As with any American region, New Orleans has had Latino settlers since the beginning. And as is pointed out in the foreward by Chef Adolfo Garcia, New Orleans culture has long been a unique mashup of all the different cultures that crossed through, "be it African, French, Spanish, Italian, German or Caribbean." This book, a "documentary cookbook that draws on the rich Latino culture and history of New Orleans," put out by the University Press of Mississippi, really caught my eye because I love Latin food and culture, and I have been recently watching episodes of Treme, HBO's post-Katrina New Orleans drama, on my Kindle.
I chose to try out "Ropa Vieja with Okra," contributed by Anna Frachou, who at the time of the book's writing was working as a sort of activist and community organizer. She describes the first time she pulled into New Orleans with her Cuban mother: "Oh my God! We're in Cuba!" Ropa Vieja is described as a Cuban beef, tomato and rice dish, with this version containing the very New Orleans addition of okra. I'm not sure I have ever had Cuban food; I grew up in the Midwest, where Latin food usually means Mexican.
This recipe is basically shredded roast beef with a flavorful tomato sauce and the addition of okra. First, let's take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is roast beef.
|I Heart Beef|
So, first you make the beef and then you start all the other stuff. After the beef is cooked, the recipe comes together pretty fast and the flavors were really good. Hubby and I eat this type of meal a lot, but usually I make something with chicken or ground beef and I don't usually think to include things like okra. So it was fun to try out this recipe and read the story behind it. I did make one substitution - the recipe called for tomato sauce and I just used canned tomatoes because I like them better.
|Ropa Vieja with Okra|
I do have a couple of complaints about the way the cookbook is written though. It's a really interesting light cultural read, but the actual cookbook side of things is a bit lacking. There were some green peppers they had you start but never told you when exactly to put in the final dish. The meal was meant to be served over rice, but the ingredients list did not include rice. Also, there were two gorgeous pictures stuck right in the middle of the two pages of text describing the recipe, splitting the ingredients list right in half. This type of recipe is easy enough to wing it, but it could be a bit better organized.
So- Beginner cooks beware, but I do think New Orleans con Sabor Latino is interesting enough as a cultural "documentary cookbook" that I will probably try a few more recipes here and there.