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~ Side-Dish: Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice ~

IMG_4820Roast requires a side-dish.  Beef, goat, lamb, poultry or pork -- it's kind of mandatory that a side or sides be served with it.  Think about it, even if you're just making sandwiches out of the roasted meat, you still want some sort of side-dish (a soup, a salad, a starch and/or a vegetable, or, something as simple as a some potato chips and a pickle).  If the roast is a dish you've been making for years, the accompaniments require little thought -- you know the options, your family's preferences, and, you choose from recipes you know.  That said, if the roast you're preparing is "foreign to you" or "new to you and yours", deciding on what to serve with it can be confounding.  I know, I had to get creative this week after I made some Cuban-style pulled pork. If I do say so myself, using what I already had on hand in my pantry, in conjunction with some of the ingredients from the pork, worked out terrific -- "my side" was in keeping with the country of origin too.

IMG_4828Pulled pork is popular in many parts of the Caribbean, and, when cooked in the traditional manner, just like throughout The Barbecue Belt here in the USA, they go:  whole hog, low and slow, over carefully-tended wood-fired heat sources for a long period of time.  That said, depending on where you are in the Caribbean, it is seasoned and/or sauced differently.   The first time I ordered Cuban-style pulled pork, which arrived in the form of their signature Cubano sandwich, I ordered it because I like pulled pork.  What I didn't know was how uniquely-different it would be from the Southern-style barbecue I was used to.  The difference between a Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich and a Cuban-style pulled pork sandwich is astounding -- the bold citrus and fresh herb flavors (in place of vinegar) were up my alley.  I knew I needed to figure out how to make it at home -- in a manner that didn't require an entire hog or building a barbecue pit.

IMG_4812My experiences with Cuban food are limited to a few trips to Miami. "Mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it's a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.  Thanks to great recipes in the seven Cuban cookbooks I purchased in Florida, I've been able to bring the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen.

IMG_4783Cuban-style pulled pork was the first Cuban recipe I tried.  I decided upon it, not just because I loved it in Miami, but because I already had a tried-and-true oven-method for making Carolina-style pulled pork. After several trips to a few Miami restaurants, I knew that a lot of Cuban food is served with yellow rice -- made yellow with the addition of annatto (an orange-red powder or food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree).  I also knew that a lot of Cuban food is also served with black beans as a side-dish.

I don't claim the following recipe to be authentic Cuban.  I claim it to be a quick and tasty way to transform Cuban pulled pork into a kid-friendly, family-style meal -- simply by using a store-bought Spanish rice mix and a can of black beans (both of which are always on hand in my American pantry).  I prepare the rice as the package directs, and, I simmer the black beans in some of the mojo from my Cuban-style pulled pork, which infuses the beans with the same flavor as the pork.

IMG_47581  8-ounce box Goya Spanish rice mix

1  15-ounce can black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed

3/4  cup mojo sauce, from pulled pork (See Cook's Note below.)

IMG_4816 (1)~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, prepare the rice as directed on box, remove from heat, cover and set aside. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and set aside.  Wash saucepan and return to stovetop.

IMG_4763 IMG_4767 IMG_4770 IMG_4771 IMG_4773 IMG_4779~Step 2.  In a small colander, under cold running water, rinse the black beans, then place them in saucepan.  Add mojo, adjust heat to simmer simmer and cook until almost no liquid remains in pan, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir beans into the rice, or, serve beans atop a bed of rice, or, serve separately and let everyone stir them together on their plate -- with Cuban-style pulled-pork, roast pork or pork chops.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves & lime wedges:

IMG_4823Side-Dish:  Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice:  Recipe yields 4 cups rice/1 1/2 cups beans/4-6 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-2-quart saucepan w/lid; 1- 2- cup measuring container; large spoon; small colander

IMG_4666Cook's Note:  Mojo is not just a marinade for Cuban-style pulled pork and other meats.  To make about 1 cup of mojo, to use in any Cuban recipe that requires mojo for dipping or drizzling:

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion + 2  tablespoons olive oil (not pictured in this photo)

6  tablespoons olive oil

6  tablespoons orange juice  

1/4  cup  lime juice

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro 

IMG_48312  tablespoons minced, fresh mint

1  tablespoon minced, fresh oregano, no woody stems

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press 

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1/4  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon each:  fine sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

~ Step 1.  In a small bowl stir together the 6 tablespoons oil, citrus juices, fresh-minced fresh herbs, pressed garlic and dried spices.

IMG_4731 IMG_4732 IMG_4739 IMG_4743~Step 2.  In 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until beginning to caramelize, 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly during the last 3-4 minutes to prevent scorching.  Add the olive oil/citrus juice mixture.  Adjust heat to a steady, rapid simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


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