Friday, July 16, 2010

Carne Fria

This translates literally to "Cold Meat" but I’ll be darned if I call it that. So I call it by its proper name, carne fria, and hope that as with arroz con pollo and picadillo, it becomes something that is called what it’s called.

I am fortunate enough to have had all four grandparents for the majority of my life (thus far). My maternal grandfather (Abuelo Cuco) passed away when I was twenty one, my maternal grandmother (Abuela Pupú) just a little over two years ago and my paternal grandfather (Abuelo Pepín) just a few months afterwards. Abuela Victorina, my paternal grandmother that’s fortunately still with us is the one that taught me how to make carne fria.

I remember there was always at least a couple of carne fria rolls in my grandparents’ house and since our house was right next to their house, I had carne fria on a regular basis. When I started The Project, I remember getting my grandmother’s copy of Cocina al Minuto and finding that her book actually opened right to the carne fria recipe. That’s when I decided that she’d be Abuela Carne Fria for my stories and Abuela Pupú would be dubbed Abuela Croqueta. Man, she made a mean croqueta. Homemade salsa béchamel and everything. Well, that’s for another post.

When I was a teenager, I remember Abuela Carne Fria teaching me how to make her signature dish. It was the first time I got my hands into raw meat to mix it together and my first time around boiling water. I still remember how excited I was when she said they were ready and that we’d be able to unwrap them and try them. It’s pretty much like unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning. Especially, as I now have experienced, if you’re able to keep the breading completely on as you gently unroll the fully cooled log. What a treat.

Recipe #77: Carne Fria


I found it appropriate that I would make Abuela Carne Fria’s dish for our annual Sarasota family vacation. There are so many traditions that I long for all year as we get ready for this trip. The nightly games of Mentirosa, the kids playing in the sand until sunset, the sound of the airhorn right when the sun dips into the horizon and the carne fria made each year by Gordo. Gordo is our very own Carne Fria King. Just like my family had my grandmother’s carne fria, my husband has Gordo’s.

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On the night before the trip to Sarasota, practical me decided that packing for the whole family and making carne fria wouldn’t be impossible. It sure wasn’t impossible, but it sure was dumb. I was up until 4am. But boy was I proud of my four carne fria rolls.

I found out when I got to Sarasota that Gordo had made eighteen rolls.

I kept my carne fria a secret from Gordo for as long as I could. But, since his kids follow La Cocina on Facebook, they knew what I was up to. By Wednesday afternoon, I had no choice but to bring down my carne fria for examination. I felt like the Bobby Flay Throwdown people must feel.

I cut it up for everyone and when Gordo tried it and said it was good, I was thrilled. We compared notes and he makes his with some slight variations, but he agreed that mine was a good competitor to his. Note, his is the one on the right - tight, compact. Mine is the looser one on the left.

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I was thrilled.

Mixing the meat in the food processor and then blending the garlic, onion, salt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, oregano, eggs and galleta molida (ground Cuban crackers) in the same food processor, then mixing it with your hands all together was magic.

Not only had I made Abuela Carne Fria’s dish without much difficulty, but it actually tasted right. When I told Gordo that I had used a tela (piece of fabric, or in this case, cheesecloth) in one of the rolls and the rest of aluminum foil, he nodded his head because when you boil the carne fria, wrapped in tela, the garlic, onions and seasonings in the water seep into the meat nicely. You obviously don’t get the same effect when you boil it in aluminum foil. You could really taste the difference.

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We also discussed that it was key to pass the rolls through the egg and galleta molida twice in order to get that perfect crust around the roll. Success.

Carne fria is now down and perfect. Now it’s time for the croqueta. I promised my friend, Burger Beast, that I’d make the croqueta in another one of our cooking sessions. Let’s see if I can make my Abuela Croqueta as proud as I made Abuela Carne Fria.

My grandmother actually had a chance to taste my carne fria and she called me right away to tell me she loved it. She said it was the best she’d tasted. When I reminded her that she was the one that had taught me, she said, "My recipe? Oh no. Yours tastes much better than mine". Maybe it was the food processor I used instead of my hands to compact the flavors just right. Whatever the difference, I’m glad the carne fria can live on in my family now.

4 comments:

  1. My Abuela Popi makes carne fria all the time for gatherings. Since she doesn't really cook anything else, we all have this theory that she buys the carne fria from someone else, then tells us she made it. Maybe she buys it from your Abuela Carne Fria or Gordo! lol

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  2. Abuelas keep such guarded secrets!

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  3. Never had carne fria! Sounds delish! I love learning about different cultures through food...love!

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  4. I lived many years in Florida and never heard of this either! Is it served in Cuban restaurants at all?

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