Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony

There are only 15 people who have managed to win each of these awards – the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony…and only 4 of the 15 have been women – Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rita Moreno.

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Rita Moreno – Emmy (The Muppet Show), Grammy (The Electric Company), Oscar (West Side Story), Tony (The Ritz)

Can I say it upfront?  I want to be Rita Moreno in my next life! Who manages to get to her late 80’s and act so marvelously,  look so gorgeous – and be so incredibly funny?  She’s on my mind because Andy and I are slightly addicted to watching the remake of One Day at a Time – with Rita Moreno as the abuelita in this Cuban/American household headed up by a single mother – portrayed by the fabulous Justina Machado.

The series, which we watch on Netflix, isn’t perfect.  Having a live audience is a little odd – but you get used to it.  A nineteen-year-old playing a 15-year-old sometimes feels off.  Nonetheless, a review from NPR seems spot on: “…the show feels contemporary and smart (its explorations of sexual and gender identity feel particularly profoundly needed), and Rita Moreno can still crack your heart right open.”

Obviously, a Cuban-American family makes me think about Cuban food.  So we got in touch with an old colleague from LSU, Lisandro Pérez, for some input.  Lisandro was born in Cuba, arriving in the U.S. with his parents in 1960 – when he was 11.  Lisandro, who is now on the faculty at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, recently wrote the well-received book Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution: The Making of Cuban New York.  That made Andy in today’s Andy’s Corner think about our current food shortages and sugar rationing during WWII.

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We fondly remember faculty parties at LSU where Lisandro would bring a delicious Cuban dish to share.  When we asked him a few weeks ago to help us with some memories and a Cuban recipe or two, here’s what he wrote:

I learned this recipe from my mother, Nancy Fonts, during the years I would help her prepare the traditional Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) dinner. She had learned it from her father, who in turn learned it from his father, Colonel Ernesto Fonts y Sterling, who fought in the Cuban War of Independence and eventually became the Treasury Secretary of the Cuban Republic.

There are two fundamental styles in cooking black beans. One is the style in which the sauce is watery and lighter in color than the beans themselves. This is how they are usually prepared in Cuban homes and restaurants. Then there is the style that produces beans with a thicker and uniform texture, in which bean and sauce appear as one. The Colonel’s beans are in this latter style, beans that are often referred to as cuajados (thickened) or dormidos (asleep). They are purposely thickened with a reduced or dehydrated sofrito and by putting the beans to sleep overnight in the refrigerator the day before they are to be served.

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Lisandro’s Great-Grandfather, Colonel Ernesto Fonts y Sterling

We’ve got that delicious recipe posted below; now that y’all have more time than normal, it’s the perfect 3-day adventure; and, trust me, it may require 3 days, but the amount of time spent on each day is minimal (especially compared to baking sourdough bread – the current rage across the country), so don’t let that stop you.

Andy and I suggest you pair the beans with rice and with an El Presidente cocktail and a Cuban-style pork roast.  I want them all RIGHT NOW!  Could someone please have them delivered?

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El Presidente Cocktail


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Colonel Fonts’s Black Beans – with rice and Cuban-style Pork

Colonel Fonts’s Black Beans

Note from Ann: I tend to start with 8 c of water for 1 pound of beans, and gradually add more water if necessary during the cooking process. Thanks to Colonel Fonts’ great-grandson, Lisandro Pérez, for this heirloom Cuban recipe

  • 1 lb. organic black beans
  • 2 large sweet onions, peeled
  • 2 large green bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sherry cooking wine
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, preferably unsalted
  • 1 12 oz. can of whole red pimientos (or 3 4-oz jars, if you can’t find the canned)
  • 1/3 cup white refined sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt to taste, and very little, if any, pepper

The beans are to be served on day three, with preparations starting on day one (e.g., for
Christmas eve dinner, on the 24th of December, day one is December 22nd ).
Afternoon of day 1: soak the beans
Place the beans in small batches in a colander, rinse them, and pick through them to make sure there are no small stones, soil clumps, or other earthen matter. Place all the beans in a heavy stock pot and pour enough cold water into the pot so that the beans are covered by about four inches of water. The pot should be large enough so that the water and the beans do not exceed two-thirds of the capacity of the pot (I use the 8 qt. All-Clad Stainless-Steel Stock Pot). Slice one of the onions into rings one-quarter inch thick and one of the green peppers into half-inch wide strips and mix in with the beans and water.

Place the covered pot on the kitchen counter (or in the refrigerator) to soak overnight. (I usually check in on the pot before I go to sleep to make sure the beans have not expanded to the point that they need more water to stay covered).

