Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pernil, cubanos, and rice & beans

Want to know the most cost-effective and delicious way to feed a crowd? I’ll let you in on a secret. Don’t let those massive bone-in, skin-on pork shoulders at the supermarket intimidate you. For less than ten bucks, these picnic roasts can feed a hungry crew of four to six for dinner and then be re-purposed into hearty leftovers in the following days. The Puerto Ricans have known this secret for ages and pernil, Puerto Rican slow-roasted pork shoulder, just happens to be my favorite go-to recipe for company. Especially since I know I’ll have enough meat leftover to be able to make a week’s worth of cubano sandwiches.

Pernil takes a bit of planning ahead. Buy your pork shoulder a few days before you plan on roasting it so you can marinate it in a flavorful wet rub (the Puerto Ricans call it an adobo mojado). I loosely follow Daisy Martinez’s recipe for a wet rub, which you can find here. Daisy suggests pounding garlic, peppercorns, and oregano to a paste in a mortar and pestle, then stirring in olive oil and white wine vinegar. But keep in mind that the recipe is very flexible. Instead of the white wine vinegar, I’ll use orange or lime juice if I happen to have some citrus fruits hanging around in my fridge. I also love to use naranja agria (bitter orange) juice, which you can find bottled under the Goya label in the “ethnic” foods section of many supermarkets.
Next it’s marination time. I make deep slits through the skin of the pork shoulder with a sharp, pointed knife, making sure the knife penetrates the flesh. Then I jam a bunch of marinade into the slits to ensure that the adobo mojado reaches the interior of the meat and flavors the entire shoulder. The meat gets rubbed with the rest of the adobo, covered tightly with cling wrap, and popped into the fridge until the day you’d like to roast him.On the big day, take your pork shoulder out of the fridge an hour or so before you’d like to roast him. I like to let it sit in a super low, say, 270 degree, oven all day long – I’m talking six to nine hours here – so the meat comes out tender as buttah. There’s an excellent, comprehensive recipe for pernil here.

The tastiest part of the whole ordeal is the transformation of the skin into crispy chicharrones, or cracklings.I usually serve my pernil with fried plantains or boiled yuca along with some Puerto Rican rice and beans –all also extremely cost-effective dishes.But… back to that leftover pork. I take all the meat off of the bones and save it for cubanos.
Again, I use Daisy Martinez’s recipe found here. Her recipe calls for leftover pernil, ham, pickles, and swiss cheese to be layered on mayonnaise-lathered bread. I especially like her method of wrapping the sandwiches in foil, then placing a heavy weight on top (I use a couple of cast iron skillets) before baking them in the oven. I think this is much less messy than using a panini press. The cheese doesn’t melt all over the place, and the bread forms a nice crisp outer crust.The cubanos are served with leftover rice. My grandma Mimi has been making rice and beans for me since I was tiny and this is her secret family recipe.Mimi’s Puerto Rican Rice and Beans
If I could choose one recipe that reminds me of home more than any other, this would be it. My paternal grandfather Bopi came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was a teenager, and over the years my grandmother Mimi has perfected her recipe for Puerto Rican rice that surely reminds my grandfather of his sunny childhood on the Caribbean island. This is real comfort food for me, and Phil loves it almost as much as I do. (He better, because I make it so often!) Recently, on a rare occasion when my cousin Celeste and I were both in Ohio at the same time, we helped Mimi make her classic rice. I made her stop after each step and took detailed notes and measurements so Celeste and I can be sure to carry on the tradition! I often make variations of the below recipe, sometimes adding tomato paste to the sofrito of peppers, onions, and garlic. Other substitutions are noted where applicable, but it’s certainly worth trying the authentic Mimi version. Your tummy will thank me. Serves 6 as a side dish, with leftovers.

¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup green bell peppers, chopped
½ cup onions, chopped
½ cup pepperoni, chopped (I usually substitute with diced pork shoulder, ham, or chicken breast)
1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled and pressed through a garlic press
3 packets Goya Sazón con achiote(a seasoning found in the ethnic foods aisle)
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp Goya Adobo con pimiento (also in the ethnic foods aisle)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tbsp salt (or more to taste)
2 cups long grain white rice
1 can small red beans (I sometimes substitute with a half a can of gandules [pigeon peas] and a half a can of garbanzos [chickpeas])
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat vegetable oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add peppers, onions, and pepperoni (or other meat) to oil. Saute until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, Sazon con achiote, cumin, Adobo con pimiento, oregano, salt and pepper and stir until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice to the vegetable mixture and stir-fry over medium-high heat, stirring only occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour 4 cups hot water over the rice, then add beans (with a little liquid from the can). Bring rice to a rapid boil. Cover, and continue to boil rapidly over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. After 5 minutes, stir the rice and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Let rice simmer for 20 minutes without removing the lid.

Once rice is cooked, fluff with a fork and stir in cilantro. Allow rice to rest for at least 10 minutes (Mimi keeps the rice warm on the stove, covered, over low heat for up to an hour, or transfers it to a crock pot set on low).


Unknown said...

my aunt carmen used to make roast pork and rice and beans for us all the time at the holidays ... soo good! ... i'm going to make it this mothers' day and so glad i found your recipe! thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Just made this...I added some sofrito into the onions and peppers.....the tastiest ever! I love it!