Monday, April 02, 2007

The Cubano and the Rogue Starling (coming soon to a theatre near you!)

Last week was a really busy one! At work, I had students coming in for advising to make their fall schedules, plus all my public speaking students were coming by to show me drafts of their speech outlines which, truth to tell, takes a lot out of me. And then, I had double rehearsals during the week for the big Gershwin concert on Saturday night. To be brutally honest, we needed another couple of weeks to be really ready, but it went alright. We certainly had fun performing, and there was a great turnout, and the audience truly seemed to enjoy it. Then again, how could anyone not enjoy such classics as Embraceable You, They Can't Take That Away from Me, Fascinating Rhythm, Someone to Watch Over Me, S'Wonderful, Our Love is Here to Stay, I Got Rhythm, Love Walked In, and even a Porgy and Bess medley, including Summertime. I just love the standards! Anyway, I didn't have time to post anything last week, but I promise to make up for it this week (now that choir rehearsals are done, and I have all this "free time" on my hands! ha ha).

Let me start by sharing another one of my infamous crock pot conversion recipes. I ran across a pork roast in the freezer recently and decided that, instead of doing Asian/teriyaki or Germanic things to it, that I might try a version of Cuban pork. You see, it was my great pleasure to visit Miami for the first time a couple of years ago on my spring break, and I was introduced to all sorts of ethnic delights, from Kosher Thai (basically, that just means no shrimp in your pad thai) to Peruvian rotisserie chicken to lots and lots of fabulous Cuban food (love those fried plantains!). And I have been craving Cuban food ever since! I haven't even been able to locate a Cuban restaurant in Montreal, though I would be more than willing to make the drive. In the meantime, I thought I might try my hand at some Cuban pork at home. This would be the sort of thing that you marinade in an adobo sauce for up to two days, and then wrap in banana leaves and roast in a big pit in your back yard all day until all your friends and neighbors show up to feast. However, given the lack of available banana leaves in the North Country and my unwillingness to dig a pit, I wondered if I could make a reasonable simulation in my trusty crock pot. And guess what? You can! Oh, I know it's not authentic, but it sure was tasty. And now that King Arthur has posted a recipe for how to make Cuban bread at home (great minds must have been thinking alike!), I can use the leftover pork to make one of my very favorite sandwiches, the Cubano. A Cubano is made with the special Cuban bread, yellow mustard, some sliced Cuban pork, sliced serrano ham, swiss cheese and pickles (but traditionally, never mayo, lettuce or tomatoes). Then there is another version that's served on sweet, eggy bread (try King's Hawaiian rolls or Portguese sweet rolls if you can find them) called a Medianoche sandwich, so-called for being a tasty, midnight snack in the night clubs of the 40's and 50's (or so sayeth the Wikipedia).

However, with the pork roast I made, I just fashioned a basic pulled pork sandwich on some kaiser rolls that I happened to have. The wonderful bloggers over at An Endless Banquet (from whom I swiped this recipe) recommend serving this with a simple salad of carrots, lime juice, scallions, and cilantro, which I actually think would make a great topper for the sandwich if you used shredded carrots--kind of like southern pulled pork barbecue sandwich with cole slaw or chow-chow on top. But I used one of my own homemade condiments instead, a carrot-ginger-garlic-hot pepper sauce that I made to sell at the farmer's market last year. Delish! And then, of course, you MUST serve your Cuban pork with black beans and rice. You can make your own black beans if you have the time and desire, but in a pinch, Trader Joe's makes decent canned ones. Here's a pic and the recipe:

Puerco Asado a la Cubana

(Source: adapted from

bone-in pork roast, 3-4 lbs.

Adobo Marinade:
2 whole heads of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably, Mexican)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoons ground bay leaves (I didn't have any ground, so I threw in 2-3 whole ones in with the pork while it marinated)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sour orange juice or lime juice (I used a combination of 3/4 cup frozen limeade concentrate and 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate mixed with a cup of water which yielded a sweeter result)
1/2 cup dry sherry (I omitted this)
2 large onions, sliced thinly
fresh coriander (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Put the garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, pepper, (ground) bay leaves, and olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree. Add 1 cup of the citrus juice and mix. Rub this mixture all over the pork roast. Place the pork in a large, sturdy plastic bag (I used a huge Tupperware bowl with a lid) with the sherry (if using) and the onions. Marinate the pork overnight (or up to 48 hours), turning it on several occasions to marinate the meat evenly.

After the pork has been marinated, place it in your crock pot with the other cup of citrus juice and cook on high for about eight hours, or until it starts to fall apart and the bones come right out of the meat with no effort. The pork should have an internal temperature of well over 160º F when fully cooked, although Cubans like their pork well done, about 180º F. Shred your pork and season it lightly with salt and pepper. If you like, you can then dress the meat with a mojo sauce (recipe follows), but after tasting the pork that I made, I decided that it was flavorful enough on its own without gilding the lily. But that's a decision we each must make for ourselves...

Mojo Sauce:
1/2 cup olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2/3 cup fresh sour orange juice (or 1/2 cup fresh lime juice + 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice)
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and a pale golden brown, being careful not to let it become brown, at which point it will begin to turn bitter. Stir in the lime juice, water, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and be prepared for the sauce to sputter a bit. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Turn the heat off and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then stir in the cilantro. Serve the mojo in a jar, a bottle, or out of a bowl with a serving spoon. Shake or mix well before serving.

Before I wrap this up and post, I have an amusing story from the weekend to share. I was sitting in the living room doing something on the computer, when I heard a big ruckus in the front room. So I ran in there to see what had happened, and all three cats had gathered, and they were acting kind of manic and making weird noises. Then I notice that they were all looking over at the pine shelves where I keep my overflow of pots and pans and bakeware and such. And LOOK at what was perched on my stock pot! Somehow, a young starling had found its way into the house (I suspect, through a torn screen in the basement).

Before Fat Felix (pictured) and the rest of his evil cohorts could do the birdie a great mischief, I scooped them all up and locked them in the back bedroom. Then I opened the front door and proceeded to try to flush the bird out of the house with a broom. But he kept flying around and missing the door, eventually crashing into a window (poor thing). So while he was still circling the airport, I scooped him up and set him out on the porch railing to collect his wits for a few minutes before he flew off. I guess spring is finally here!


Randi said...

I don't care for ham that much, but I really like the cubanos. Do you have a favorite cuban restaurant in Miami? I wanted to take Robin for cuban food on our last trip, but we didnt make it. I'm going back in May though so I'll probably attempt it again.

Randi said...

Btw, spring is here too, but in a few days we're supposed to have effing flurries again!! Damnit all to hell!!!