Cuban Pork Chops

25 10 2009

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Ok, here is where we come face to face with the cold truth about most of my non-baking or nutrition-related recipes: I simply don’t measure.

I imagine it would be better if I did, but I think to a certain degree that does folks trying to follow them a disservice.  I don’t know what your tomatoes taste like, or how much of a particular spice you prefer.

So, for this one, I will include some guesstimates in parentheses, but by no means are any exact, so you may have to tweak it out a little to taste as you go. That’s half the fun of cooking anyways, isn’t it?  Making it your own!

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Cuban Pork Chops

This recipe was inspired by a mojo sauce Aaron Sanchez made on the old Food Network show “Melting Pot” some time in the early 2000’s.  The show featured a rotating line-up of chefs highlighting their particular brand of ethnic cuisine: Aaron and Alex Garcia did Latin, Michael Symon and Wayne Harley Brachman did Eastern European, etc.   Rocco DiSpirito and Cat Cora were among the other now ubiquitous chefs that made early FoodTV appearances in the “Melting Pot” kitchen.

I and so many others have loved this dish because of its unique flavor combination and ease of preparation.  You pretty much just bang it all in a pot and wait.  Hooray for stewy dishes!

Pork Chops (I usually use 4 thick, center cut ones)

olive oil (1T)
orange juice (1 3/4 c)
lime juice (1/4c)
chicken stock (2c)
Spanish onions (2 large)
cumin (2T)
thyme (1 sprig)
bay  (1 leaf)
salt
pepper

Liberally sprinkle the chops with salt, pepper and cumin and brown on both sides in a medium pot over medium high heat.  Cast iron enamel works best for the overall success of the dish.  If your chops are large or bone-in, you may have to do this in batches, but it is definitely worth dirtying one more dish to achieve the deliciousness that only comes from properly-browned meat.

Next, slice your onions into rings and add them into the pot.  Toss in your thyme sprig and bay.  Stir until they are coated in the oil and heavenly pork juices and cook them down for about five minutes.  Then, you’ll add your liquids (orange juice, lime juice and chicken stock) to cover, and stir in the remaining cumin.  The lime juice is added to mimic the flavor of the sour orange often used in Latin cuisine.  If the totals above do not cover your meat and onions, just add more chicken stock.  Any more citrus and the sweet/sour balance will likely be thrown off.

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer over low heat.  Next is where your patience will pay off.  In my opinion, pork is best enjoyed only two ways: just barely done, with a bit of pink left and perfectly juicy, or cooked nearly beyond the point of recognition, where it begins to disintegrate into the dish.  Here, we’re going for the latter.

I don’t think I’ve ever served this without letting it go for a good two hours, but it can easily stand more.  You know it’s done when a wooden spoon is all you need to break the chops in two and the oniony sauce has reduced to the consistency of a loose marmalade.  Sometimes I’ll leave the lid off for the last thirty minutes or so to achieve this.

I like to serve them with beans and rice.  You’ll find Alex’s scrumptious recipe for them here, and my “reverse guacamole.”  It is also quite delicious the next day, cold or hot, in corn tortillas with avocado.

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