Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Miami

Valerie: We headed to Miami for the Holidays and had a warm and fun Christmas. The weather in Miami all week was excellent (much better than the weather we left behind in New York). Adam spent Christmas eve cooking "el lechon."

Adam: In Cuban families, tradition dictates that christmas eve -- "noche buena" is the center of the celebration, and at the center of noche buena is always a lechon -- a pig, marinated in mojo (sour orange, garlic and oregano) and roasted all day long until the skin is crispy. Valerie's family had talked for a long time about me cooking the pig (always as a joke -- I don't eat pork). But this year I figured it would be fun to try to cook it, even if i didn't eat it -- and I would thow a few chickens in.

Valerie: The first step in this process is to marinate the pig. My parents bought an 86 pound pig from a farm in Hialeah.

Adam: First, you take a few bags of sour oranges, juice them, and add a few heads of garlic, a salt brine, and oregano. You mix this all together, and then take a syringe and inject it into the pig flesh. It's a messy process, and as you can see below, the pig was huge, so it was very difficult. But we managed to get it all in there.

Adam and the marinated pig ready to be placed inside the caja china.

Valerie: We let the pig marinate overnight -- out on the dining room table in my parents' house (since there wasn't a refrigerator large enough). Probably not the most hygenic means of storing the pig (nb: if you have a refrigerator that big, put the pig in it -- otherwise, the house can start to smell).

Adam: Early on Wednesday morning, I got up and began preparing to cook the pig. A lechon is traditionally cooked in a big hole dug in the ground and covered with palm leaves. However, the Cubans have devised something called a "caja china" or "chinese box" which makes the process somewhat easier. Apparently, the contraption has nothing to do with China -- but in many caribbean cultures, to call something "chinese" is to imply that it has magical powers.

The first step is to put the pig inside the caja china, split in half so it lays flat.

Adam and Valerie's uncle transferring the pig into the caja china.

Adam: Then you put a lot of charcoal on top. A lot of charcoal -- 35 pounds in this case. The fire gets really hot, and as the day continues on, you continue adding charcoal.

Adam and Molly watching the pig cook.

Adam: The temperature inside the caja china gets really high -- Valerie's family had told me that this would take 8 hours, but the pig was ready at 12 noon -- and dinner was at 8. Oh no!

A peek inside while the pig is roasting - look how done it gets in 3 hours!

Adam: So we basically let the pig rest under a few coals to keep it warm, and then flipped it and cooked it for another 45 minutes to crisp up the skin, which I'm told is the tastiest part.

The finished pig ready to cut and serve.

Adam: After the pig, I cooked a few chickens for us non-pork-eaters. They ended up pretty tasty as well. Overall, the great caja china experiment was very successful, and surprisingly easy to use. If I had a balcony, I might even consider getting one in New York -- for parties, it does produce a lot of meat with minimal effort.

Valerie: Right before dinner, we took the annual christmas picture.

La familia.

Next: Valerie and her sister try camping out for the first time, Adam meets the world's largest mosquito in the everglades.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

We are off to Miami tonight to spend the holidays with Valerie's family and to rescue Molly, who has been enjoying the warm weather since the wedding. We'll be back in a week and we'll recap Adam's first time cooking lechon in a "caja china" for noche buena. Valerie's parents picked up the pig yesterday and it weighed in at 82 lbs. It is currently in Valerie's parent's freezer waiting for Adam to marinate it. More on this to come.

Also, after the holidays, Valerie is going to recap all the wedding details and post some pictures from the fun-filled night! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek:

[pre-ceremony at the Loews Miami Beach]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Valerie makes paper. Adam bakes. No change.

December 14, 2008

Adam: We haven't posted in two weeks, but we have been busy at work.

Valerie: Since the last time we updated the blog, I joined a holiday card swap via Brooklyn Bride. I swapped handmade holiday cards with four others who also read the blog.

[Valerie's card (front view)]

[card from the back: snowman sticker sealed the envelope]

Adam: This week, we had a small get-together at our new apartment. We styled it a dessert party, so Valerie and I got to work baking.

Valerie: Adam's first crack at making chocolate cupcakes didn't turn out so well. Adam substituted whole wheat flour for regular flour and the cupcakes tasted less like chocolate and more like whole wheat bread. But then he tried again - and the second batch was very yummy!

Adam: In addition to the better triple-chocolate cupcakes, we also made lemon cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate truffles (flavored with curry powder and salt caramel), miniature apple pies and candied nuts.

[chocolate chip cookies]


[carrot cake cupcakes]

[apple pies]

[candied nuts]
[lemon cupcakes]

[adam cooking]

Unfortunately, no pictures from the wild, wild party (where we met our friends' newest addition, Hektor) -- but we promise better stuff next week!

Up Next: Adam's work holiday party on Monday. Bela Fleck concert at the Blue Note on Wednesday. Headed to Miami on Sunday to rescue Molly!