I have been lucky enough to go to a number of countries and try many different foods as a result, as you’ll have probably got the sense reading other posts here, but there are always more places on my list. One that has been there for some time is Cuba and the more I know people who have been and rave about the food, the more it is definitely on the to-do list one day.
Unlike some other places, though, I haven’t actually had much Cuban food outside of the country either. It’s not really one that has travelled to the UK much and while you can get some great food in Florida, it’s not exactly common in my part of the US either. However that doesn’t mean it’s not tempting to try cooking some yourself, and when I got a fresh ham in our meat delivery and was thinking what to do with it, it was only when I thought about Cuban roast pork that I got excited.
Cuban roast pork, or lechón asado, is a pork roast marinated in a mojo marinade which has sour or Seville oranges as it’s base along with typically at least garlic, oregano and cumin as seasoning. You can use pretty much any cut, it will just vary a little whether it will just slice (if a more ‘solid’ cut) or also possibly shred up (as eg with a fattier shoulder or ‘Boston butt’), but the most typical are either a fresh ham roast (ie uncured) or a shoulder joint. Here I used a fresh ham roast which was delicious but was definitely more going to slice than shred.
While it in theory takes a while to make, it is really incredibly easy. You just mix up the marinade ingredients, rub them over the pork and leave it overnight, turning once or twice to get all the flavor in. Then when you are ready to cook, you roast it with the marinade in the bottom to keep it moist, and that’s it. The key to the marinade is what are often called sour oranges, or Seville oranges, that are common in Cuba but less so elsewhere as they have limited uses, so if you can’t find them you can approximate the flavor with a mix of orange, lime and lemon as I have listed below.
You can serve this Cuban roast pork as you prefer – we had it with a tasty Cuban rice and beans dish and fried plantain, both of which are pretty typical sides and go really well. However it would go with a whole range of sides, and makes a great dish for a dinner party or less formal crowd between the fact most of the preparation is the day before, you get lots of servings from it, it’s easy to eat and it has such great flavors.
If you have any leftover, then the slices of pork make for great sandwiches too. All in all, it’s a great dish, fantastically fresh and flavorful from the delicious marinade. I do sometimes feel pork can be a little bland or dry out, but neither are an issue with this dish. Definitely one to repeat soon.
Cuban roast pork
- 2 lb boneless pork roast or 3lb+ for more people - if over 3lb, increase amounts of marinade
- 1 orange
- 1 lime
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp dry oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 onion
- ground pepper to taste
- Pat dry the pork roast and place in a plastic container or freezer bag big enough to hold it plus some liquid.
- Squeeze the juice from the orange, lime and lemon. Mix the juices with rest of ingredients (dry or fresh oregano, cumin, salt, garlic, onion and pepper).
- Pour the mixture over the pork and marinade overnight in the fridge, ideally turning at least once.
- When ready to cook, bring the pork out of the fridge ahead of time - around 30-60min - to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C.
- Roast the pork in a roasting dish with the skin side up for around 30min per pound with the juice mixture in the bottom of the dish (ie it's sitting in it). Baste the pork with the juice after 1hr and continue cooking. You should get an internal temp of 190-200F when it's ready.