A Super Bowl spread, with a Cuban beat

Bring the host city of Miami to your kitchen and get into rhythm of the party.

There’s the pre-game show, the game, the half-time show, the post-game rehash and all the commercials in between — hours of football, and you’ve got to eat. So what are you going to serve?

You could serve dishes made famous in Indianapolis and New Orleans, but just what exactly passes for indigenous food in Indianapolis?

How about celebrating Miami, where the game’s being played? Lourdes Muller will be doing just that, throwing a Super Bowl party featuring her family’s Cuban specialties. Born in Cuba, she moved to Miami with her parents, brother and grandmother when she was 2. Now, she lives in Milton with her husband, Fred, and daughters Marissa and Michelle.

In Miami, her family and friends will be entertaining in traditional Cuban style. Early February is prime outdoor party season in Miami, and the Super Bowl gives everyone yet another chance to celebrate. Her brother will be roasting a whole pig, and a girlfriend has hired the “paella man” to show up with a 4-foot-wide paella pan and cook the meal on site.

Muller said there won’t be any standing around with a cocktail and a little nibble.

“At Cuban parties, we’re getting plates, and we’re sitting down to eat,” she said with a laugh. “Every family has like a billion folding tables in the garage. We line them up all over the backyard because people are not going to eat standing up. The music is on, the men are roasting the pig; there’ll be 30 or 40 people there.”

Although she won’t have Miami’s balmy breezes, Muller will entertaining Cuban-style for friends who would be disappointed if she didn’t serve the food she grew up on. The non-sports watchers will join her in the kitchen to mix the drinks and help with the preparation, and the sports fans around the TV will reap the rewards.

Growing up in Miami, it was Muller’s grandmother who prepared the meals. “My mom went to work, so my grandmother is the one who was in the house all day. My school lunches would be thermoses full of Cuban leftovers, and all my friends in elementary school would trade with me for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she said.

It was her grandmother who taught Muller to cook. Their backyard was an orchard of citrus, mango, avocado, guava and sour orange trees, and her grandmother used the produce in the family’s meals.

Now, Muller has her own vegetable garden and cooks from scratch for her family and friends. She carries on her grandmother’s tradition of making grapefruit jam from trees in the backyard by making 80 jars of four-berry jam that she shares in Atlanta and in Miami.

Her mango jam is requested by her Miami friends, and her Atlanta friends turn to her for advice on all things Cuban. “Whenever I make a meal for a sick friend in the neighborhood, I’m told that it must be Cuban. I’ve gotten people who would never make Cuban food or even know what it was to love it.”

She’s put a personal spin on her Cuban specialties. She doesn’t like raisins, so her picadillo, a stewed ground beef filling, uses dried cranberries instead. Her family isn’t fond of traditional flan, so she makes a chocolate version. When she prepares black beans, a Cuban staple, she doesn’t add meat. When she cooks with ground beef, she drains the fat, or substitutes ground turkey in some recipes. “My mother calls my style ‘Cuban-light,’ ” Muller said with a laugh.


These recipes feature a host of traditional Cuban foods. All the dishes can be made ahead, but the recipes also work perfectly for a party where friends gather in the kitchen to nibble and cook. Assign the martinis to one team, station someone at the cooktop to prepare fresh batches of tostones, and have a few folks gathered around a table making the papas rellenas. Have someone circulate with hot plates and cool glasses of sangria, and the party is on.

Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries)

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 20 minutes Makes: 18 pastelitos

In Miami, there’s a Cuban bakery on almost every corner, and guava pastries are among the most popular items on the menu. They’re eaten for breakfast with some Cuban coffee and served as the sweet for a party. Lourdes Muller has had to come up with her own recipe to satisfy her family’s cravings between trips to Miami. The traditional filling is guava marmalade, which isn’t available in Atlanta, Muller said. We located guava jelly at DeKalb Farmers Market and guava spread at some Kroger stores. The spread is the closest to the traditional filling. In a pinch, you can use guava paste, which is usually found in the Hispanic foods section of grocery stores. A few tiny cubes of cream cheese can also go into the filling.

1 (17.3-ounce) package puff pastry

1 cup guava marmalade or fruit spread

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Granulated sugar, to sprinkle

Allow enough time to thaw the puff pastry according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Each sheet of puff pastry will be folded in thirds. Unfold and cut the sheet into 9 squares. In the center of each square, put 1 tablespoon guava marmalade and brush the edges of the pastry square with water. Fold over to form a triangle and seal the edges well. Use a fork to crimp the edges and a knife to cut a small vent in each pastry. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

Put pastries on the prepared cookie sheets. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. The filling gets very hot, so allow pastries to cool at least 15 minutes before eating.

Adapted from a recipe by Lourdes Muller

Per pastelito: 154 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 2 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 12 milligrams cholesterol, 62 milligrams sodium.


