According to Pubbelly's Jose Mendin, no one parties during the holidays better than his fellow Puerto Ricans.
"No one celebrates Christmas the way we do it," says Mendin, who grew up in Puerto Rico. "Christmas celebrations in Puerto Rico begin in early December and don't stop on December 25. The parties continue well into the middle of January, right up until el Día de Los Reyes on January 6. It's basically just nonstop partying."
This time of year, every Puerto Rican stuck on the mainland is homesick for the island's epic parrandas — when friends gather to "surprise" other friends, the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling. A group of parranderos arrives at its first destination and, after a few drinks inside, continues to several other houses. As the group grows larger, so does the party.
Miamians can get a taste of this fun-filled tradition by attending Pubbelly's annual Christmas dinner, La Parranda. For the third year in a row, Mendin has invited Goya executive chef Fernando Desa to Pubbelly to host their popular feast featuring a collection of traditional Puerto Rican dishes served family-style. Over the past few years, the dinner has morphed into a giant celebration worthy of the parranda title.
"I love it because it gives me the chance to cook my favorite Puerto Rican dishes, dishes I wouldn't normally feature on the Pubbelly menu," Mendin says.
This year, the dinner, set for Tuesday, will include two newcomers to the all-star culinary lineup: Drunken Dragon's Xavier Torres and chef German Alejandro (owner of Alavara Dorado in Puerto Rico) will join Mendin and Desa in the kitchen.
The dinner will have two seatings, but anyone who wants to enjoy the festivities is welcome, Mendin says. Although seating is limited, walkups can find a buffet-style lineup of the dinner's best dishes available for grab-and-go.
Though the menu hasn't been released, expect the usual suspects no Boricua's Christmas table would be without. That includes favorites such as the banana-and-masa-wrapped, adobo-seasoned tamales known as pasteles; pernil, slow-roasted marinated pork shoulder usually served alongside a heaping pile of arroz con gandules; and coconut pudding known as tembleque.
Also new to this year's La Parranda will be Chef Alejandro's signature spit-cooked pig, his restaurant's specialty. "In Puerto Rico, one of the biggest traditions is cooking a pig on a spit. It's not Christmas without some good old-fashioned lechón," Mendin says.
And don't forget the coconut eggnog known as coquito, the rum-based drink on tables across Puerto Rican during the holidays. Typically made with rum, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and cloves, coquito is as Christmasy as pasteles, pit-roasted pig, and pernil.
Jose Mendin's Christmas Coquito Recipe
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- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cans evaporated milk
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can cream of coconut
- 2 cups Don Q Silver rum
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- pink sea salt, and nutmeg to taste
Combine ingredients in large bowl. Allow to chill. Serve and enjoy.
La Parranda will take place Tuesday, December 20, with seatings at 7 and 9:30 p.m., at Pubbelly. Tickets cost $65 per person and are available at pubbellyboys.com.