Cremita de Maiz (Puerto Rican Breakfast Cornmeal Porridge)

I just got back last night from a week in Mexico where I was covering the Cancun-Riviera Maya Food & Wine Festival, as well as checking out some (STUNNING!) restaurants and hotels in the area for an article I'm writing.

The trip was incredible, naturally--it's hard to go wrong in that gorgeous country! But I admit that the 2nd day was...a little rough.

I'm still not sure if it was the result of the first night's admittedly overindulgent tequila tasting dinner or something else, but I spent most of Tuesday feeling queasy and feverish, unable to stomach anything but some bread and a tiny bowl of sopa alfabeto from the hotel children's menu. We had an event that night, but I wisely decided to bid the group farewell and turn in for the night, hours before the sun even set.

I woke up the next day feeling much better, but still cautious about what I ate. (And let me tell you--there are few things more frustrating than having to be cautious about what you eat when you're on an eating trip in Mexico!)

I skipped over the indulgent hotel buffet--which included Mexican women in frilly dresses making tortillas by hand, an assortment of braised meats and salsas to serve over freshly fried tostadas, and an expansive array of sweet pastries--and instead sipped a mug of hot mint tea and nibbled on a piece of bread.

It seemed like the safest option, but what I really wanted...what I really craved to soothe my delicate stomach, was this creamy breakfast from my childhood.

I have dozens of memories of sitting at the kitchen table on cold mornings with a plate of cremita de maiz--essentially a sweet Puerto Rican breakfast cornmeal porridge similar to oatmeal or farina.

The cremita was warm and sweet, and best served with a generous pat of butter that invariably melted and skated off to the side of the dish during the walk from the stove to the kitchen table.

We ate this on those snowy days before school or on chilly weekend mornings, when my mom would whisk it up on the stove then top with a burst of cinnamon. I used to add more butter and a shake of salt, already in love with the contrast of salty-sweet on my tongue.

My mom often meant for us to eat this quickly so that we could get on with our day, but to me it was more than a simple breakfast. I loved how the sunny yellow cream would settle onto a plate when left alone for a few minutes, quickly forming a thin pudding skin over the hills and valleys left by the serving spoon.

I was just as fascinated with the texture as the flavor, much to my mom's chagrin. She'd hurriedly urge me to just eat it so that we could leave for school or the store or errands she'd planned for the day, but I found it difficult to resist, poking at the cream with my finger to make it jiggle just a bit without piercing the skin.

Now as an adult, I can make it and take my time--poking and playing with it all I want. It's creamy sweet comfort that would have been perfect during those iffy mornings in Mexico, but which I can assure you are just as lovely even on days when you're feeling at your best.

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Cremita de Maiz (Puerto Rican Cornmeal Breakfast Porridge)
Serves 2

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/3 cup finely ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon, for serving

Directions
Combine the milk, salt, butter, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir gently just until the milk starts to bubble. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the cornmeal, stirring continuously with a whisk until the porridge thickens--about 10 - 12 minutes. (Note that it will continue to thicken as it cools.)

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and divide into two dishes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately topped with additional butter.  (If you'd like it thinner, stir in an additional half cup of warm milk.)



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