Printed with Permission of the Alpine Avalanche
Greg Green has been serving up Cuban-inspired meals with a West Texas flair since October 2015 when he opened his food truck, The Smokin’ Cuban. Located at 412 E. Holland Avenue in Alpine, The Smokin’ Cuban shares a shady yard and picnic tables with Harry’s Tinaja.
A self-proclaimed, “bad employee but good boss,” Greg decided it was time to be his own boss. His original plan was to have a fried chicken truck, but smoked foods pulled at him. Growing up on a nearby ranch, smoked meats were part of ranch-life. One day, after smoking a pork butt to use in Cuban sandwiches, the flavor of the tender meat in the sandwich had a friend say, “This is a smokin’ Cuban!” And with that, The Smokin’ Cuban was born.
Cuban food is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines, resulting in a flavorful blend of those cultures. A typical Cuban meal consists of rice and beans, cooked together or separately. When cooked together, the recipe is called either “Congri,” “Moros” or “Moros y Cristianos” (black beans and rice). If cooked apart, it is called “Arroz con/y Frijoles” (rice with/and beans).
A Cuban sandwich is made with ham, roasted (or smoked) pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard (and sometimes salami) on Cuban bread that is pressed similar to the Italian panini. Some believe the Cuban sandwich was a common lunch for workers in the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba and Key West back in the mid-1800s, but it’s hard to really know where it originated.
Not long after our seafood-filled trip to the coast last month, we drove past The Smokin’ Cuban food truck in Alpine. There was a sign outside that read, “Fresh Gulf Shrimp.” Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Was it just wishful thinking? Or, could it be true?
Within days, I began seeing The Smokin’ Cuban’s ads on social media, touting Gulf Shrimp Po’boys and Fish Tacos. My eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on me… it was true!
On Saturday, I checked the menu online and the seafood items were still the specials, so I called in our order. When we arrived, Greg had just packaged our shrimp sandwich, fish tacos, chile-lime fries and black beans with rice. We sat at a picnic table at Harry’s Tinaja to enjoy our fresh Gulf seafood out in the beautiful far West Texas sunshine. I don’t think we spoke to each other while eating, other than to say how delicious it was.
Blackened Grouper taco and Blackened Shrimp Po’boy…
When Greg came over to check on us after I gave my husband one of my Blackened Grouper Tacos and he gave me half of his Blackened Shrimp Po’boy, all I could do was thank him for bringing such tasty Gulf seafood to us in the Trans Pecos. His buddy, who was sitting nearby, said, “I brought it here!” Turns out, Terrance Gentry of Cowboy Seafood makes regular trips down to the docks to pick up seafood fresh off the boats, “bringing fresh, wild caught seafood from the Gulf to the desert.” Call Terrance at (361)877-4540 or email him at CowboySeafood@gmail.com.
Open Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. and also 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., you can stop by and place your order or call it in at (432)244-9900. If you do call it in, tell Greg what time you’ll be there so he can have your meal fresh off the grill and ready. On occasion, Greg serves breakfast tacos and pizzas… check out http://www.thesmokincuban.com and give The Smokin’ Cuban and Cowboy Seafood a “like” on Facebook.
Cuban Arroz con Frijoles
(inspired by The Smokin’ Cuban)
1 lb. dried black beans
6 cups water
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 slice cooked and crumbled bacon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
Common toppings: chopped green onion, chopped hard boiled eggs, sour cream
In a large stockpot cover beans with water and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for one hour. Drain water and cover with fresh water (6 cups).
In a skillet saute the onions, bell pepper and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, until tender. Add onion mixture and all remaining ingredients, except the red wine vinegar, to the beans and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer covered for 2 hours, until beans are tender. Add more water if necessary. At the last minute add the red wine vinegar, just before serving. Serve with 2 cups of cooked rice and top with chopped green onions, chopped hard boiled eggs or sour cream.