Mojo Pork Sandwiches

While I was in Tampa for a conference a few years ago a friend and I walked to lunch after the morning session.  We ended up at a sports bar near the convention center called Hattrick’s.  The place had a bustling lunch crowd – a good sign.  I chose to order a Cuban roasted pork sandwich with mojo sauce, and it was incredible!

Mojo Pork Sandwich

The sandwich was so good that I went back to Hattrick’s before leaving town to get another.  The following Easter I set out to make my own version of this sandwich – I wanted to eat pork but I certainly wasn’t cooking a ham for only two people.  By adapting recipes and adding elements from the Hattrick’s sandwich, I perfected my own Mojo Pork Sandwich.

This is not your typical Cuban sandwich with ham, pork, swiss, and mustard.  For this sandwich, pork is roasted in mojo sauce, a Cuban citrus garlic sauce, then shredded (adapted from Three Guys from Miami).  Then the pork is piled on Cuban bread, topped with melted mozzarella, and paired with a garlic dipping sauce.  The results are mouth-watering!  I promise you’ll love my re-creation of this sandwich…

Mojo Pork Sandwiches

Prep Time: 45 minutes + 2-3 hours marinating time

Cook Time:  3-6 hours

Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 loaves Cuban Bread
6 slices Fresh Mozzarella
2 lb. Pork Shoulder (or other boneless roast)
10-15 cloves Garlic
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Peppercorns
1/2 c. Orange Juice
1/4 c. Lime Juice
1/4 c. Lemon Juice
1 c. minced Onion
2 tsp. Oregano
1/2 c. Olive Oil
Garlic Dipping Sauce
2-3 cloves Garlic
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1/4 c. Orange Juice
2 tbsp. Lime Juice
2 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tbsp. Vinegar
Salt
Pepper

1.  Start by making the mojo sauce: Mash the garlic, salt, and peppercorns into a paste using a mortar and pestle.  Depending on the size of your mortar you may have to do this in two batches.

Note: The variable number of garlic cloves is to account for the size of the cloves.  If your head of garlic has nice big cloves, you can probably stop at 10.  If the cloves are smaller you may want to use up to 15.

Stir in the orange, lemon, and lime juices along with the onion and oregano then allow to sit at least 30 minutes.

Mojo Sauce

2.  Set aside about a quarter cup of the mojo sauce for later.

3.  Now it’s time to make the marinade for the roast.  We’re going to do this by simply adding oil to our remaining mojo sauce.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the sauce.

Marinade

4.  Pierce the pork roast all over with a fork (to help the marinade penetrate the meat).  Pour the marinade over the roast and allow the marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours, turning halfway through.

5.  After the roast is through marinating, put the pork and marinade in a crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours.  Then turn the heat down to low and cook until the meat shreds easily with a fork (up to 4 more hours).  The cook time will vary based on the size and dimensions of your roast.

Tip: If you want to speed up the cooking process, cut the roast into 2-3 chunks before cooking.

6.  When the roast is almost done, make the garlic dipping sauce: Combine the garlic, olive oil, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  With the blade running, gradually pour in the juice to make an emulsion.  To finish, season with salt and pepper.

This will make excess sauce.  The leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to a couple weeks.  Just make sure you let it come up to room temperature and run it through a blender to re-emulsify before serving.

The sauce is not critical but adds another dimension of flavor.  If you’re not a garlic lover, you skip the sauce and still have a delicious sandwich!

Garlic Sauce

7.  Shred the pork (I use two forks) and drizzle with the mojo sauce you set aside earlier.  If the pork still doesn’t seem moist enough to you, you can add some of the cooking juice, just try to avoid the oil floating at the top.

Pull Pork

8.  Cut your Cuban bread into sandwich-size pieces then halve the pieces.  Top with shredded pork, packing it down to keep it from falling off.

Looking for something to do with those bread heels?  I’ll admit, I usually just eat mine (the bread’s THAT good), but it’s also great with soup.  Check out our**FIX** Butternut Squash Soup, Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, or Lasagna Soup for ideas…

Put Pork on Bread

9.  Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella and cook under the broiler until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown lightly.  Keep an eye on the bread because it toasts faster than the cheese melts – you may have to pull out the sandwich tops before the bottoms.

Melt Mozzarella

10.  Close the sandwich and you’re ready to dig in!

Mojo Pork Sandwich

Serve with the garlic dipping sauce and a side.  I like to pair it with chips or a potato dish – fries or our Perfect Oven-Roasted Potato Wedges.  Leftovers reheat well and make a great packed lunch.  Enjoy!

Mojo Pork Lunch

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Cuban Bread

I had never even heard of Cuban bread until I was trolling the Three Guys from Miami website looking for a roasted pork sandwich recipe.  After stumbling across this recipe, I decided to give it a try.  I enjoy making my own bread, and homemade bread always makes sandwiches better.  It turned out to be a more time consuming process than I expected, but as soon as I tasted this bread, I was sold.  It is A-MAZING!

