Dish 11: Pollo Agridulce, El Arroz Blanco Mas Sabroso, Fried Plantains, Drunken Cake

(Sweet and Spicy Chicken, Ultimate White Rice, Fried Plantains, Rum Cake)

Cuba

As the weather started to cool down in the crisp Midwest fall, I found myself craving a dish from the tropics to ward off the cold-weather blues. Thus, I decided to host a dinner party, and settled on Pollo Agridulce (sweet & spicy chicken) as the main dish, Fried Plantains and El Arroz Blanco Mas Sabroso (ultimate white rice) for a side, and Drunken Cake (rum cake) for dessert. The recipes for the main dish, rice, and cake came from ‘Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban’ from the Iowa City Public Library.

The main dish was very easy to prepare, and the ingredients were simple to find. They included: chicken, onion, garlic, brown sugar, mango, ginger, cumin, cilantro, red pepper flakes, butter, and olive oil. The recipe was very straightforward and easy to follow, not requiring any fancy cooking devices. The outcome? SUPERB! The mix of the sweet (mango, brown sugar) with the salty/spicy/fresh (cilantro/red pepper flakes/ginger/cumin/garlic) made for an amazing burst of flavor that resonated throughout the entire dish.

El Arroz Blanco Mas Sabroso (white rice) was incredibly easy, and with just a few adjustments to the cooking instructions on the box (add garlic and olive oil), made for an excellent complement to the Pollo Agridulce, along with the fried plantains.

Wondering what a plantain is? They look similar to bananas, but have rougher edges. Plantains are ripe for cooking with when they turn spotty and brown. Unlike a banana, they are not as sweet, and are more similar in texture to a potato. To make fried plantains, peel and cut into about ¼ inch thick slices, fry in a skillet filled with vegetable oil, and finish with a slight sprinkle of salt. Plantains are available at specialty food stores. If you live around Iowa City, you can find them at New Pioneer Co-Op, and occasionally Bread Garden Market.

Drunken Cake is exactly what it sounds like. Rum is one of the main ingredients that give the cake, baked in a Bundt pan, its delicious flavor. Easy to make and a beautiful presentation with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, Drunken Cake is a must have for the dessert portion of any Cuban inspired meal.

Natalie Nielsen, International Food Blogger

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