Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Shoulder

This Cuban-style favorite is juicy and succulent with garlic and citrus flavors.

Julian's Cuban Mojo Roasted Pork
Over the years I've made and shared with you many recipes for pork shoulder, which is such a flavorful cut of meat when properly prepared. The trouble is, many don't cook it properly and it sometimes has the reputation of being a cheap, tough cut of pork. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Pulled Pork Shoulder
The key is cooking it slowly over a low heat (6-8 hours) so that the connective tissues have the chance to break down and let the meat become pull-apart tender. While the salt in the mojo marinade does provide a basic brine technique, well known to keep meat juicy, nothing is more important than a slow roast. Forget any recipe that states cooking to a specific temperature when talking about a pork shoulder. You can use a traditional oven or slow cooker (Crockpot) for this recipe.

Whole Pork Shoulder Roast, Resting before Shredding
What is mojo?
The basic marinade for a Cuban-style pork roast is called mojo.  It is a a sauce made with the juice of sour oranges, garlic, oregano, cumin, and olive oil. There are many versions of this marinade and you can be loose with your selection of ingredients. What's nearly impossible to find here in the USA are the sour oranges called for in the traditional recipes. So we substitute by mixing juice from regular Florida juice oranges with fresh squeezed lime juice. I chop and mix my ingredients in the food processor to save time, but you certainly can do this with a knife.

Mojo marinated pork shoulder, ready for oven roasting.
I like to serve the pulled pork with steamed white rice and shredded salad on plate. Reserve a little of the mojo to garnish each serving.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 fresh juice orange
1 fresh lime
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1 small bunch mint leaves
8 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons course salt and 5-6 fresh grinds of black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 pounds, bone-in pork shoulder


Make the mojo: Zest and juice the orange. Juice the lime. Add the orange and lime juice, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, garlic cloves, oregano and cumin to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped (or do this by hand with a knife). Add the orange zest, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Place the pork shoulder in a zip lock bag or a covered dish. Reserve 1/4 cup of the mojo to an airtight container and refrigerate. Add the remaining mojo to the pork shoulder and turn to coat completely. Place the mojo coated shoulder into the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Turn at least once during refrigeration to ensure even coating.

Roast the pork (oven):  Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Remove the marinated pork shoulder from the refrigerator and transfer the meat to a roasting pan still coated in its mojo. Let sit at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Use of a roasting rack is optional. Discard the marinade that remains in the bag/container. Roast the pork for 30 minutes at 400F uncovered. It should be lightly browned. Add a cup or two of water to the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 250F degrees and cover the roast with a lid or foil. Cook for another 6-8 hours or until fork tender. Check the roast ever hour while cooking and baste with drippings while you have it open. Add additional water to the roasting pan if needed to stop drippings from burning. Generally this is only necessary at the beginning of the roasting, as the meat will produce significant amount of drippings when covered during cooking.

Roast the pork (slow cooker): If using a slow cooker (Crockpot) follow the same directions above, but place in the slow cooker instead of the oven, fat side down. Cook the first 30 minutes on high uncovered, turning over after 15 minutes. The turn the slow cooker to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours until fork tender.

Prepare to serve:  Transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 20-30 minutes. Wait 10 minutes for the pan drippings to cool and add two tablespoons of the drippings to the reserved mojo and stir to combine. Shred the pork roast and toss lightly in some of the pan drippings. Serve reserved mojo over the pulled pieces of pork with a side of white rice.

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