Friday, June 09, 2006

Cuban Pork -- Mojo Workin'

For my birthday, I'm having a large group over for dinner -- Sushi Samba style! I'll do all kinds of sushi for starters, and then serve Cuban and Latin salads, pork and shrimp. Dessert? Coconut flan, of course! In putting my recipes together, I've really dug into Our Latin Table by Fernando Saralegui. A dear friend gave me this book for my birthday a couple of years ago and the best part? Her hand annotations to the best recipes with recommendations, changes, and techniques from one of the best Puerto Rican/Latina cooks I know. The challenge for a single person hosted dinner, of course, is timing. And for this dinner -- since I'll have 16 or so and I'm making sushi, I want to make everything else ahead and put it out buffet style.

If you know Latin, especially Cuban, food, then you know mojo. It shows in all kinds of recipes from vegetables to salads to meat. There are many variations, but mojo is typically lime based with varying amounts of oregano, cumin, and garlic. A hint a sugar helps, too, if your limes are too tangy. Mojo can be used as a marinade, a sauce on its own (reserve some back) or a rub. Here's the basic recipe I used (from Our Latin Table):

10 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp dried oregano
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 fresh squeezed orange juice
juice of two limes
1/8 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all this in the food processor (or blender), and viola, mojo! Now, from here, you can marinate your pork chops (or loin) for a couple of hours, then grill. Or, you can roast and baste. In the interest of working ahead, though, I thought I'd try this in the tagine. I cubed up a pork loin, browned it quickly in a skillet, then threw it in the tagine with the mojo. An hour or so later, the pork was clearly cooked through but I had questions. It seemed tough, it didn't seem to have flavor, it just seemed too plain. I had a bit for dinner, then discouraged, put the whole mess in the fridge.

Today, I pulled it out to reheat for lunch and -- wow, holy cow! The mojo worked! I may have just solved my problem because reheated this pork is pull-apart tender with good flavor and nice sauce. So, the trick may be to make this a day ahead and let the flavors meld. If I marinate it just a bit before cooking, then I think I'll have maximum mojo workin' and a perfect pork round out my Sushi Samba dinner.

Other dishes? Jicama, Orange, Avocado, and Radish Salad with Lime Dressing; Avocado Orange, and Pineapple Salad, with Tropical Basil Vinaigrette; and a Roasted Sweet Corn Salad with Scallops.

1 comment:

braingirl said...

And upon further research, I think I'll stick with this recipe and still cook it in the tagine, but I think I'll switch to a pork shoulder. Recommendations may be that it will hold up a bit better to the slow cooking and I'll get a better, more tender pork -- almost braised.