Thursday, February 25, 2010

Costillas de Puerco Con Mojo (Cuban-style Pork Spareribs)

Marinading meats in "mojo" (pronounced mo-ho... yes I know it sounds funny... hehe) is a very common thing to do in cuban cooking which is simply in it's purist form lime or bitter orange, salt, and garlic this simple combination is the back bone of many Cuban meat dishes and roasts and formed into a sauce to be consumed with boiled yuca or other starchy tubers. Of course some add certain things too it depending on what they are cooking.

This week my Tata (grandmother) was craving some Cuban style pork ribs roasted in the oven in delicious mojo sauce, fall of the bone tender with lots of savory sauce to pour over the meat and rice :)

I know I know many might be wondering when the hell is Nathan gonna post a "lechon asado" (Cuban whole roast pork) or "Pierna de Puerco Asada" (pork leg roast) all of which are typical, but to be honest I still havent perfected it. I can never get the perfect crispy skin on the pork leg, but a fatty pork shoulder with no skin to crisp I can pull off very well. I'll post in the future when I can be proud of it ha ha. I basically marinade it the same way I do to pork ribs except I need to figure out the perfect cooking method, so til then hold on my fellow foodies :)


-10 lbs. pork spareribs (about 2 racks 5 lbs. each)
-2 cups bitter/ sour orange juice or lime juice (fresh)
-3 heads of fresh garlic, peeled, mashed to a paste with garlic press or use a mortar and pestle
-1 1/2 tablespoons salt (more to taste)
-1 tablespoon oregano (optional)


(1) Clean the racks of pork spareribs by rinsing well with water. Pat dry and place them in a oven pan.

(2) Make garlic into a paste using garlic press, or mortar and pestle, mix it well with salt, and add sour orange or lime juice, mix well. If using oregano add it to the mixture. This is considered your "mojo"

Pour and rub all over pork ribs, cover with plastic and refridgerate over night (up to 24 hours)
(4) Next day EARLY IN THE MORNING so they will be ready by dinner time (like I put them at 10 AM and finished them at 5 pm), unwrap and seal really well with aluminum foil. Pre-heat oven at 220 degrees Fahrenheit and put the pork ribs in.
(5) Allow to cook at that temperature approximately 6 hours (yeah it's a long time but they will be really tender. and it's not hard at all just put them in the oven and forget about them and go on with your day), then uncover and raise heat to 425 degrees fahrenheit for 30- 60 minutes to allow to brown on top. I had to rotate the bottom ribs with the top one's because the one's at the bottom doesn't get to much heat. Remove and allow to rest 5-10 minutes.

(6) They are ready to serve, You can cut in or rip'em out and eat with whatever you'd like :) Preferably some fluffy white rice and black beans with a nice simple salad or plantains or boiled yuca (you know the traditional side dishes) I didn't make a complete traditional meal, I just accompanied with some leftover white rice, my mom had cooked a white bean stew, I had tons of turnip greens in the fridge which I sauteed to serve in place of the salad and starchy tubers. But it was still delicious non the less. Mmmm.... and for a after dinner treat I made some "Churros"to satisfy the sweet tooth, I ended up eating them before dinner, while they were hot and just out of the frying pan (which if you don't know what they are you might live under a rock :)
*I know the mojo I made has no "spices", simply because we just like a very traditional simple mojo. But I know there's people that really like to use a lot of spices in their mojo, if your one of them you can add ground black pepper, ground cumin, and oregano to the pork marinade and throw a couple bay leaves if desired all proportions to taste. Hey this is probably not traditional or typical at all, but maybe some toasted ground coriander seeds would be delicious too, for those that like to be more adventuress.

