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~ Caribbean-Style Pork Chops and Onions w/Sauce ~

IMG_0183Porcine arrived in the Caribbean (on the island of Cuba to be more specific) when Columbus landed in 1492.  It's been a favorite meat ever since, and, if you've ever spent time on a Caribbean island, you know there are pork dishes galore to choose from on restaurant menus, and, to eat on the beaches.  Ever heard of "Pig Beach", also known as "Pig Island", officially known as "Big Major Cay"?  Located in Exuma, an Island in the Bahamas, a colony of feral pigs roam around, swim freely, and, are fed by the locals and tourists.  One tale claims the pigs were dropped off by a group of sailors with failed plans to return.  Another story says the pigs swam to shore after a shipwreck, surviving on the the excess food that washed to shore.

IMG_0185Does pork taste better on a Caribbean island?  Yes.

IMG_0235Pork does taste better on a Caribbean island.  At first, I thought it was my imagination -- I told myself everything tastes better on an Island beach after three drinks.  Next, I assumed it had to do with their unique rubs, marinades and seasonings, which are full of garlic, herbs, spices and citrus, resulting in the super-moist, tender texture.  Then I learned that in the Caribbean, pigs are fed "palmiche", the fruit of the palm tree, which is an exceptional food for pigs, and, it indeed makes the meat more flavorful.  The majestic and stately "royal palm", which bears fruit all year long, is native to Cuba and is also their national tree.  Peasants, known as pollards, climb to the tree tops to cut off the fruit (palm nuts), which grow in big clusters.  The tenderer shoots and hearts-of-palm are used in soups, salads and all sorts of other yummy dishes as well.

IMG_4783I am not claiming to be an authority on Caribbean cooking, nor am I claiming this to be authentic -- I never ate a pork chop on any island because I was too busy feasting on their many other pork dishes, grilled shrimp and jerk chicken.  That said, I know enough about the flavor profile of their mojo-marinated pulled pork shoulder, and, I have enough of "the right stuff" on hand to be able to put together a recipe for a fine Caribbean pork chop (the way I imagine one to be -- worthy of a table in the sun under the shade of a palm tree).  The reason I decided to come up with a chop recipe today is:  it's just Joe and I for dinner -- an entire pork shoulder is simply too much food and too many leftovers for just us two.

IMG_01238  center-cut, 3/4"-thick, bone-in pork-loin-chops (Note:  The thickness of the pork chops is important.  Thinner = less cooking time.  Thicker = more cooking time.)

1/2  cup orange juice

1/4  cup lime juice

1/4  cup dry, high-quality sherry

6  garlic cloves, run through a press

1 teaspoon Cuban seasoning blend (a blend of dehydrated onion, garlic, bell pepper, oregano and cumin)

1/2  teaspoon bijol seasoning

1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper 

6  tablespoons aceite de achiote, achiote-flavored vegetable oil (vegetable oil with annatto)

1  very large sweet onion, cut into 1/4"-thick rings (12-16 ounces total onion rings)

1  recipe for my aromatically-spiced yellow Caribbean coconut rice (See Cook's Note below.)

cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_0129 IMG_0133 IMG_0137 IMG_0137 IMG_0148~Step 1.  Place the pork chops in a heavy-duty, 2-gallon-size food storage bag, then place the bag in a 13" x 9" x 2" non-reactive (not-metal) baking dish.  In a 1-2-cup measuring container, place the orange juice, lime juice and sherry. Press the garlic into the citrus juice. Stir in the Cuban seasoning, bijol seasoning, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Add the marinade to the bag in the baking dish.  Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours, "flip-flopping" the bag, whenever convenient.  Remove pork chops from refrigerator and return to room temperature, about 1 hour prior to cooking them as follows:

IMG_0151 IMG_0151 IMG_0151 IMG_0162~Step 2.  Heat oven to "warm".  Place enough achiote oil in a 16" electric skillet to thinly-coat bottom of skillet.  Heat skillet to 225º-250º.  Transfer each pork chop to the skillet, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag as you work.  Reserve marinade.  Sauté pork chops until light golden on both sides and cooked through, 7-8 minutes per side, turning only once. Transfer chops to a casserole or arrange on an oven-safe serving platter, and, place in oven.

IMG_0167 IMG_0167 IMG_0167Step 3. Add the onions to the skillet and give them a light sprinkle of additional salt and pepper.  Sauté onions until light golden, but not limp, 5-6 minutes.  Remove the onions from the skillet and arrange them on top of chops. Place the baking dish (or oven-safe platter) on center rack of preheated oven to keep warm.  

IMG_0176 IMG_0176~ Step 4.  Add the reserved marinade to the skillet. Adjust heat to a steady simmer, and stir constantly, until a slightly-thickened sauce forms, about 1-2 minutes.  Remove onion-topped chops from oven, drizzle the sauce over all and serve ASAP. 

Serve drizzled w/sauce accompanied by Caribbean Rice...


... preferably, at a table, under the shade of a palm tree.

IMG_0107Caribbean-Style Pork Chops and Onions w/Sauce:  Served with rice, recipe yields 8 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  1, heavy-duty, 2-gallon size food storage bag; 13" x 9" x 2" non-reactive (not-metal) baking dish; 1-2-cup measuring container; garlic press; spoon; 2-cup measuring container; plastic wrap; 16" electric skillet

IMG_5162Cook's Note:  This rice is so good, I'm at a loss for words (imagine that) to adequately describe it.  It gets its pretty yellow color from aceite de achiote (achiote-flavored vegetable oil) and bijol seasoning -- two of the ingredients used in my pork chop recipe too.  Click here to get my recipe for ~ Aromatically-Spiced Yellow Caribbean Coconut Rice ~. Tip from Mel:  Because the pork chops cook so quickly in the skillet, be sure to prepare the rice while the pork chops are marinating.

"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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