Sliced Cuban Bread

This recipe takes some time, largely due to the double rise, but it’s well worth the effort required.  The results are incredible!  I would describe Cuban bread as a buttery French or Italian bread.  The crust gets a nice, slight crisp while the inside stays soft with the perfect chew.  I had to stop myself from eating the whole loaf the first time I made this bread (I had made it for sandwiches, after all, not to wolf it down in one sitting).  This bread is great for sandwiches or soups… or just eating by itself…

Cuban Bread

Prep Time: 2 1/2 hours (including 2 hours of rise time)

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

1/2 tbsp. Yeast
1 tsp. Sugar
5/8 c. Warm Water, divided
1 c. Bread Flour
1 c. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Butter, melted

1.  Start by proofing your yeast.  Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/4 c. water and let sit 10 minutes until foamy.

2.  Using dough hooks, mix the yeast mixture, remaining water (3/8 c.), and salt on low speed until well mixed.

3.  Sift together your flours.  Add the flour and butter alternatively.  Use only enough flour that the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead on low 3-4 minutes adding a little extra flour if the the dough becomes too wet.

Finished Dough

4.  Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm oven (160°) for an hour.

5.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll out to a rectangular shape ~10″ x 12″

Roll out Dough

Roll tightly into a long cylinder, rolling from the narrower side.  Wet the seam and pinch to seal.

Roll into Loaf 1Roll into Loaf 2

6.  Place the loaf on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, seam side down.  Dust the top with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise on the counter an additional hour.  While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 450° F.

Tip: Don’t put the loaf into a warm oven for the second rise.  It seems to make the bread spread horizontally more than vertically.  Also, I like to use shot glasses to keep the plastic wrap above the loaf.  If the plastic wrap is too tight over the bread, it can inhibit the vertical rise.

Loosely Cover

7.  With about 15 minutes left in the second rise, cut a shallow seam down the middle of the loaf using a very sharp night.  Leave about an inch of loaf uncut on each end.

8.  Place a shallow pan of water in your preheated oven.

9.  Brush the surface of the loaf with water and bake 5 minutes at 450° F.  This, along with the humidity from the water bath, helps crisp the crust.

10.  After five minutes, remove the loaf from the oven and brush with water again.  Be careful opening the oven door to avoid a steam burn!  Return to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes until the crust is golden.

Cuban Bread Loaf

Allow the bread to cool for at least 10 minutes before you slice it (or else it will squish more than it will cut).  Pair it with soup or use it to make sandwiches.  This will probably be your new favorite bread recipe!

Sliced Cuban Bread

Cinco de Mayo

 ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo (coming up on Monday), we’re posting a Mexican recipe roundup.  This holiday is a great opportunity to gather your friends and/or family to enjoy delicious food and margaritas!

Interesting fact about Cinco de Mayo: It’s not Mexico’s Independence Day (a common misconception).  It’s actually the commemoration of a battle in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated a much larger and much more well-equipped French army.  You learn something new everyday…

Mexican recipes

To help you plan your Mexican feast for Cinco de Mayo, we’ve gathered all our Mexican recipes below.  Enjoy, and happy Cinco de Mayo!

Drinks (Margaritas to be exact)

If you have pre-bought margarita mix, you should go ahead and get rid of that.  Classic lime margaritas are super easy to make – plus they taste better and have less sugar than that mix you’ve got in the fridge.  For a margarita on the rocks, mix 1 part lime juice (fresh-squeezed is best; if you’re using bottled lime juice, check the label – it’s not always 100% juice), 1 part tequila (look for 100% agave, I prefer reposado) and 1 part agave nectar (if this recipe is too sweet for you, cut back on the agave).  It’s so simple but so delicious!  If you prefer flavored margaritas, keep reading…

For a delightful tropical twist on margaritas, try our Pineapple Mango Margarita.  It’s one of my favorite flavors… everyone will love it!  You can also use all pineapple or all mango in the recipe if you want just a pineapple margarita or just a mango margarita.

Pineapple Mango Margarita

This Raspberry Margarita is a great fresh-fruit margarita.  I like raspberry margaritas more than strawberry because they aren’t as sweet.  I usually make these margaritas in the late summer when I can pick raspberries myself, but there are ripe raspberries available at grocery stores now to make this tasty beverage.

Raspberry Margarita

If you’d like a hybrid between and margarita and Mexican beer, try a Beergarita by mixing one can of limemade, 24 oz. Mexican lager, and 1/2 c. tequila.  This drink is very guy-friendly and less sweet than most margaritas.

