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Recipe for Puerto Rican Sofrito

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Sofrito is the essence of what is known as Comida Criolla, or Puerto Rican cooking. This sauce, a mix of herbs and vegetables, is common in Latin cuisine, and many regions have their own recipes. In Puerto Rico, sofrito gets its signature taste from recao, or culantro, and ají dulce, a sweet pepper. The sauce is the base for many of the island's most representative dishes, from stews to pasteles to the ever-popular arroz con pollo, and much, much more.

This recipe comes from the late Doña Carmen Aboy de Valldejuli, a seminal figure in island cuisine and author of many cookbooks, including Puerto Rican Cookery.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of achiote grains, or annatto seeds, cleaned
  • 1/2 pound of cooking ham, cubed
  • 2 pounds of green peppers
  • 1/2 pound ajíes dulces, or sweet peppers
  • 2 pounds of onions
  • 1/4 pound of garlic
  • 1 bunch of recao or culantro
  • 1 bunch of culantrillo
  • 2 tablespoons of dried oregano

Preparation:

Un a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil on high heat. Then reduce the heat, add the achiote and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely and empty into a large pan, straining it through a colander with absorbent paper.

In a blender or food processor, blend the cooking ham, green peppers, ajíes dulces, onions, garlic, culantro, culantrillo and oregano, using all the liquid that they produce. Add to the pan and cook under high heat until it boils. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To Store:
Let the sauce cool completely and pour into an ice cube tray (2 tablespoons of the sauce per cube). Put the tray in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the cubes and keep them in sealable plastic bags and put them back in the freezer. Now you have your own sofrito stock, ready to add to any Comida Criolla recipe!

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