*You can actually remove he meat and put it in the broiler to brown and serve seperate from the mojo sauce. My grandmother was stubborn that she wanted the bottom part browned, but I felt like it was redundant and to much of a pain in the @$ she got mad and told me she's not gonna eat them she was like, "Entonces no me las como chico, bruto que eres" (then I won't eat them boy, your dumb), and I told her, "Pues no te las comas chica me las como yo" (well girl don't eat I'll eat them), and she said, "Pues cometalas todas" (well eat them all), and I told her, "Pue' gracias caray punto se acabo" (well thanks dang, end of story), I've put up with bull sh@t all my life and quiet frankly didn't feel like putting up with it today, there's leftovers in the fridge I can heat up for her to eat :) ... "mal'criada" (poorly raised is direct translation means spoiled brat) and yeah sometimes we are kinda like a Cuban household so talking like that isn't rude... well turns out my grandmother LOVED them, she told me she hated them and didn't talk to me, but she ate them and later that night she told, "Estaban ricas, nunca me an salido tan tiernas a mi, y se doraron bastante bien, PERO mejor quedarian si estubieran doradas de abajo" (they were good I've never made them so tender, and they were nicely browned) and I said, "Ya ves, bueno otro tiempo que las prepare las voy a sacar del mojo, hervir el mojo aparte pa' matarle bacteria y dorarlas de todos lados en la parilla del horno" (translates to next time I'll take it out of the mojo sauce when it's real tender and ready to uncover then I'll brown it on all sides on high heat in the broiler, and boil the mojo sauce seperately to serve with the meat)

I love my Tata (grandmother) we just have tough love I guess, in the end we love each other and there are no hard feelings :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pollo Asado en Cazuela (Chicken Roasted in Pan)

Pollo Asado en Cazuela literally translates to "Chicken Roasted in Pan" I don't understand why this name was given to this dish since the meat is actually braised rather than roasted, but oh well that's what it's known as and or called.

This recipe is the common Cuban version of the dish, which is simply marinading Chicken in a mojo, browning it, de-glazing with wine, and simmering it with onions. Simple.

The recipe I got it from Rox's from "The Yuca Diaries" when she commented on my "Pollo Frito a la Criolla" which is almost identical to this except I made a really garlicky, plentiful mojo sauce, and simmered the chicken in a huge amount of mojo with typical cuban spices with onions no wine or anything and does need long marination time as well. She told me how that chicken recipe reminded her of her grandmother's "Pollo Asado en Cazuela" and she gave me a brief on what it had and how it's done. Other Cuban recipes are online just like this one to (well with different ratio's and the addition of black pepper) so I'm guessing this recipe is something fairly common that everyone prepares more or less the same way... although I've seen Spaniard make dishes with that name and it's slightly different.

I also saw this recipe on line and am not sure who's the source since it's all over the net and all sorts of sites. One of them cited as being from "Andy Natal from Torrance, California" so maybe she's the source of all those online recipes of it, or all CUban make it the same, idk.

-1 whole chicken (cleaned, cut into segments)
-3-6 cloves garlic (3 if you want it real mild for you know... the "American pallet"...)
-1/2 cup sour orange or lemon or lime (your preference)
-salt to taste
-lard or oil
-1 large onion thickly julienned
-1/2 cup white wine
-1 bay leaf

(1) Marinade chicken with salt, garlic, and sour orange juice. Let marinade 1 hour to over night if you have time.
(2) Afterwards, heat lard or oil on really high heat, and brown chicken all over, set aside.
(3) Sautee onions, de-glaze with white wine.
(4) Throw chicken and bay leaf and simmer 25- 35 minutes.
(3) It's done simple. Serve with white rice and a salad.
Please Note:
*If you want to you don't have to marinade the chicken just season it, and straight into the pan to brown and continue the recipe, of course it won't be as good.

*Also you can do this with the whole chicken without cutting it, just brown the whole chicken all over nad throw wine and cover to simmer for a while. but I don't like it like that.

*Some people like to add potatoes. In that case I highly recommend adding 1 cup water. Or instead fry some potatoes to serve on the side.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nathan's Sopa de Pollo Estilo Cubano (Nathan's Cuban-style Chicken Soup)

What makes a Chicken soup "Cuban style" well what I've noticed is Cuban chicken soups usually have noodles, shredded- deboned chicken, and some type of root vegetable or other starchy veggie depends what the cook likes any combination or use of malanga/ taro, yuca, plantains, potatoes, calabaza, corn, etc. it's up to personal preference.

There are many versions of Cuban chicken, in my version I make a really well seasoned golden stock, to which I like to use Calabaza/ orange fleshed squash, potatoes, and I like to separately simmer yellow plantains to those that like these sweet morsels added to their soup. I also like to fry the noodles added to the soup prior to simmering them because it gives them a delicious toasty flavor, and beautiful color, and it also doesn't let the noodles turn to much or release all their starch into the soup.

The result is a fragrant golden broth married with chunks of sweet starchy orange fleshed calabaza, golden colored potatoes, sweet plantains, , toasty fried noodles and tender melt in your mouth shredded chicken that has everything you need and can stand alone as a meal.

