Lechón Asado / Cuban Pulled Pork
This one is my husband's very favorite meal.
Every culture seems to have a particularly special roasted pork dish. In the Southeast United States we have barbecued pork, or pulled pork, that is typically smoked and then served with a signature sauce depending on which region/state you happen to be having that BBQ. We also commonly call pulled pork simply "barbecue" / BBQ / Bar-B-Q / Bar-B-Que in the South. BBQ can also refer to ribs, brisket, anything smoked or cooked on a grill, etc. It is typically bought by the pound along with buns and sides like coleslaw, baked beans, greens, mac-n-cheese. Can we all say yum??
I have very vivid memories of the most popular little BBQ joint in my hometown growing up. It was called Armour's Bar-B-Que. I WISH I had a photo of the inside for you all...and for myself. It was in a small, red brick building on the edge of town right on Main Street in Humboldt, TN. We would park in front, right off the street, in one of 5 or so parking spots and run in to grab our family dinner after my parents got off work. There was a glass front door and a window beside it that didn't let in much light. It was always kind of dark and my memories have it a tinge smoky inside...maybe from the BBQ smoker or maybe from customers smoking cigarettes. There were tables with chairs for dining and there was a long bar across the back wall. I never cared about sitting at the tables to eat or even staying to eat but I always wanted to sit at the bar while we waited on our order. There were round barstools that were made to spin around and covered in RED GLITTERY vinyl. I though they were the coolest things ever. I had no idea why my parents wouldn't have something like that in our house back then!? Behind the bar was a big, rectangular, glowing fish tank with the largest 2 or 3 goldfish I had ever seen inside. They were beautiful and seemed to be floating through the water draped in silk. Only The Father of Color Photography, William Eggleston, could have taken this amazing mental image I have of Armour's :)
So, back to Lechón Asado... If you happen to go to Miami and end up in any Cuban establishment you will run into a dish called Lechón Asado. Order it and enjoy it. This is the Cuban version of pulled pork and it is extremely tasty. The marinade (mojo sauce) imparts a citrusy and extremely garlicky flavor. Delectable.
I would be steering you the wrong way if I did not mention the traditional sides to accompany this pork dish. You need black beans, rice and plantains. More on that after the recipe.
How do we figure out how to make Lechón Asado when we ae not from Cuba? Three Guys From Miami! Their recipe is delicious. I have now tried it 4 times and it has not disappointed. I just recently ordered one of their cookbooks and I cannot wait for the next gathering to try another tasty recipe from these guys. I used the oven method - so I will share that below along with my notes. I hope you have a chance to try this one...it is wonderful!
Cook time: 6 to 7-ish hours
Yield: 8 servings
Cook this roast slowly to make it tender and flavorful.
6-pound fresh ham or pork shoulder roast
20 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 and 1/2 cups sour orange juice (If you can't get sour orange juice in your area, use two parts orange to one part lemon and one part lime)
1 cup onion, minced
2 large onions, sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 and 1/2 cups olive oil
Mash the garlic, salt, and peppercorns together with a mortar and pestle.
Add dried oregano, minced onion, and the sour orange to make a mash - mix thoroughly.
Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan until hot, but NOT deep frying hot! We're looking for something in the neighborhood of 220 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat source. Carefully add the mash to the hot oil and whisk gently. Let cool.
Pierce the pork as many times as you can with a sharp knife or fork.
Pour garlic mixture over pork, cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight.
Tomorrow, reserve all the marinade and cook it on the stovetop before adding it back into the cooked, pulled pork.
OVEN METHOD (additional methods listed here) To roast in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place the fresh ham or pork shoulder, fattest side up, in an open roasting pan. Place pan in oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F. Spoon extra marinade over the roast occasionally as it cooks. Using a meat thermometer, roast should be removed from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees F for fork tender, "pulled-pork" quality. (If you want a roast you can slice, remove when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.) This took my oven about 6 hours at 325. Immediately cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Before the roast is done I simmer the remaining marinade to add into the pork once it is pulled.
Once the marinade is simmering, add the 2 large sliced onions. Watch these closely and adjust the heat as needed so that they become translucent and not burned or browned.
Pull the pork apart with forks/meat claws/hands and incorporate the onions and simmered mojo sauce.
Serve warm with traditional sides.
Servings based on the size of your ham. Allow about 1/4 to 1/2 pound per person, depending on side dishes.
If you want to follow the traditional Cuban meal you'll want the below sides.
Black Beans: I use canned beans, rinse and drain them. I typically take about 1/2 cup marinade and heat it in a pot - then add the beans and heat them all up together. You may need additional salt to taste.
Rice: I have been using Vigo Yellow Rice. You can find it in almost any grocery store. I believe Mahatma is supposed to be very similar if you cannot find Vigo. Prepare according to package.
Plantains/Maduros: A good friend told me about frozen plantains and I have been using them ever since. I have not tried making the maduros myself...one day. These are very widely available as well - frozen section - Goya brand. Just follow the instructions for reheating.
Pick up some soft hoagie style rolls OR Cuban bread if you can find any. The leftovers make amazing sandwiches. Just heat up the pork - melt a piece of Swiss cheese on top and make sure you have some crispy chips to go with.
I hope you try this one - HUGE crowd pleaser!!