As the diplomatic thaw between the United States and Cuba continues, new opportunities for Americans to visit Cuba are opening all kinds of doors. In an incredible stroke of luck, Louisiana Eats! host Poppy Tooker had the opportunity to join the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on their landmark visit to Cuba for the Havana Jazz Festival. On this week's show, Poppy shares an audio travelogue from her week-long trip in the Rome of the Caribbean.
In addition to our shared passion for food, there are many musical connections between Louisiana and Havana.
We begin with a conversation with Greg Lucas, Development Director and of the Preservation Hall Foundation and Tour Manager to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Throughout their tremendous week in Havana, the iconic ensemble engaged in multiple education programs and neighborly activities designed to promote a meaningful exchange between two cities that share a lot of musical connections.
A demonstration over a coffee of how Cuban cigars are made.
Then, we spend a memorable evening in Central Havana at the Paladar San Cristóbal with Peter Sanchez, co-founder of Cuba Tours and Travel. Peter tells us about the restaurant revolution taking place within the walls of paladares, or eateries run by self-employed Cubans.
The next day, we take a whirlwind tour of Havana with our reliable guide Viviana Rives, who takes us through downtown farmers markets, a chocolate museum, a rum house and finally a tobacco farm, where we learn to roll our own cigars.
We also experience Cuban food traditions old and new, exploring the island's flourishing organic agricultural system with a visit to El Paraiso, a hilltop farm located in Viñales, a small town west of Havana. The organic farm doubles as a restaurant, which farmer Wilfredo Garcia runs with his family.
We finish our Cuban adventure by getting a better understanding of the country's ultimate comfort food, the malanga. Back in New Orleans some months later, we visit the home of two of Poppy's traveling companions from the trip, "J" and Rebecca Hutchings, to learn how they have been cultivating the malanga in their own back yard.
It's all happening in Cuba on this week's Louisiana Eats!
The Malanga Monger's Wife's Ultimate Malanga Fritters
5-6 potato-sized malanga roots, peeled and grated
1 yellow onion peeled and grated
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1 cup chopped cilantro
6 liberal shakes of Crystal hot sauce
6 liberal shakes of Tony Chachere's Creole
Original Seasoning, about 1-2 tbsp
Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use hand blender to create a smoother mixture, but definitely not a purée. It should still be chunky, but evenly textured.
Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Use a tablespoon to create fritters, place carefully in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, flip once, fry the other side until golden brown.
Remove fritters from oil, place on a paper towel on a plate. Salt to taste, season with fresh lime juice, and serve.
I like mine with a little extra Crystal hot sauce.