Recently, yours truly, Orlando Vega, founded Congreso Cubano, now a popular latin pop-up restaurant in New Orleans. I wanna share a recipe with you that my partner in crime, Rick Ostry, and I have been serving up. As a Miami native, it reminds me particularly of home because it includes so many of my favorite ingredients. It’s basically a layer-cake of savory Latin goodness with influences from many places. I highly recommend making it in bulk for large parties as its an affordable dish to scale up and its the holidays so why not share? One note, get started on this dish early!
There are three basic parts to the dish. First you have your foundation of yucca, which will be boiled and dressed. Then you have your pork, you probably expected that. Lastly, you have your garnishes which, in this case, is more of a crown. Let’s get on with it.
I listed pork shoulder but you can easily substitute another cut so long as it is not too fatty. Not that fat is bad but you will lose a lot of weight in the cooking process. First things first, take your pork shoulder and either cut it down into manageable fist-sized chunks or leave the shoulder whole and take a minute to pierce it in several spots. Once that’s done go ahead and place it in your deep pan or rondo pot if you’re ready to cook.
Our pork is going to be marinated and slow-cooked in a delicious mojo. If you’ve got the time, begin marinating it 8 – 12 hours ahead. Just do it. In this case, I adjust my mojo recipe a tad bit from the traditional one. Whereas most mojos will highlight the sour orange and spices, I really want to bring out a tangy flavor in the pork to help me make the yucca pop later. I use lemon and lime juice instead, and leave out the orange. So go ahead and in a blender or food processor mix in about 2/3 of your lemon juice, lime juice, 5 heads of garlic, 3 tbsp of salt, 3 tbsp black pepper, 3 tbsp cumin, and 3 tbsp of oregano. Once its done, go ahead and pour that all over your pork. When you’re ready to cook add water so that the pork is almost all submerged. Throw on a lid or tightly wrap in foil and pop that in the oven at 385 degrees for two hours and drop that to 315 degrees for another 3 hours. By now the pork shoulder should be nearly falling apart…perfect!
Let’s face it, preparing Yucca is a pain in the ass… but its so delicious. First thing we gotta do is peel all of our yucca and discard the ends. When peeling, be sure to give the peeler a couple passes so that you get under the white, glossy coat. Cut the peeled root lengthwise down the middle and proceed to remove the stringy root that runs down the middle. Once that’s done go ahead and cut your yucca into batons (basically thick fries.) We then toss this all into a boiling pot of water until there is no white left in the yucca. You want to pull and strain your yucca as soon as it is yellow the whole way through. It’s a small window you have to pull them as they easily go from this stage to the next, the ‘falling apart’ stage.
While the Yucca is boiling we want to prepare the mojo in which it will be dressed. This is very easy. Simply mince the remaining garlic, add sliced onions and saute them in a 1/2 cup of olive oil at medium heat. Don’t worry about this being too oily as it will form part of the sauce so we want the liquid in the pan to go a long way. Toss in a tablespoon of salt and black pepper and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. At this point we want to mix in our remaining lemon juice and saute for another 5 minutes. Wait until the onions are all translucent, cut the heat, and proceed to pour this all over your yucca when its ready.
Now all we have left to prepare is our cabbage. Red or white cabbage will do. We prefer red due to the beautiful color it adds to the dish. Simply place your sliced cabbage in a bowl and add the red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp of salt, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of toasted cumin seed. Now mix and wait about 1.5 hours, stirring it up every 30 minutes or so.
Now we have all the essentials for our ‘Presidente’. To serve, just line a bowl in your citrus-soaked yucca, cover with a healthy serving of the slow-roasted pork, top that with a big pinch of pickled cabbage, and sprinkle the whole dish with grated fresh cheese, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Voila! You now have a stack of delicious Latin goodness. We hope you enjoy and after you’ve made it, head up to New Orleans and try ours at Congreso Cubano. Cheers!