, and garlic to the pan all at the same time. Stir well and cook until just browned. Make sure to buy ground chuck or sirloin and avoid leaner cuts of beef. You do not want to overcook the beef because it will continue cooking in the bird if you choose to stuff it, or it will heat in a crockpot for serving, and do not drain the fat.

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Once browned add all of the herbs and spices and mix well. Do not add salt. Both the ground ham and the olives add plenty of natural sodium. Trust me on this!! Next add the package of cornbread stuffing and combine thoroughly.  At this point you can finally add the ham stirring to combine, and then go ahead and toss in the almonds, olives, and raisins. You can always add more to taste (of everything) and this part is really up to you- that’s the fun part of cooking and tasting =P. The raisin, almond, and olive trio really does add lots of flavor and is reminiscent of delicious picadillo.

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If you are making the Cuban stuffing a day in advance allow the dish to cool before placing it in the refrigerator. If you stuff the bird with the Cuban stuffing it does not require any stock to keep moist, but when you are reheating for a thanksgiving or holiday meal, you will want to slowly add hot stock of your choice and blend well. If the Cuban stuffing becomes too wet simply add more of the cornbread stuffing. I always buy two bags just in case. This year we placed the Cuban stuffing in a crockpot on low to warm a few hours before everyone came over and it was perfect and delicious. I’d say this version makes around 16-18 cups. Cuban stuffing is surely to become a holiday staple and thanksgiving must.

cuban-stuffing-taste-test

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