Papas Rellenas (Stuffed Potatoes)

Hands on: 1 hour Total time: 1 hour Makes: 28 papas

This is a traditional and very popular Cuban lunch item eaten on the go, or served as a party appetizer. The beef filling is called picadillo, although here Lourdes Muller omits the traditional raisins. You can prepare the potatoes and picadillo ahead of time, and then have your friends help form the balls during the party, or make the balls ahead of time up through the step of breading and then refrigerate. Fried Papas Rellenas freeze well. Just reheat when ready to serve. Sazon Goya con Azafran is sold in the Hispanic foods section of most grocery stores.

12 medium red potatoes, about 3 pounds, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

3/4 cup dry white cooking wine

12 pimento-stuffed olives, finely chopped

1 packet Sazon Goya con Azafran

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 eggs, beaten

3 cups plain dry bread crumbs

2 cups vegetable oil

To make the potatoes: In a large saucepan, add potatoes and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cooking until potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and mash with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

To make the picadillo: While potatoes are cooking, in another large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add onions and green bell pepper and cook until onions are limp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ground beef and cook until the beef is browned, about 10 minutes. Break up the beef while it’s cooking so everything is a fine consistency. Drain off any fat. Add the wine, olives, Sazon Goya, cilantro, cumin and pepper and cook until the mixture is dry. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When potatoes and picadillo are cool, you’re ready to form the balls. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and put the bread crumbs on a large plate. Using your hands, form 2 tablespoons of potatoes into a ball and press an opening in the center. Stuff with picadillo, then add potato to cover the opening. Roll to make a neat ball and then dip into the beaten egg. Dredge with bread crumbs to cover thoroughly. Refrigerate the balls for 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Add the balls a few at a time and cook for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Adapted from a recipe by Lourdes Muller

Per papas rellenas: 220 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 6 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 42 milligrams cholesterol, 217 milligrams sodium.


Tostones (Fried Green Plantains)

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes Makes: 12 tostones

Plantains are a staple in the Cuban diet. “We use them in many different dishes, but you most frequently see them served as maduros, the fried sweet plantains, and tostones, the fried green plantains,” Lourdes Muller said. Both are often a side dish served with black beans and rice. The tostones make a terrific appetizer, an addictive and salty fried alternative to corn chips or potato chips. You can fry and flatten these ahead of time and leave them at room temperature for up to 4 hours. When guests arrive, put the tostones in for the second frying and serve hot. Mojo sauce, a Spanish sauce of citrus juice, garlic, paprika and cumin and available in the Hispanic section at grocery stores, is another traditional accompaniment.

3 green plantains

3 cups vegetable oil

Garlic salt

Peel the plantains by cutting off the ends and using a sharp knife to cut through the peel along 1 long side of the plantain. Loosen the peel along the cut and remove. Cut each plantain into quarters.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 300 degrees, about 5 minutes. Add plantain pieces and cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove plantains and drain on paper towels. Using a folded paper towel, flatten the plantains with the heel of your palm until they are about half their original thickness.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees and carefully add the flattened plantain slices. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on both sides. Drain, sprinkle with plenty of garlic salt and serve warm.

Adapted from a recipe by Lourdes Muller

Per tostone: 216 calories (percent of calories from fat, 73), 1 gram protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 173 milligrams sodium.


Lychee Martini

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes Serves: 1

Lychees are native to China but taste like mamoncillos, a tropical fruit that grows in Cuba. In Miami, Muller and her best friend created this drink to feature fresh lychees from a neighboring farm. Now, lychee martinis are “the drink” in South Beach and there’s even a lychee liqueur on the market. If the syrup in your canned lychees is not sweet enough, add a little simple syrup. Make the syrup by boiling 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water until sugar dissolves. You’ll find canned lychees at Whole Foods, at Asian markets and at DeKalb Farmers Market.

1 (20-ounce) can lychees in heavy syrup, divided

1 jigger (3 tablespoons) vodka

Splash of Grand Marnier, or other citrus liqueur

Raspberry for garnish

Drain lychees and reserve syrup and lychees separately. Pour 7 tablespoons syrup, 1 jigger vodka and Grand Marnier over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into martini glass. Garnish with a lychee and raspberry.

Adapted from a recipe by Lourdes Muller

Per serving: 258 calories (no calories from fat), no protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, no fat, no cholesterol, 3 milligrams sodium.


My Favorite Sangria

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 2 hours Makes: 8 cups

Spiced rum gives this sangria a kick, but you can lighten it by adding sparkling water just before serving. Lourdes Muller suggests a Spanish rioja or an Argentinean malbec for this recipe. Superfine sugar is also called caster sugar and is available at DeKalb Farmers Market and Whole Foods. You can also pulse regular granulated sugar in the food processor to make a finer grain.

1 lemon

1 lime

1 orange

11/2 cups spiced rum

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine

1 cup orange juice

Slice the lemon, lime and orange into thin rounds and place in a large glass pitcher. Pour in rum and sugar. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to develop the flavors. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir in the wine and orange juice.

Adapted from a recipe by Lourdes Muller

Per 4-ounce serving: 115 calories (percent of calories from fat, 1), trace protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated), no cholesterol, 31 milligrams sodium.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.