Cuban Pork and Beans

Whenever we get boneless pork ribs, my mind goes straight to my very favorite braise, but it’s a good thing to mix it up every so often. I had made a note to myself to consider trying a recipe for black bean chili with crispy pork, poblano salsa, and a chipotle crema. However, I didn’t have all the ingredients to make the supplementary toppings, and the reviews indicated that the chili was rather bland without them; so I kept looking for similar recipes. Soon I came across a promising recipe for Cuban style pork and black beans, cooked in the crock pot. I ended up adapting it to a braise, adding orange juice concentrate for a more prominent citrus flavor, and stirring a can of black beans in with the pork near the end of its cooking time. The pork came out lusciously tender and savory, fragrant with smoky cumin and bright citrus, and lubricated with just enough juices to seep gently through a pile of rice.

Somehow, while the pork was cooking, I got the thought of corn chips into my head, and couldn’t resist trying to make some from scratch in order to have a crunchy counterpoint for the tender meat and beans. I found a recipe that used the oven and ordinary cornmeal, ideal for my resources, so I gave it a shot. The original recipe was a bit misleading: it indicated that the dough would be thick enough to divide up and roll into balls, but what I got was more like a pancake batter in density. I doled it out by the teaspoon onto my silicone mat, and pressed each dollop paper-thin under a sheet of waxed paper; the finished rounds were easily less than a millimeter thick, so they were crisp but fragile. I was mostly satisfied with the final product, but would have liked them better made with fresh cornmeal (mine is pretty stale) and olive oil rather than butter.

Cuban Pork and Black Beans

2.5 lb country-style boneless pork ribs, cut in 1″ cubes
1 large sweet onion, chopped
9 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried orange zest
3 T orange juice concentrate
2 T lemon juice
2 T lime juice
about 2-3 C chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed

Put a little olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven, and saute the pork in several batches until deeply browned. Remove to a large bowl, and place the onion, garlic, and spices through orange zest into the Dutch oven. Stir well to coat with the olive oil and pork fat, and saute until tender and aromatic. Return the pork and its juices to the Dutch oven, then add the orange juice concentrate, lemon and lime juices, and enough chicken broth just to cover the meat. Give it a big stir, bring the liquids up to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low; simmer gently for about 90 minutes, until the pork is very tender.

Uncover, and use a spoon to skim as much of the pork fat as you can from the top of the liquid. Stir in the black beans, raise the heat to medium high, and allow to boil until the liquid has largely reduced, stirring periodically to ensure that the pork isn’t sticking. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve spooned over rice, with some homemade corn chips for crunch.

Source: Adapted from Only Sometimes Clever.

Baked Corn Chips

1/2 C water
1 1/2 T butter or olive oil
1/8 tsp southwest seasoning
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 C yellow corn meal

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring water and butter or oil to a boil. Meanwhile, mix together cornmeal and seasonings in a small, heat-resistant bowl. Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal mixture and stir well.

Drop batter by teaspoonsful onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat; leave at least 6 inches of clearance between dollops. Top with a piece of wax paper and flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass or other flat surface (I used the bottom of my one-cup measuring scoop). The flattened rounds of dough should be very thin and about 3 inches in diameter. Very carefully, peel back the wax paper and sprinkle the chips very lightly with salt, if desired.

Bake until light brown, about 5-10 minutes. Watch them closely, because they will darken quickly once they start to brown. Remove from the sheet very gently with an offset spatula and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Makes about a dozen chips.

Source: Adapted from wikiHow.

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