Appetizers

Start you meal off with one of these dishes or use these as a snack food for a margarita party…

Make you own Garden Fresh Salsa and pair it with high-quality tortilla chips.  It’ll beat anything you could get from a jar!**FIX**

Garden Fresh Salsa

Or pair tortilla chips with our alternative to guacamole: Avocado Spread

Avocado Spread

Main Dishes

If you’re planning a dinner party for Cinco de Mayo, check out these Main Dish recipes.  The amount of work required varies from very low for our marinades and spice blends to moderate for the tacos and enchiladas to high for empanadas.  You decide how much time you want to invest and how memorable you want your dinner to be.

Chicken fajitas (one of my favorite dishes growing up) are easy and flavorful with our Mexican Citrus Marinade recipe.

Marinating Chicken

For a delicious vegetarian Cinco de Mayo, try our yummy Blackened Tofu Tacos!

Blackened Tofu Tacos

One of my all-time favorite Mexican meals is Chicken Tinga Tacos.  They pack tons of flavor without requiring much work – a very impressive dish!

Tinga Taco

Braise beef in chocolate stout or chipotle beer to make savory Chipotle Stout Braised Beef tacos or empanadas.

Chipotle Stout Beef - Empanadas

Or try our rich but healthy Green Citrus Chicken Enchiladas smothered in avocado cream sauce.  So delicious!

Green Enchiladas

For a simple meal, use our Homemade Taco Seasoning to flavor beef or chicken tacos.  It’s much better and has greater depth of flavor than taco flavoring packets you get at the store.

Taco Seasoning

If you want a unique and memorable dish and don’t mind spending some time in the kitchen, try our Pork Empanadas recipe

Open Empanada

Side Dishes

Looking for the perfect dish to pair with our main dishes?  Try one of the recipes below…

My favorite side is this  Mexican White Rice Pilaf recipe.  It reminds me of the rice I got at Cozymel’s as a child…

Mexican White Rice Pilaf

For a more traditional dish, try our Mexican Red Rice recipe.

Mexican Red Rice

Or try a spin on a classic Mexican corn on the cob street food: Mexican Roasted Corn Salad dressed with Greek yogurt, cheese, cilantro, and lime juice.

Mex Corn Salad

Our Sweet Corn Tomalito recipe, a cornbread corn-pudding hybrid (and a Chevy’s copycat) is a sure crowd-pleaser!

Sweet Corn Tomalito

Hopefully these recipe ideas help you plan a delicious and festive Cinco de Mayo.  ¡Provecho!

Pork Empanadas

As a rule, I don’t eat fried Mexican food.  Empanadas are the exception to that rule.  These savory pastries are like Mexican handpies… I think… I’ve never actually had a handpie so I can’t say for sure.  A meat filling is wrapped in a modified tortilla dough and deep fried to create these pockets of goodness.  The crust comes out crisp and flaky (not greasy!) and the inside stays flavorful and juicy.  This delicious dish is definitely worth the indulgence (though if you’re frying at the proper temperature they shouldn’t absorb much oil).  I just make sure I eat healthy for my next meal.

Pork Empanadas

I first tried empanadas at Two Urban Licks in Atlanta.  Theirs were filled with brisket and topped with aioli and feta – so good.  We liked them so much we decided to try our own hand at empanadas when we returned from our trip.  In fact, we bought an empanada press at a cooking store we visited later on the same trip in preparation.  As it turns out, even if TSA hadn’t broken it in our luggage, we wouldn’t have used the press so I don’t recommend investing in one.  When we got home and set out to make our own homemade empanadas, we turned to the trusty Rick Bayless.  And he certainly delivered with this spiced ground pork filling with raisins and cashews!

Pork Empanadas

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6 empanadas (3 servings)

Ingredients

Canola or Vegetable Oil (for frying)
Empanada Dough
6 oz. Flour
1 1/2 tbsp. Lard or Shortening
3/8 c. Warm Water
3/8 tsp. Salt
Filling
10 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 tsp. Black Peppercorns
1/2 Cinnamon Stick
4 Cloves
1 tbsp. Vegetable or Canola Oil
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
8 oz. Ground Pork
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp. Golden Raisins
2 tbsp. Cashews
1/2 tsp. Salt

1.  Mix, press, and roll out 6 pieces of empanada dough as described in our Homemade Flour Tortilla recipe.  You’ll notice it’s almost exactly a half recipe, but there is slightly less lard/shortening than the typical tortilla recipe.

Tip: To save time, start by making your dough.  Then while it’s resting get your filling started.  You’ll have time to press the tortillas while the filling is simmering.

2.  Puree the tomatoes with their juices in a blender.  If you can’t find San Marzanos, use organic tomatoes.  They taste better and are more nutritious than non-organic (more lycopene).

3.  Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves to a fine powder.

4.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat then add the onion and cook until golden (about 5 minutes).  Then add the garlic and cook another two minutes.  Crumble the ground pork into the skillet and cook until lightly browned.

