In 1994, right after the publication of my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America, I sat down with Donna Hanover of Food TV to discuss the book. That video is now available for your viewing. In it I try to explain, overall, what constitutes Puerto Rican cuisine here and in the island while also trying to explain the concept of Nuyorican, or a New York born and bred Puerto Rican. Nuyorican is a term used, not too complimentary, in the island of Puerto Rico, to define a native who comes from the mainland, predominantly the east coast. Here in America we have taken the term as a badge of honor and pride. Just because one is Nuyorican doesn't mean one has any less pride in his heritage than one who comes from the island. We partake of a culture and enjoy a cuisine that combines elements of traditional Puerto Rican cooking with infusions of new ideas and new ways of doing things inspired by the urban ewnvironment of the mainland. It means that we grow, within ourselves, our culture, and our cuisine. Below is a simple recipe from that cookbook: domplines, or dumplings. The dumplings go well with any meal, but they are especially good with ham and eggs.
4 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 tablespoons shortening 1 cup lukewarm water 1/2 teaspoon salt Vegetable oil for frying
1. Combine flower, baking powder and shortening in a glass bowl. 2. Add salt to water and add to flour, a bit at a time, while mixing with a wooden spoon until it forms a doughy consistency. 3. Remove this dough to a lightly floured surface and knead continuously with hands until soft. 4. Form kneaded dough into a horseshoe shape and set aside. 5. Fill a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet halfway with vegetable oil. Heat until oil is very hot. Break off a small piece of dough and shape into a round patty. Drop into skillet and stir-fry until golden (about 5 minutes). Repeat until dough is all gone. Remove and drain on absorbent paper towels. Yield: about 20 dumplings.
For for the sake of full disclosure, I should add that I have been involved in the martial arts for 35+ years. I am an instructor at the Chinese Kung-Fu Wu-Su Association (www.kungfu-wusu.com). I know, you're thinking, someone who likes to cook and enjoys listening to classical music is also a martial artist? Yup. It's true. We are all the sum of different parts. Anyway, the reason I mention this is because I am on Facebook (no surprise there). And my Facebook page is currently displaying videos showing some of the techniques we practice at the Association. One is a high level technique known as the nail bed. I am not even going to try to explain it. Some may find it esoteric and other worldly. It's not. It's something that any determined healthy individual can do given the proper training and discipline. The other video is knife fighting. We do teach knife techniques at the Association. In that one I take on our premier knife person, Dr. Norman Lanes, in a one-on-one situation, and try to hold my own (barely). So, for those of you interested in the martial arts or want to see some enjoyable videos (of real action---not cinematic) check out my Facebook page. Until the next time (with credits to Bob and Ray), hang by your thumbs and write if you get work.