By now you may have guessed that I am of Spanish decent, dad’s Cuban and mom’s Dominican. Which simply means that although I was born in the United States, I have retained my Spanish roots. This isn’t difficult to accomplish if you grew up in Miami like I did. There is a large Hispanic presence here and frankly, I never grew up feeling like a minority.
One of the things I really enjoy about living in this city is the melting pot of flavors available to us. Similar to New York city, you can find just about any type of cuisine here. Cuban food is very popular around these parts, and the locals know exactly what you are referring to when you say “lechón”. It’s easily found on the menu of many restaurants.
Lechón is a Cuban-style pork made with a marinade that uses bitter oranges, better known as the Seville orange. This orange is quite sour and not at all sweet like most others. The marinade gets its distinctive flavor from the use of lots of garlic, cumin, oregano.
During the holidays this dish is especially popular. In fact, it’s not rare for some households to swap out the typical Thanksgiving turkey for lechón. This is where my family draws the line, not wanting to mess with tradition. No one is swapping out the big bird, even if the lechón is a lot tastier.
There are as many variations to this recipe as there are cooks. Of course the best way to experience Cuban cuisine, is to be invited to a party where they are cooking the whole hog (pork roast) in a caja china. It’s basically a wood box lined in metal that is then topped with a charcoal tray. Cooking in caja china is an all-day event, that builds the anticipation of the lechón finally being ready to eat. If ever invited don’t turn down the opportunity to experience the excitement behind this meal.
Nothing beats a lechón that has been lovingly cooked for hours in a caja china. But let’s face it who has time to cook this way on a regular basis? Which is why I use a slow cooker. After the lechón is cooked I then place the shredded meat under the broiler for a few minutes to allow the meat to crisp.
This recipe is a nod to my Dad’s homeland and reminds me of the importance of a good meal shared among family and friends. So how does a low-carber accompany her lechón with? Easy, a side of cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and a green salad
Low Carb Lechón Cuban-Style Pork
4 pounds of pork shoulder
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3 teaspoons of sea salt
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper flakes
2 onions coarsely chopped
8 cloves of garlic, finely minced
½ cup of sour orange juice (or substitute ¼ cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of unsweetened orange juice not from concentrate if not available).
½ cup of white wine or ¼ cup of white vinegar
2 bay leaves
In a medium bowl, mix together the sour orange juice, white wine vinegar, salt, oregano, cumin powder, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour the marinade over the pork. Place the pork inside the slow cooker along with the onions and bay leaf. Cover and allow to cook on low for at least 8 hours.
Once the pork is fork-tender, drain the meat and place it on a cookie sheet under a broiler until the meat crisps up.
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