Try my recipe you won't regret it. It is simply comfort food.

Ingredients for stock:
-1 whole chicken or 3- 4 lbs. bone in chicken meat
-1/2 a bunch of cilantro
-1 green bell pepper cut int0 4 pieces
-1 onion quartered
-8 cloves garlic, peeled left whole
-3 tomatoes quartered
-2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
-1 teaspoonful ground cumin
-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1 teaspoon oregano
-salt to taste I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons
-1/2- 1 teaspoon bijol/ anatto seed powder, or achiote, or "colorante" or saffron

Ingredients for rest of soup:
-1- 2 lbs. Calabaza (peeled and cut into chunks)
-2 large potatoes (peeled cut into chunks)
-3-4 yellow to yellow spotted plantains
-1/2 lbs. which is half a bunch spaghetti, angel hair, or "Fideos"
-extra-virgin olive oil (for frying noodles)
-1/2 a bunch fresh cilantro minced or minced scallion or green onion leaves (for color) also parsley works well too. I use Cilantro because my mother and I love it.


(1) In a large pot, fill with enough water to cover chicken (maybe 14 cups more or less I eye ball it) add 1/2 cilantro bunch, bell pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, chicken bouillon, cumin, ground black pepper, oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Clean chicken well, leave or remove skin depends on your preference. I like to wash it twice, then wash it in freshly squeezed lime, salt, and water, rinse again in water, and strain. (yes I'm picky sometimes). Add chicken to pot.

(2) Bring everything to a boil on really high heat, then cover and simmer on medium to medium low45 minutes to 1 hour.
(3) Afterwards, remove chicken, set aside,
strain the stock so your left with only the stock. (you don't want to eat those vegetables that been boiling forever in there, they are just for flavor and release their essence into the stock anyways)
(4) Now add bijol or saffron to the stock, bring it to a boil on high heat, add calabaza and potatoes.
(5) Meanwhile fry the noodles until golden in olive oil, drain on paper towels then throw into the boiling stock with calabaza and potatoes (once it has boiled for about10 minutes since they take longer to cook than the noodles), cover and boil for about 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked.
(6) Now during this time, de-bone and shred the chicken, add it to the pot. Turn off heat and add minced cilantro for color, that's when the dish will look beautiful other wise it will look unappealing because the sea of yellow will be to strong :)

(7) You though I forgot about the plantains, well I didn't I like to cook them separately. Bring water to a boil, wash plantains, cut ends, and cut them into large rounds leave peel on, boil in water and when they are tender about 20- 30 minutes, they will be swollen and almost popping out of their skins. Take as much as you want, peel it and add it to your bowl of soup. Cook the plantains with whatever time you have in between the cooking of the soup.
(8) I like to serve the soup as a stand alone dish, some people like to eat it with bread or even rice, that's too much carbs for me but to each their own I say. If you wish serve with lime or lemon wedges,

If interested in seeing other Cuban Chicken soups several Cuban cooks have made delicious one's each different in it's own way I'll list them below so you all can see :)

(1) Marilyn's Cuban Chicken Soup from her blog "My Cuban Traumas" her version is a redish golden broth with typical Cuban sofrito flavor (garlic, onion, bell peppers) with potatoes, carrots, celery, and corn and of course noodles and shredded chicken meat.

(2) Marcia's Cuban Chicken Soup featured the blog "Cuban Home Cooking" is more simple, she uses no spices, and makes a simple stock with tomato, onion, and garlic she likes to use a combination of taro/ malanga, potatoes, plantains, and carrot.

(3) Marta's Cuban Chicken soup from "My Big Fat Cuban Family" uses a ready made chicken broth, kicked up with a cilantro, scallion lemon flavor. She likes a combination of ripe plantains, yuca, and potatoes, and like the rest of them yes noodles and shredded chicken.

(4) Lastly Bren from Flanboyanteats showed her mother's version of Cuban Chicken soup, more similar to mine, except no spices, she uses scallions and basil leaves instead of cilantro, doesn't discard the veggies instead liquifies them and adds them back to the stock, and uses a combination of taro/ malanga, potato, squash, and corn.


All those recipes are good and unique in their own way, I just like mine the way it is though :) Also my grandmother doesn't like potato in her chicken soup, she makes it just like me EXCEPT she doesn't fry the noodles and uses a combination of only calabaza, corn, and separately boils plantains which she considers "optional"