Today is the last day of Christmas. Or the Epiphany, the day Christians celebrate the arrival of The 3 Wise Men with gifts for baby Jesus. In our house, and most of Latin America, Dia de los Reyes Mago, the beautiful season of time with family, friends, amazing food, selfless giving, and heartfelt, feel good joy, is just about over and we gather one more time (almost) to celebrate.
After 12 days of festivities and eating to the point of being gluttonous, we come to wrap the most beautiful time of the year. Not only is it another day to gift family and friends, it’s another day to get some serious eating in.
I grew up eating much of the same menu we have on Nochebuena, just not as refined or elaborate. Yet still, it’s all hearty, all soulful, all delicious! I personally don’t forgo anything on the table, especially if there’s a bean present. But, in the last four years, two of which I missed because I was living in Atlanta, a new tradition was added to our January 6th festivities. My brother’s wife, though Cuban, lived in Mexico for some time and adopted some of their cultural traditions. So, she started hosting a light dinner on the 6th where we cut la rosca, or fruit cake stuffed with baby Jesus’. The idea is that family gathers around, all cutting the cake in anticipation of one of us getting one of the babies in our slice. Whomever gets the 3rd baby is rewarded by having to host a final seasonal dinner on Feb. 2nd. Now that’s a reason to put in your best guess at where the baby is. Of course, if you make the cake from scratch (which I’ve yet to do), and insert the plastic icon, you could have a better idea of where not to go! Last year’s event was pretty epic. It was hysterical on so many levels as we all tried to avoid the baby. It’s a new tradition in our family but one that’s been enjoyed in Mexico for centuries. I’m looking forward to our tryst this evening and getting an idea of what the menu will look like on the 2nd. Everyone in my family has a certain cooking style so it’s always fun to see who’s going to be cooking next.
As for the savory food served, here are three easy and classically Cuban dishes we’d typically enjoy tonight. It’s a simple enough menu to complete dinner as you and your family say farewell to another Christmas season. You’ve seen all of these in the past, but they’re so classic, it’s a sure way to enjoy a cultural meal. Go ahead and eat it. It’ll be another 11 months before we can guiltlessly indulge again.
Yuca. We all love yuca. I can’t think of many dinners where root tuber hasn’t been incorporated into the dinner. It’s just that good. Between the texture of the yuca, coupled with the citrus and garlick-y mojo, you just can’t ignore it. This particular one has made cameo appearances on Flanboyant Eats many times.
Black beans. These are so simple to make, especially if you default to my canned recipe, which’ll only take you about 20 minutes! Otherwise, you’ll be working away while the pressure cooker yields the most perfect beans ever. But this is a more casual dinner, remember?! Serve with fluffy white rice, of course.
Picadillo. Our staple beef dish. Ground chuck cooked in a robust tomato sauce with olives, raisins, potatoes, and lots of my favorite herbs and spices. Make this. Seriously. You’ll remember me and every Cuban you’ll ever meet if you do. It’s so amazing. Goes well with plain white rice, too. Or, have left over spaghetti? Yup. Add this to that, too. It’s just such a perfect soul good dish.
And the rosca of course. If you don’t have to make it, or thought about it too late, grab one at your local international market, Latin specialty store, or just go for a pretty fruit cake you love!
Here’s to cultural traditions and delicious, yet simple foods! Happy 3 Kings Day! ¡Feliz Dia de Los Reyes Mago!