For Latin Americans, Christmas celebrations start up in full swing on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day. The celebrations typically center around, you guessed it, a huge meal.
My Cuban family is no exception. On the 24th of December, my Abuela spends the entire day in the kitchen working hard to prepare the best meal of the year. Since I want everyone to experience the pure bliss of a Cuban Christmas meal, I’m gonna walk you through all the components that make this eating experience unparalleled.
Traditionally, a Cuban Christmas Eve includes a full roast pig. Obviously that is slightly unrealistic for most families, so my Abuela compromises by making pernil, which is a roast pork shoulder.
Pernil is the most tender pork you will ever eat. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and other herbs. The end result is pork that is crisp on the outside with the perfect amount of fattiness.
Yuca (aka cassava) is basically the Cuban potato. By itself it tastes pretty boring, just your typical starchy vegetable, but that’s where the mojo comes in.
Mojo is a sauce that includes garlic, olive oil and citrus juice. Recipes vary, but really you can’t go wrong with lemon or lime juice. It adds the perfect tang of flavor to your yuca.
This one is a no-brainer. No Cuban meal is complete without a healthy dose of those good ol’ rice and beans. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huuuuge fan of rice and beans every day of the week, but there’s something special about Christmas Eve beans.
I’m not sure if it’s a secret ingredient that my Abuela puts in that she doesn’t normally include or if it’s just Christmas magic, but Christmas rice and beans are in a league of their own.
#SpoonTip: Add a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce to your rice and beans for some extra flavor.
Of course, you’ve gotta save room for dessert. Flan is a Cuban classic: a creamy sweet custard in cake form that is topped with gooey caramel sauce. You’ll want to shovel it down by the plateful. Enjoy your flan with a steaming mug of Cafe con leche and you’ll be in Cuban heaven.
Buñuelos are the Cuban Christmas pastry. They’re like a combination of fried dough and a doughnut or, in other words, they are delicious. And guess what? They are made of yuca too, which means you should stock up on yuca as it is prominently featured in this meal.
Buñuelos are typically served with syrup or powdered sugar, but if you like to live on the edge, you could add a scoop of ice cream to the mix.
So this Christmas Eve, switch things up and go for a Cuban style meal. Your family and your taste buds will thank you.