Brown Pork

5.  Add the tomato puree, ground spices, raisins, and vinegar to the pork mixture.  Simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to a thick, mixture – think sloppy joes (about 30 minutes).  You want the filling to be moist but not wet as this will cause issues sealing the empanadas later.

Add Tomatoes

6.  While the pork mixture is reducing, toast the cashews in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.  Coarsely chop the cashews and stir into the pork mixture with the salt once the mixture has neared the desired consistency.

7.  Add ~1/4 c. of filling to the center of each tortilla and brush the edges with water.

Fill Empanadas

8.  Fold the tortillas in half and press the dough down against the filling to expel any trapped air (which will result in big air bubbles that may tear the crust as its frying).  Then press the edges together firmly to seal.

Seal Empanadas

9.  Pinch and fold the edges of the empanadas to make a scalloped edge, again pressing down firmly to seal.  This step isn’t critical, but it certainly makes your empanadas prettier and easier to eat.

Crimp Edge

10.  Fill a heavy-bottomed pan with oil to a depth of 2-3 inches.  Obviously a deep frier would be ideal for this step, but dutch ovens and woks hold heat well which makes them good for frying.

Heat the oil to 375º F and fry the empanadas 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden (usually you can get 2 into the pan at a time).  Keep in mind that the empanadas will continue to cook and brown after they are out of the oil.

Golden and Bubbly

11.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray in a warm oven and cook the remaining empanadas.

Serve hot, topped with our Roasted Garlic Guacamole or our Avocado Spread.

Open Empanada

These flaky Mexican pastries are satisfying and delicious!  Pair them with a tasty Mexican side like our Mexican White Rice Pilaf, Mexican Red Rice, Mexican Roasted Corn Salad, or Sweet Corn Tomalito.

For other yummy variations on empanadas, try using our Chipotle Stout Braised Beef or Chicken Tinga as a filling.  The first time we used the tinga the crisp edges of the shredded chicken tore holes in the empanada dough, so I recommend using ground chicken in place of chicken breast and starting at step 3 from the recipe.  Both of these alternate fillings make wonderful empanadas – so yummy!

Mexican Red Rice

Red rice is the typical accompaniment at most Mexican restaurants.  This dish is the standard by which I often judge Mexican restaurants – everybody makes it but few do it well.  It’s often overcooked and bland.  So if you eat a big forkful of rice and think to yourself, “That’s yummy,” you’ve found a good spot! Mexican Red Rice Not to digress from our recipe but I love when Mexican restaurants serve that golden rice pilaf with corn.  It’s so savory then you get that sweet corn crunch.  Yum!  If you’ve ever eaten at a Cozymel’s, you know the dish I’m talking about.  I was so disappointed when the one closed near where I grew up – no more of my favorite Mexican rice, or their wonderful homemade tortillas.  If you are also a fan of this version of Mexican rice, you should check out our Mexican White Rice Pilaf recipe.  Anyhow, back to our equally delicious red rice… With this recipe, adapted from Rick Bayless, you can make your own red rice at home.  And I’d be willing to bet it beats any red rice you’ve had at Mexican restaurants.  It will definitely outshine anything from a box.  Made from scratch, this rice tastes fresh and flavorful.  Plus by toasting the rice before adding the liquid, you get a great texture!

Mexican Red Rice Pilaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

1 tbsp. Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 c. Rice
1/2 Onion, finely diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 canned San Marzano Tomatoes, pureed
3/4 c. Chicken Broth
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. Salt (1/4 if using regular broth, 1/2 if using low-sodium)
1/2 Carrot, diced
1/2 c. Corn

1.  Combine the oil, rice, and onion in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Once the mixture begins to sizzle, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  It should be starting to look golden and toasted.  Then add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, continuing to stir.  Make sure to keep an eye on it so you don’t burn the garlic. Brown Onion and Rice 2.  Stir in the tomato puree and cook for one more minute.  If you have good quality tomatoes, you can substitute peeled fresh tomatoes for the San Marzanos.  Unfortunately good tomatoes are hard to come by in Juneau… plus San Marzanos are just so good.

3.  Add the broth (cooking rice with broth gives it so much more flavor!) and salt and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Add Broth 4.  Mix in your carrot, put the lid back on, and cook 5 more minutes. 5.  Next, stir in the corn, recover, and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Stir in Corn 5.  Fluff the rice and serve alongside your favorite Mexican dish. Mexican Red Rice I like to serve this rice with a dish that doesn’t already have a lot of tomato – tacos or fajitas made with our Mexican Citrus Marinade, Blackened Tofu Tacos, Green Citrus Chicken Enchiladas, or Chipotle Stout Braised Beef.  If I’m making a tomato-y main dish (like our delicious Chicken Tinga Tacos), I go with Mexican White Rice Pilaf, instead.