Morning of day 2: cook the beans

Making sure that there are at least two inches of water left covering the beans, place the pot on the stove and bring to a near boil before quickly turning down the heat to a healthy simmer. Add the bay leaves and an initial pinch or two of salt and cover the pot. Simmer for at least three hours. Stir periodically to make sure there is enough water so that the beans are not at risk of sticking to the bottom. If so, add more water.

After the three hours, sample a few of the beans to make sure they have no firmness; they should pretty much dissolve in your mouth. If still firm, continue cooking. There is little danger of overcooking the beans if they have enough water.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the sofrito by peeling the remaining onion, and cut it and the remaining green pepper into large chunks. Place the onion and pepper, the cloves of garlic, and the cup of olive oil into a blender. Blend until the ingredients liquefy into a smooth mixture. Pour the sofrito mixture into a 12-inch wide skillet at medium-low heat. When the sofrito starts to heat, stir it frequently, uncovered. The purpose is to cook the sofrito while reducing its liquid. If the mixture is splattering too vigorously, reduce the heat a bit. After about 45 minutes most of the natural liquid from the onion and pepper will have evaporated and the result will be a thicker sofrito that will want to stick to the pan in a burnt brownish film. This is when the stirring needs to be constant and aggressive to prevent that (a stiff rubber spatula works best), continuing until
the sofrito is close to having a thick puree consistency.

Once the beans are cooked, pour the sofrito slowly into the beans, stirring the beans as you do so to ensure an even mix. The beans will now have a thicker texture, so the heat needs to be reduced to a low simmer, and attention needs to be paid to prevent any sticking to the pot, stirring occasionally. The beans are always cooked covered. After about 20 minutes, to allow the sofrito and the beans to coalesce, add the vinegar, tomato sauce, ½ cup of the sherry cooking wine, the oregano, and the pimientos, diced coarsely, along with the water with which they were packed. Adjust the salt and add ground black pepper, if desired. After allowing enough time for the beans to return to a simmer, add the sugar, stirring it in slowly. Simmer slowly for another 30 minutes and then turn off the heat. Wait until the pot cools down a bit before putting the beans to sleep,
covered, in the refrigerator for the night.

Day 3: heat and serve
About a couple of hours before they are to be served, take the beans out of the refrigerator and wake them up by stirring them a couple of times and splashing on the other ½ cup of the sherry. They are cold, of course, and considerably thicker than they were the day before, so place them on the stove over low heat, stirring them every few minutes to prevent sticking. The beans must be reheated slowly: burnt beans on the bottom will give the entire batch an unpleasant taste.
Serve on individual plates by laying a bed of white non-sticky long-grain rice and ladling a generous serving of the beans on top.

Recipe brought to you by Lisandro Pérez and BigLittleMeals.com.

El Presidente Cocktail

There are tons of variations on these basic ingredients – but we go for the less sweet.  If you want sweeter, cut the vermouth back to 3/4 oz and double the curacao and grenadine

  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 tsp curacao
  • 1/2 tsp grenadine (or, if you must, syrup from the cherry jar)
  • cherry and orange peel to garnish (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.  Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange peel.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Cuban-style Pork Roast

Note: our Cuban authority, Lisandro Pérez, says a Cuban cook would use way way more than 4 cloves of garlic with pork…maybe even whole heads!  Recipe adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats

  • For the Mojo:
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (at least!)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground oregano – or about 1 T of minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 c fresh orange juice
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste (we figure about 1 tsp Diamond kosher salt per pound of meat)
  • For the Pork and to Finish:
  • About a 3 lb boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • Steamed rice and black beans for serving

For the Mojo: Combine garlic, cumin, pepper, oregano, orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil in a large bowl and whisk. Season to taste generously with salt.

Use half of mojo to marinate the pork and the other half for serving.  The pork should marinate, covered, in the mojo for at least 2 hours in the fridge – or overnight, if you wish.

For the Pork and to Finish: Preheat oven to 275°F.  Place the pork and its marinade in a dutch oven, cover, and roast for 3 hours.  Turn the oven to 425 degrees, remove the lid, and roast the pork for about another 1/2 hour, turning after 15 minutes so both top and bottom get crispy brown.

Add 1/2 cup of the pork juices to the reserved mojo, along with fresh chopped mint and oregano. Whisk together and season to taste with salt.

Serve pork by slicing or shredding, passing mint mojo and lime wedges on the side. Serve with rice on the side – and with Colonel Fonts’s Black Beans. Reserve any leftovers for sandwiches – or tacos.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.



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