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Cuban roasted pork

SANTIAGO ROSERO from France

Serves
8
Preparation
30 minutes
Cooks in
3 hours
Country of origin
Cuba

We´ve got the pork

I landed in Havana, Cuba, on 22 December 2014. It was a very special time for the island: five days before, presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro had announced that their countries would restart diplomatic relations after more than half a century of rupture. There was much skepticism, but also hope for changes to come.

I traveled partly on holiday and partly to do a reportage about Cubans vicissitudes to eat in their everyday life. I grew up hearing a lot about the complex dynamics of food access in the island, so I wanted to go personally to try to find some answers.

I could partially summarize by saying that, for most Cubans, the main concern is what to put on their tables day by day. The variety of products is limited and access to them is hard because of low wages (a Cuban earns on average $ 18 by month).

A typical cuban dish contains rice and beans (called congrí), vianda (manioc, yam, sweet potato) and, in the best case, some fried or roasted pork (beef and fish are virtually impossible for most people). The limited range of products available (Cuba imports 80% of its food) makes this dish both current and special, ordinary and extraordinary, quotidian and celebratory.

I was fortunate to be invited to spend New Year’s Eve at Fonseca´s home, a family of Havana. To have a special meal that night, the Fonsecas made an economic effort and were able to buy a pork leg. Dulce, family´s grandmother, marinated the pork the day before and then roasted it for three hours. The result was a tender, juicy and slightly cumin perfumed meat. We ate the pork with congrí, manioc and a salad of lettuce and tomato, a simple dish with no big artifices that expresses the generosity of a people who share what little they have, and that gathers not only a certain gastronomic savoir faire but the political and economic history of a country that, despite the recent changes is going thru, is still worried about what to put on the table the next day.

Ingredients

  • 3 kg pork leg
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 500 grams of onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup sour orange juice
  • Congrí: serves 8
  • ¼ kg of black beans
  • ½ kg of rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 200 gr pork fat
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • A couple bay leafs, a bit of a red pepper

Method

  • Clean the meat (remove excess fat), place it on a baking dish and make several little cuts with a sharp knife all around the surface, to let the meat absorve the marinate.
  • Marinate: mix the crushed garlic, diced onions, oregano, cumin, pepper, salt and sour orange juice. Make a paste. Spread this paste over the entire meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 200 ° C. Put the meat inside and let it roast on one side, until it is brown and crispy. Turn it and let it roast on the other side. Then cover it with aluminum foil and low the temperature to 140 ° C. Let it cook at least three hours, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 85 ° C. From time to time, soak the meat with its own cooking juice, and if necessary add a little more of the marinade and water to keep the meat moist during cooking.
  • Congrí: The night before, wash and soak black beans in 1 lt of water. The next morning, cook them with the same water, a bay leaf, a piece of red pepper and a pinch of salt until soft.
  • Reserve 3 cups of the cooking water and put the beans aside.
  • In the pot where you will cook congrí, put pork fat chunks until distils fat. In that fat saute the onion and garlic about 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice to this sofrito, stir it for three minutes to coat well with fat, onions and garlic.
  • Add the beans and repeat the same process than with the rice, stir well for a few seconds to mix everything.
  • Add the water where you cooked beans plus cumin, oregano and salt.
  • Cook over high heat until it starts to boil, then stir and lower the fire. Let it cook, covered, until rice is tender and well shelled. Check salt, pepper and cumin.
  • * Manioc: peel it, cup it in chunks and cook it in boiled water until soft. Not totally firm but not over cooked either.

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