It’s been a cold week up here in Rhode Island. We had snow during the week and again today Sunday, so the view outside is beautiful. This week we also had a so called Artic Blast that had us with single digit temperatures for a couple of nights, and in the low teens about three days. So, when it gets this cold what is a Cuban girl to do to get warm?????? No, not that mal pensados!
Churros con Chocolate caliente, of course! (Hot Chocolate and Churros)
I honestly cannot remember not liking churros. Ever since I was a little girl I could eat the entire bag of churros and not get sick. Te vas a empachar, Mami would say. Ha! Please, Papi owned a panadería for God’s sake….you think 10 churros will bring me down? When we went to Spain in ’82 I discovered that perfect combination of churros with chocolate caliente. Oh. My. God. That chocolate caliente in Madrid’s Gran Via….I swear the churro could stand up straight in the chocolate. That is how thick it was. LOVED. IT.
In Puerto Rico, we used to get our churros in San Patricio. There was a street vendor that would stand right outside the entrance/exit for Felicilandia – our very own kid’s amusement park…any one out there remember Felicilandia?. Last time that we bought churros there I was with Papi; I remember it vividly.
The churrero was an older gentleman and he had a sign in front of his cart touting over 25 years of experience. That day, it must’ve been mid eighties (yearwise), Papi asked the vendor how could he possibly have that many years experience? When he (Papi) arrived in Puerto Rico late in 1962 there were no churro vendors anywhere. The churrero smiled and answered “I used to sell churros in Cuba”. Ahhhhhh, that explained it all. Man, Cuban exiles were everywhere!
Once I left home, I was hard pressed to find churros of the Cuban variety. There were these Mexican churros that looked like they were on steroids and were sprinkled with cinnamon to boot. Yuck! No offense to Mexicans or any of you who like those churros, but I like my churros VERY traditional. So every time I went home for break, I’d swing by where the churrero stand was. I caught him there a couple of times and never saw him again.
Through the rest of my years in Maryland and in Texas I forgot all about churros. Even when I moved to Miami in ’96 churros were all but a distant memory…it had been so long! And then one day, while driving on Calle Ocho around Le Jeune, I saw this guy with a cooler hanging off his neck. In front of the cooler a handwritten sign: Churros 10 x $1. OMG! I lowered my window and screamed my lungs out. My affair with churros had been rekindled!
Hialeah brought me guayaba stuffed churros! Those are to die for, but I am still partial to traditional churros. So when in Miami it would get a bit cool, Mami, Alan and I would go to Las Palmas and order up some churros with Hot Chocolate. Yum.
Needless to say, when we moved to Rhode Island I missed churros terribly. We would make chocolate caliente often, and only dream of churros. Until a year ago. We were hanging out with some friends (one Cuban, one Ecuadorian) and my mother in law. And after enough alcohol intake I had an idea. Let’s make churros!
Everyone cheered! I needed a recipe……and then it hit me: Nitza Villapol! So I rushed to get my copy of the Cuban staple Cocina Criolla cookbook and found the churros recipe. Yes I know she was a commie, but hell, Abuela smuggled copies of the book out of Cuba. If it’s Cuban, it is in that book!.
Back to the churro experiment. Funny thing is as intoxicated as we were when I tasted the first churro I traveled back in time…. it was the perfect recipe. Yeah, yeah I know, you have another recipe that is great too. 5 Cubans Rule remember?
Soooooooo, yesterday, Alan and I made some Churros con Chocolate Caliente! Are you ready? Here is what you will need for the churros.
- 2 cups of flour – sifted if possible, but not necessary
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup milk – whole or skim makes no difference
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of butter – NOT margarine, or any other substitute
- Large enough frying pan
- Corn oil
- Churrera – What? Don’t worry I’ll show you.
If you have the book, you can find it. I do it a bit differently than how Nitza does, mainly in how I make la masa (dough). Oh yes, I also have Alan – sometimes that strong manly arm comes in very handy, since the masa can get neurotic at times.
Sift (again optional, but it will make for easier mixing) the two cups of flour into a Pyrex bowl (or any heat resistant bowl).
In a small saucepan pour the milk, the water, the butter and the salt. Heat over medium low heat. Watch closely, and stir frequently to melt the butter.
When it looks like it is going to boil, remove from heat and pour it all on the flour on the Pyrex bowl. Beat fast and hard with a spoon until the dough is soft and compact. This is where the manly arm comes in handy. If you don’t beat enough the dough will be sticky and difficult to put in the churrera.
This is where tag teaming comes in handy. Fill the churrera halfway with the dough while the oil heats up. The churrera is nothing more than an icing bag, see?
The best way, back to the tag team, is to pour the churros directly into the frying pan. You can pour them on waxed paper, but I cannot guarantee they won’t stick. So I grab Alan who pours the churro into the frying pan and I cut, with a knife or spatula, when I like the size of the churro.
There should be enough oil to cover the churros halfway – you will need to turn them to get them nice and golden. The oil needs to be VERY hot, but not higher than medium heat. Otherwise, you’ll burn the outside of the churro and it will be raw inside.Once they start to turn golden, turn them over so you can dorar the other side. They will start looking like this (in particular, the one right on the top – when both sides have that color they are done!):They should not be browner than that top churro. Once done, with a straining/slotting spoon, spoon out the churros (draining as much oil as possible) and place them over paper towel (this will help absorb the extra grease). While still hot …..Pour Some Sugar over the churros.
Here is where in my house we run into a cultural rift. All my life I’ve seen churros placed in a cartucho, pour regular sugar over them, close the cartucho and shake. Apparently, in Chile not only do they have a different version of the churro, they also use confectioner’s sugar. So, we have to make separate plates. Here are Alan’s churros:
Notice the difference in the amount of churros….I am empache proof! Now this recipe says it will yield 15 churros. Ha! It gave us easily close to 30 churros! And the best thing to down churros with? Chocolate Caliente of course!
On a small saucepan, pour about 1/4 cup of milk. Using chocolate en barra, I use Chocolate Cortes, put in one barrita for each cup of chocolate you plan to make. Over low heat, stir until it melts completely (about 10-15 minutes for 3 barritas).
Add the rest of the milk (one cup per barrita), heat, strain and serve. Dunk the churros in the chocolate and ENJOY! or don’t dunk the churros and still enjoy!
So if it gets very cold – and even if it doesn’t – now you have the Cuban remedio for it!