Monday, February 17, 2014

Cuban Mojo Marinade Recipes and Cooking Tips for Mojo

One of my greatest blessings is the kitchen aroma in my house growing up and the associated memories.

We were what is considered a "multi-ethnic european/latin family" . . . yes, ethnic groups have subgroups.  Back in the day, the mixing of those groups was frowned upon, but my generation in my part of the world seems to be one of the first to have embraced the mingling of those ethnic groups. 

Cuban cigar factories sprung up in Tampa, Florida that employed so many of the european latino and cuban immigrants that flooded the area and many grew up in the same neighborhoods and their children went to the same schools.

With the blending of those families came a blending of cooking techniques and customs.  The food that came from my childhood kitchen was italian, cuban and spanish in origin.  What a delicious combination!

In doing research for some local dishes I grew up with, I have come to realize that many are unique to this area of the world!

It is delightfully odd how writing a post about cuban mojo conjured up so many memories.  My fondest memories come from the smell of a roast pork in the oven marinaded and basted with cuban mojo and tons of onion and garlic as a bed for the pork.  Black beans served on garlicky white rice usually accompanied the roast.  When we make a roast pork, the aroma takes me back to Christmas Eve at my Godmother's house and the best black beans and rice with roast pork I have ever had! 

Ditto for the preparation of a roasted whole chicken, although the family had a strong preference for pork.

In Cuban cooking, mojo is a sauce/marinade that is made with garlic, olive oil and a citrus juice, traditionally sour orange juice.  Orange and lime juice can be used as a substitute if sour oranges are not available.

In my area, sour orange trees are prevalent since we live right on the line of the subtropical gardening zone.  When the sweet juicing orange trees would die from an occasional freeze, what grew back from the trunk was not a sweet orange, but a sour orange, much like a lemon, but sweeter.  Our house sits on a former orange grove, so the sour orange trees are still popping up from the birds scattering the seeds.  What a blessing!  I'm not even sure if they are locally sold in stores since I have never had to buy them.  I do know that you can buy bottled mojo in the ethnic section of the grocery store.

The Captain has developed quite a fondness for this concoction we call cuban mojo since we married and he was introduced to a whole new world of food and cooking.  He has become the official mojo maker, storing the mojo in old wine bottles that accompany all his other concoctions and sauces in the fridge.  He continues to experiment with the basic recipe by adding some form of hot pepper to the mix with some delicious results.

Honestly, all you need is a great mojo sauce to flavor your pork roast or whole chicken in a quick and easy prep . . . marinated and/or basted . . . cooked in the oven, grill/smoker or slow cooker does all the work.   For us, it is the most economical way for us to prepare them since we don't have to buy fancy, expensive sauces.

Some ideas for the use of mojo that we love:

Mojo is also used on seafood and beef. 

Add a splash of mojo to a shrimp scampi type of dish or baked fish with onions.

 Shrimp is awesome marinaded in mojo and grilled for a few minutes for a tasty appetizer. 

 Palomilla (a thin steak cut from the round) or cubed steak marinated in mojo and pan fried with grilled onions is awesome . . . put that steak and onions in some hot crusty bread for a sandwich that is to die for. 

 I love putting some mojo on black beans and rice for extra flavor! 

 It is one of those concoctions that can go a long way with a little imagination and creativity in your cooking.

Basic Cuban Mojo Recipe

½ cup of olive oil
10 garlic cloves, minced, but best processed in a blender with the juices  (You could use as few as 6 or 8, but in my opinion, the more garlic, the better!)
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
¾ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp oregano
½ tsp salt (or to taste)

Process the garlic cloves with the juices until garlic is minced super fine if a blender is available.
Stir in the olive oil and spices.
You can use bottled sour orange juice available in the Hispanic foods/ethnic section of most grocery stores, however, lime juice and orange juice work just as well in a 1 to 1 formula.
The mojo can be kept in the refrigerator for three days to a week, if it lasts that long!
If you don't want to mess with making your own mojo, there are some very good varieties available in the ethnic section of the grocery store.

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