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Havana-gila! • Brooklyn Paper

Havana-gila!

Chef Ricardo Barreras, owner of Pilar Cuban Eatery in Clinton Hill, holds a plate of arroz con pollo — or saffron chicken and rice. He created a kosher version of the dish when he cooked a Sabbath meal for the East Midwood Jewish Center.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Qué nosh up!

A faith-forward foodie showed observers that a kosher Cuban meal was a delicious brocheh when he cooked a sumptuous Sabbath feast at a Midwood synagogue that had the entire congregation clamoring for seconds.

Clinton Hill chef Ricardo Barreras whipped up the luscious dinner — free of swine and dairy — for the East Midwood Jewish Center on Oct. 28 as part of the center’s sizzling menu of special events, and came away astounded by the reaction to his fabulous fare.

“People were actually asking me about recipes!” said the head chef of the Cuban restaurant Pilar, who went the whole hog with his sensory banquet of black bean soup with crispy plantains, followed by a risotto-like dish of rice and chicken called arroz con pollo, and salted cod in a tomato and pepper sauce, offically known as bacalao a la vizcaina.

Barreras proved that he was a kosher-keeping sport, too.

He whet the appetite first by mixing up a silken batch of kosher mojitos, and didn’t bellyache about making his Jewish diners a spread free of pig meat.

“Only 20 percent of Cuban food has pork in it anyway,” he said.

The gastronome also gulped down an indigestible part of the challenge with ease, leaving behind his own knives and other equipment — a near-taboo for genius chefs! — to comply with the temple’s strict food preparation rules.
“We had 40 whole chickens to carve up with a steak knife!” he bragged proudly.

The mission was accomplished — and the experiment of bringing Cuban food to an orthodox Jewish venue a palate-pleasing one — according to Audrey Korelstein, the center’s education director.

“We just love good food!” she raved.

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