Fufú con Onion Mojo

Fufu with mojo onions
There are certain dishes we expect to see at a traditional Seder table. Chicken soup dotted with fluffy matzoh balls, moist and slow-roasted brisket, maybe even a crisp potato kugel as a classic side dish. But sometimes, when my family wants to spice things up a bit, we look to our Latin culinary traditions for inspiration. For example, as an alternative to a potato-filled side, we prefer to take a cue from the tropical motherland, and feature dishes using the starchy green plantain banana to mop up the juicy overflow from the meat. Plantain bananas exhibit the "waste not, want not" mentality that my family has embraced for generations, as different dishes are created depending on the degree of ripeness in which you find your banana.  Most people are familiar with the classic fried sweet plantains that accompany many a Cuban dish, called "platanos." Unsurprisingly, these are everyone's favorite, as their sweet flesh caramelizes in the hot oil, making them irresistible. Unfortunately, to get this dish just right, fried platanos require the plantain to be over-ripe, letting the sugars really develop and the peel turn almost black. This process can take weeks, which is why I believe recipes were created for the days between. After all, my family is not known for our patience. When plantains are green, their starchy flesh resembles the consistency of a potato, and its flavor is just as mild. Thus, it is featured in many savory dishes in much the same way as a potato is. Plantain chips and tostones, for instance, are made with green, under-ripe bananas.
Mashing the boiled plantains.

Mashing the boiled plantains.

Mashed potatoes are a favorite of my meat-and-potatoes Midwestern husband, and in my household growing up, they were a crowd-pleaser, as well. Thus, as an unexpected twist to the classic mash, my family was partial to mashed green plantains, and they often made an appearance on our dinner table.  Some cultures call it mofongo, and others call it mangu, but in Santiago de Cuba, where my family is from, the name is simple: Fufú. As featured on The Jewish Daily Forward. Traditional fufú is seasoned with specks of roasted meat, but in my family’s history, meat wasn’t always readily available. Fortunately, mashed plantains can easily act as a vehicle for other flavors, making the variations and mix-in possibilities endless.  One of my favorite versions of fufú is seasoned with the number one condiment in any Cuban household:  mojo sauce. This type takes on a unique flavor profile with hints of citrus, garlic, and onions, making it the perfect pairing for the natural aus jus accompanying a traditional brisket. As Passover is a holiday in which we commemorate the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, and as the story goes, they left in such a hurry, that there was no time to let their bread rise, I figured that they probably wouldn’t have had time to let their plantains ripen, either.
Fufú con Onion Mojo
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 5-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
An unexpected kosher-for-passover twist on a classic mash.
Ingredients
  • 3 large green plantain bananas, peeled and sliced into 1-2 inch discs
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
  • 3 sour oranges (or 2 navel oranges and 2 lemons), juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Fill a large pot with cold water and the juice of a lemon. Add a generous sprinkle of kosher salt and the plantains. Cook over high heat, and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic, and cook over medium to low heat. When the garlic reaches a lightly golden color, add the onions, oregano, sour orange juice, and salt and pepper. Lower the heat, and let the sauce simmer until the onions are translucent.
  3. In the large pot with the plantains, prick the bananas with a fork to test their tenderness. When they can easily be pierced, take the pot off the heat.
  4. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking liquid, then drain the plantains.
  5. Return the plantains to the pot, and mash using a potato masher. Thin the mixture with the cooking liquid until it reaches your desired consistency. Mix in some of the mojo sauce, reserving some onions to serve on top.
  6. Serve immediately.

 

Turkey Picadillo with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Picadillo YinYang

Like most Cuban food, when picadillo is presented as a main dish, it is usually plated alongside white rice, which serves to mop up the saucy overflow. However, shortly after we got married, I noticed my husband staring uncomfortably at the mound of rice left to eat on his plate at the end of dinner one night. When I asked if there was a problem, he responded that he was “too full” from the rest of the mouthwatering meal I prepared that evening to stomach finishing the rice.   As newlyweds, we’re often told that the first year of marriage is the hardest, and it was clear that my husband was trying not to stir the pot. It occurred to me that he might not be a huge fan of plain white rice. The next day, I planned to make picadillo for dinner, and knew he would love it, but wouldn’t give it a fair try if I served it with rice. So I set out to find a more suitable companion for this dish. True to his Midwestern roots, I knew my husband favors a diet rich with meat and potatoes. Also, potato balls, which are essentially a ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo, breaded and fried, are one of his favorite Cuban snacks. So, if I made a batch of my irresistibly creamy, Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and served them alongside my picadillo, it would without a doubt please him. Sure enough, at dinner the next night my husband was inducted into the clean plate club, and I inched closer towards winning the award for wife of the year.

Classic picadillo is made with ground beef, but in an effort to lighten things up, my family swapped in the much more figure friendly turkey long ago. After trying our flavor-packed version, nobody has ever called us on our alternative ways, and for quite some time, this substitution remained a family secret. Even the naturally driest cut of turkey breast surrenders to the tenderizing ways of a low and slow simmering tomato-based bath, making Turkey Picadillo a stand-by, go-to protein in our house while I was a child. It also serves as the filling to many of Cuban cuisine’s most treasured snacks, including empanadas, meat pies, potato balls, and more.

This dish represents the essence of my Cuban influence melding with that of my meat-and-potatoes eating Midwestern husband’s. It’s the meet-me-in-the-middle compromise I was told I’d get used to making when I got married. This peacekeeper, Gandhi-style of cooking is one I particularly love experimenting with, as it presents a fun culinary challenge for me to find perfect pairings for the recipes from our respective sides.

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Turkey Picadillo with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main and Side
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Cuba meets the Midwest with this culture-clashing dish.
Ingredients
Picadillo:
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1-1½ lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 8oz water
  • ¼ cup green olives with pimento, sliced (including the juice from the jar)
  • 1 tbs. oregano
  • 2 tbs. cumin
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
Mashed Potatoes:
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely diced.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, but whole
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ sour cream
  • ⅛ cup half and half
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
Picadillo
  1. Place a large pot on the stove over medium to high heat, and add the olive oil, letting it warm.
  2. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic, and cook until onions and peppers are soft and translucent, about 5 min. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano.
  3. Add the ground turkey, and using the bottom and back of a wooden spoon, break up the turkey into small pieces as it browns.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, and fill the can with water, adding that to the pot, as well.
  5. Add the olives and olive juice, and stir well.
  6. Throw in the bay leaves, cover the pot, and simmer for ½ an hour to an hour, or until the turkey is soft and the liquid has reduced by about half.
  7. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.
Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  1. Fill a large stock pot with cold water, and add the potato cubes, onion and garlic. Heat the pot over high heat, and add salt to flavor the water.
  2. Once the water starts to boil, cook until potatoes are fork-tender.
  3. Drain the contents of the pot in a colander, and using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes, onions and garlic into the now empty pot.
  4. Return the pot to the stove over low heat, and stir in grated parmesan, sour cream, and half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately.