Friday, December 25, 2009

Cuban Pork

After decades of doing the same things every Christmas, I decided this year would be different. Instead of a Christmas tree, I would make a gingerbread house. I would bake Christmas cookies, trying a new recipe every weekend. And I would finally end the annual torture inflicted on an innocent piece of roast beef.

My ancestry is mainly English. My family always had roast beef for Christmas in the place of the usual turkey. My mother was a champ at torturing roast beef. There was no medium or rare in her kitchen, only well-done which meant cooking the roast until it was blackened and half of its original size. Eating it was like chewing the proverbial shoe leather.

In my own kitchen, I aimed for rare but usually came up with medium on the outside, rare up to half an inch and raw the rest of the way. After failing year after year for three decades, I think that it’s time I added “properly cooking a roast beef” to the list of skills I am congenitally unable to master. Other items on the list include baking biscuits from scratch, drawing a straight line and crochet.

I pulled a recipe from my “Recipes To Try” folder on my computer that was completely different from my traditional holiday meal. It’s pork, it’s Cuban and it’s cooked in a crockpot. I wouldn’t even have to clean the oven afterwards. Perfect!

I had my doubts at first that I would be able to successfully cook this dish. I unknowingly brought home a pork shoulder with a bone. I’ve never cooked anything in a crockpot that had a bone in it. Would the bone explode? Get all mushy and yucky? Would the marrow melt out into the juices that would be needed when serving the pork?

Marinating is usually a great idea, but I didn’t have a bowl or baking dish large enough or deep enough to accommodate the shoulder of a large mammal. Nor did I have a bag of the correct size. In the end, I used a large salad bowl and (don’t read this if you’re squeamish), a 5-gallon (new, clean) trash bag. When I mixed the marinade (grapefruit juice! Whoda thunkit?), it smelled like garbage. I assured myself that it was just the cumin. After 24 hours, my entire refrigerator smelled like garbage. I was grateful to finally be able to pour the entire thing into my crockpot.

I am happy to report that the garbage smell was transformed into a savory aroma when cooked. So savory that the Fur Patrol was begging for scraps as I shredded the meat. Nothing bad happened to the bones. The meat literally fell off of them. Add onions and salsa and roll in a tortilla and I think I may have my new Christmas tradition. It was that good.

I have included the Pico de Gallo recipe that was part of the original recipe although I didn’t try it myself. I was feeling lazy and opted for a jar of organic salsa.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Cuban Pork

½ cup lime juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup grapefruit juice
3 cloves galic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 3-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 cup sliced onion
Vegetable-flavored flour tortillas or flour tortillas
Pico do Gall or bottled salsa
Lettuce or purchased avocado dip (optional)

For marinade, in a small bowl combine lime juice, water, grapefruit juice, garlic, oregano, salt, cumin, pepper, and bay leaves. Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut roast to fit into slow cooker. With a large fork, pierce meat in several places. Place in a large plastic bag set in a deep bowl or a baking dish. Pour marinade over meat. Close bag. Chill in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hour, turning occasionally.

In a 3-1/2- to 5-quart slow cooker place onion. Top with meat and marinade mixture.

Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.

Transfer meat to a cutting board; cool slightly. Skim fat from juices; keep warm. Remove bay leaves; discard. Use 2 forks to gently separate the meat into shreds. Transfer shredded meat to a serving platter. With a slotted spoon, remove onions from juices. Transfer onions to same serving platter. Serve meat and onions in tortillas with small bowls of the hot juices and Pico de Gallo. If desired, pass lettuce and guacamole.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Pico de Gallo: In a medium bowl combine 2 peeled and finely chopped medium tomatoes, 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon lime juice, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and dash sugar. Mx well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

Recycle: lime juice bottle, grapefruit juice bottle, salsa bottle

Compost: garlic skins, onion skins

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