KISSIMMEE, Fla. – When the News 6 crew walks into Maureen Campana, aka Trooper Mom’s house, it’s clear from the jump the kitchen is her favorite room.
She showed off her beautiful brand new cabinet and gorgeous countertop, all set with everything she’ll need to show Trooper Steve Montiero how to make authentic pernil and arroz con gandules, also known as a Puerto Rican pork shoulder roast with rice and beans.
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“Oh, Steven don’t cook,” said Campana.
“But in my defense, what’s my favorite dish?” said Montiero.
“Well, pernil and rice, the Spanish rice is definitely his favorite,” said Campana.
First, the oven is preheated to 350 degrees for the pernil. The pork shoulder is all ready to go, and the first step is to stab it all over, to give the marinade places to soak into.
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To season, Campana mixes a good helping of olive oil, lots of chopped garlic, cilantro and oregano. She also adds two packages of Sazón, a Spanish seasoning she said tastes good, but also helps to give the meat some coloring. The mixture covers the meat-- which then gets covered with foil and roasted covered for two hours, and then uncovered for two hours to get the skin golden brown.
To make the rice and beans, Campana uses a pot she’s had for years.
“I’ve had this for maybe 25 years,” said Campana. She pointed to the inside of the pot. “I know where my measuring goes. So I don’t know how to tell you to do it by cups.”
“Because there’s lines within the pot that have been engraved in,” said Montiero.
First, she adds the olive oil into the pot. And then, the very important sofrito.
“What is this?” said Montiero.
“It’s made with cilantro. oregano, garlic, onions, and it’s just all blended together,” said Campana.
That gets thrown in the pot along with two cans of beans. Campana said when you drain the cans, drain them into the bowl because you’ll want to use that water in a bit. Once that’s all sautéed up, she added both cans of the drained water and about another third of a can as well as two cups of rice. Once it boiled, she simmered on medium, stirring occasionally until nice and fluffy,
“I already know what this is going to taste like at this point, based off of the smell of this,” said Montiero. “This would be kind of, mom got home early before normal on a day, it might be a Friday or a Saturday kind of thing. And this was something that she got in the mood to cook. This wasn’t just a whim kind of thing. So this would be a nice treat for my brother and I, my dad to come home to and smell this. So there were two things. Any type of Spanish music being played in this house was either a sign that you were about to get up and start cleaning the house, or you are going to have a good meal.”
“And the next day, it’s even better,” added Campana.
Campana told us she’s Nuyorican-- which means she was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, and lived with Puerto Rico for a year.
“It’s funny, my mother rarely cooked anything Spanish,” said Campana. “That’s why I never really cooked Spanish until I met my husband, which is weird because he’s not Puerto Rican. He’s Italian and he loves Spanish food. I said, ‘Oh God, I gotta start cooking it now. So I learned how to cook it.”
She said she food is a big part of the Hispanic culture.
“If we were having a party, there would be food all over that table,” said Campana. “I even have a bigger pot for when lots of people come over.”
Montiero said a lot of the time, people don’t realize he has Puerto Rican heritage.
“I think a lot of people forget that a heritage doesn’t necessarily have a certain look to it,” said Montiero. “I’m a Puerto Rican-Italian, like through and through, when it comes down to culture. I think culturally I’m more Puerto Rican than I am anything else. When it comes down to who I hang out with, the things I do, the food I eat, it is culturally Hispanic and someone would look at me and never know that. And I think that’s the cool part about it. You could be a dark-haired dark-skinned Hispanic, you could be a light-skinned Hispanic, anyone really could be and they don’t even realize it. I think at the end of the day, enter every interaction with an open mind because you don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t know who you’re talking to and what their cultures might be, they may know more about your Spanish heritage than you do.”
“Okay,” said Campana. “Time to eat!”
Trooper Mom’s Pernil
- pork shoulder
- olive oil
- chopped Elephant garlic
- 2 packages of Sazón
- Stab pork shoulder all over with sharp knife in order to allow marinade to soak in
- Mix all the marinade ingredients very well in a small bowl. Note: Trooper Mom doesn’t use salt in her cooking, but you can add salt to taste if you like
- Use a basting brush to completely cover pernil with the marinade. Both sides, under skin, rub it all in there.
- Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once oven is ready, bake covered for two hours, then uncovered for two-two and a half hours until pork is fully cooked.
- Carve and enjoy!
Trooper Mom’s Arroz con Gandules
- olive oil
- 2 cans of beans
- 2 packages of Sazón
- In your rice pot, cover bottom with olive oil and two heaping spoonfuls of sofrito.
- Drain bean cans, saving the liquid from the cans.
- Add the cans of dry beans to the rice pot. Add Sazón.
- Cook and mix everything until sizzling well.
- Add the bean can liquid, and about a third of a can full of additional water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add two cups of rice.
- Bring to boil again; then cover, simmer on medium heat stirring occasionally until rice is fluffy.
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