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The holidays in Puerto Rico last almost two months and parties and gathering with friends and family is an important part of the celebration – whether planned or spontaneous! Any holiday party requires food and there are some key dishes that are provided around the holiday time, although really there are good at any time of the year.
Roast pig is a must. There are many ways to approach this, the best being getting a whole pig and then roasting it on a spit for many hours. Seasoned with Adobo and Sofrito, with a cracklin’ skin. If you are not up for doing your own, you can hire someone to do it for you or you can stop at one of the roadside Lechoneras on the weekends and pick some up. Or, if you are in the mood for a roadtrip, take a drive to Guavate in Cayey, the home of Lechon, where there are over 30 restaurants roasting pigs daily.
Pasteles are similar to a tamale in form, but Puerto Rican in execution. Made of a either a mashed plantain or cassava, they are stuffed with meat and capers and potatoes. Then wrapped in banana leaves, they are boiledand served with white rice. They are labor intensive to make, but are a marked tradition of the holidays. For those of us not up for making them ourselves (me!), there are many places where you can place an order for them by the dozen; but the key os to order early because the best ones sell out fast!
Tembleque is a coconut pudding dessert traditionally served during the holidays. Tembleque is made by cooking coconut milk or coconut cream with milk, salt, cornstarch, and sugar with spices such as cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. There are many variations of this dish and it is so called because it ‘trembles’.
Besides the Pina Colada, this is Puerto Rico’s most favorite drink, and is in fact our version of Eggnog, but without the egg-y flavor. If you are looking for a traditional holiday drink and are not a fan of eggnog, consider coquito, a coconut based ‘eggnog’. Coquito is made with egg yolks, rum, coconut milk, coconut cream, sweet condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The drink is commonly associated with the Christmas holidays, where it is traditionally served along with other holiday food. Homemade is the best, but if all else fails, it can be purchased.
Don’t forget to cheers! Salud! …to everyone’s health.
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