Mojo Pork and Cubanos ala Chef (2014)

I don’t know about you guys, but I find it virtually impossible to watch a movie about food and cooking and not immediately race to the kitchen after. Chef is definitely one of those movies.

There’s something about cooking movies that tug at my heartstrings in a way no romcom can. I still cry at the end of Julie and Julia, and The 100 Foot Journey remains to this day one of my favourite movies.

Jon Favreau’s Chef is, admittedly, a different kind of food movie, but one that is no less ‘feel good’, and one I love no less. It’s a movie that has inspired late night forays into my kitchen for grilled cheese and spaghetti aglio olio. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the piece de resistance – Martin’s Mojo Pork Loin, which eventually gets turned into the world’s most beautiful cubanos. Basic research tells me the recipe comes from Roy Choi – big name, bigger flavours, and apparently a genius.

I’ve made the loin only once before, a couple months ago, and had amazing sandwiches to last the rest of the week. Last Friday, however, was a shitstorm of awful, the kind of workday you come out of feeling shorter, and I thought it was appropriate to impulse-buy a 1kg pork shoulder loin. I’m not even sorry.

Seven things to note:

  • Use all the herbs you buy; unless you’re planning on saving them for another dish, it’s likely they’ll just end up wilting in the fridge.
  • Scrape and wash off the grainy parts of your cilantro root. The root is where the flavour is, so toss that into your blender too.
  • The original recipe calls for only the orange zest, but I added the lime zest for more punch. Also, I’d recommend squeezing the citrus separately before pouring it into the blender, as lime pips tend to be a bit bitter.
  • For the life of me, I couldn’t find my jar of cumin seeds, so I used a combination of fennel seeds and ground coriander instead.
  • Roasting instructions: Recipe Tin Eats recommends that you roast the loin covered, and then letting it brown uncovered in the oven over the last half hour. My shoulder weighs in at 1kg (2lbs); I slow-roasted it at 160°C for 2 hours, then removed the tinfoil lid and continued roasting for another 30 minutes.
  • Recipe Tin Eats also recommends making a sauce out of the drippings and leftover marinade, which I heartily endorse. Waste not, want not.
  • In deference to the original recipe, I put mustard on one side of the sandwich. Then, I slathered homemade toum (Lebanese garlic sauce) on the other side. Trust me on this one.
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Not that a recipe for a sandwich is ever really necessary, but mine has dill pickles and emmental alongside the aforementioned toum and mustard – and of course, the mojo pork thinly-sliced. Extra toum for my cucumber, a Campari cocktail. Lunch is served!

On bread options, I think it’s safe to say you can go with just about any bread you want. I personally like the crispness of baguettes, but if you’re not in a mood to slice and dice, go for individual slipper ciabattas. Those won’t crisp up as much, but are still good and leave you with less work, which in my book, is always a win!

Quite serendipitously, I discovered an appropriate Sunday afternoon cocktail to serve alongside the cubano – fresh-squeezed orange juice with a splash of Campari. And voila, I now have a use for all the oranges I’d bought for the marinade! Win-win.

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