There are certain staples that abound in a Puerto Rican cook’s kitchen: Adobo, Sazon, Garlic, Cilantro, Rice, Beans and SOFRITO.
The word Sofrito is of Spanish origin which means “to lightly fry or sauté”. It’s really a technique brought by the Spanish colonists when they settled into Latin America and the Caribbean in the 14th century. (Go here for more information on Sofrito.) What’s interesting is that the first mention of sofrito was found in one of the oldest European cookbooks the Libre de Cent Sovi, in the Catalan region of Spain (circa 1324). Our ancestors knew about feel good food, huh?!
Sofrito is simply either a puree or fine chop of aromatic vegetables and herbs like Cilantro, Garlic, Onion, Green and Red Pepper which are then sautéed. Many different cultures have their version so it comes in many different variations. In the Puerto Rican kitchen, it is the foundation of flavor for meats, beans, soups, arroz con gandules and many other traditional Hispanic dishes. Why is it so special? Why is it worthy of its own post? Well, it’s simple.
And in the kitchen, when you add sofrito to anything you can bet your lunch that it’s going to be exploding with flavor and come out grandiose!, sublime!, exceptional! and hellagood. Word up!
Sofrito is the Latino cook’s secret weapon. Sometimes I like to add a teaspoon of bacon grease for atomic-bomb sized flavor. But that’s just moi.
Sofrito-enhanced Recipe #1
For example, instead of making just regular scrambled eggs you can sautee 2 tablespoons of sofrito in a little butter and then add the eggs, sprinkle a little gouda and Oh My gosh – It’s another earth-shaking (ECDSGM) Eyes Closed, Deep Sigh and Grunt Moment! Get where I’m going with this?
Sofrito-enhanced Recipe #2
Wings can be marinated in sofrito for a couple of hours, lightly breaded in a flour/corn starch dredge and deep-fried, giving you a full-on foodie melt-down!
Sofrito-enhanced Recipe #3
Take your pork roast, poke holes in it, stuff it with sofrito, then smother the rest of the pork roast with sofrito. Marinate in fridge for a couple of hours then roast on low temperature until you can poke it with a fork and pull the meat off easily and you’ve created an Iron Chef worthy dish right there.
It’s fairly simple to make but the impact of its flavors is anything but. My version is simple but you can add vinegar, sweet Chile peppers, annatto for color, diced ham or culantro- a pungent herb used regularly in the Puerto Rican kitchen. I like to make mine on Sundays for the rest of the week and store in Mason Jars in the refrigerator.
If you’re not the strongest cook, just adding sofrito to your cooking will literally increase your cool points and stock exponentially. Not to mention everyone will think you are a Ninja in the kitchen and there will be regular bowing and toe-kissing involved- guaranteed. I mean that kind of flavor doesn’t come out of just anyone’s kitchen y’know. Think Iron Chef people! This is Advanced Cooking 101 here folks.
Flavor is obviously a major component of great-tasting feel-good food but there’s also other elements to take into account like execution: cooking time, moisture, balance which we will get into a later post. For starters, sofrito will be a great big flavor boost in the kitchen and can anchor the flavor of your dishes.
So there you have it – 4 recipes in one post: three sofrito-enhanced recipes and one 700 year old tried and true sofrito recipe. Now you have no excuse to be a phenomenal cook. Go and make me proud! (sniffle-sniffle)
- 4 medium peppers ( I use one green and 3 red/yellow/orange peppers)
- 1 bunch of cilantro or 8 oz.
- 1 medium white onion
- 1½ heads of garlic
- 4 medium tomatoes (I love Roma tomatoes)
- ½ cup of vegetable/olive oil
- optional: I like to add 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings
- Thoroughly clean the cilantro by holding it upright and running cool water on it to wash away any remaining grit. Then leave it soaking in a colander or strainer that sits inside of a bowl.Replace the water several times, making sure to rinse away any grit that may have settled to the bottom. Then cut away any thick stems and coarsely chop.
- Cut the tomatoes in quarters.
- Chop the peppers making sure to remove any seeds.
- Peel the onion and slice.
- Peel the garlic and coarsely chop.
- Dump all of the chopped vegetables into a blender and puree until there are no remaining large pieces of vegetables.
- Store sofrito in a tight container or Ball jars.
Sofrito can be frozen and thawed out before use.
Will store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.