Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork

I'm going to be completely honest with you right from the starting gate: I make this recipe mostly for the leftovers. The day one dish is delicious too, company-worthy even, particularly if hunks of flavorful, marinated meat are your thing. I love meat as much as the rest of 'em, but I came to the realization recently that I especially love it when my meat is married to a slice of ooey gooey cheese and sandwiched between two layers of buttered bread and then grilled. Meet the Cubano sandwich, the sequel recipe to this roast.

But first things first: your meal for night one. Awhile back, some foodie friends of ours invited us over for Croque-Monsieurs. I said my usual "Yum!" (because everything they make is delicious) and accepted the invitation, naively thinking I knew what it was we would be eating. I was envisioning meat and cheese layered inside bread and subsequently dipped in egg and fried, creating a sandwich-meets-french-toast delicacy. Not quite. At least I got the meat and cheese part right! Anyway, sandwiches aren't typically the go-to kind of meal you invite company over for. Unless they are really, really good. Which of course these ones were. I ate one and then splurged on half of another because, well, I just couldn't help it.

These friends who made us the sandwiches are the kind of people who can cook without a recipe and the results are epic, even on the first go. They use yummy ingredients (which they often try and credit) but it's undeniable that, added to that, is a whole lot of natural skill. When you ask them how they made something, they'll easily recite off the list of ingredients but Lord knows, your feeble attempt at re-creating the dish will pale in comparison. I am one who needs a recipe. WRITTEN DOWN. That you actually adhered to. Otherwise I'm screwed (though arguably I'm getting better!)

After our delicious exposure to company-worthy sandwiches, I began my own personal quest for a version of my own to add to our repertoire. Which is how I ended up with our new family favorite: the Cubano. But first, the means to this end: Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork. I've never been to Cuba but I'm pretty positive I'd love it there. Marinated meat, rice and beans, plantains and mojitos? How could one go wrong?

This recipe is what I picture Cuba would taste like. Fresh citrus juices and zest combine with herbs and cumin to create a delicious marinade for pork shoulder. The longer the pork marinates, the better so plan ahead for this one. After marinating overnight, the pork is roasted in the oven and the fruit juices that have soaked into the meat begin to caramelize, creating a flavorful, crispy crust. The meat is allowed to rest and then sliced into large chunks. It is best served with black beans and rice, sauteed plantains (maduros - recipe to come soon!) and of course a mojito in hand.

Therefore I present to you, what began as "a means to an end" recipe that, as it turns out, makes a mighty fine meal for company just as it is!

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork
(adapted from

3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and pepper
4 and 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder*

In a food processor, pulse orange juice, cilantro, mint leaves, and smashed garlic cloves until everything is finely chopped. Add this mixture to a gallon-size ziplock bag, along with the oil, orange zest, lime juice, oregano, cumin and 1 tsp each Kosher salt and pepper, and shake to mix. Then add the pork shoulder.

Marinate pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the pork on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet discard the marinade. Salt and pepper the pork well. Roast the pork for 30 minutes until lightly browned.

Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F. Roast for another 1 hour and 20-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degree F. Transfer to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest at least 20 minutes.

Carve against the grain and serve.

Yield: 6 servings + extras for Cubanos on day 2

*I've used a bone-in pork shoulder too and it works just fine! The bone just makes it a bit trickier to slice and serve.

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posted by kelsie