Matt Potter 11:51 a.m., Sept. 20
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- Chef Arleen Sez's
Hot Off the Caja China
The other day my husband and I were in our backyard pouring charcoal into our barbecue in anticipation of a wonderful meal. One thing led to another and before we knew it we had pulled out the caja china and began the process of roasting a whole leg of pork.
You see, we're from Miami and whenever you decide to barbecue the caja china always comes to mind. What is a caja china? It's a box that is lined with aluminum or tin, wood on the outside and the grates sit on the top. Charcoal is then pour into 3 lines and the long process of technically steaming the pig begins. On average it will take about 4-6 hours to do a leg and about 10-12 hours to do the whole pig. Trust me, the results are well worth the effort, there's nothing like the flavor of a mojo infused pig to make your mouth water and your heart sing. Crunchy skin and melt in your mouth meat, many a battle has been waged over who gets the best pieces of skin. It's not uncommon for someone to walk off with another's plate in a lame attempt to capture the best for themselves.
And what is mojo? Well, first off it is pronounce moho not mo joe, and it consists of sour oranges, limes, a ton of salt, cumin and a mix of a variety of other spices. This magic potion can turn anything into gold. Marinating a pig in it is just one of the wonders of the world. The Cuban culture has perfected this marinade beating out the rest of the Caribbean and they know it. Cuban families guard their concoctions like Fort Knox. Oh, they'll tell you the basic ingredients, I just did, but the true magic lies in the mixture of spices reminiscent of one's past and family history. No two mojo's are alike. Nor should they be. That's what makes eating pork all the more exciting.
In the end, we had enough food to feed an army. Our neighborhood was awash in the scent of roasting pork. Before long our friends had arrived and between the rice and black beans, the maduros and tostones, we rolled away from the table only dreaming of the sandwiches we'd make the next day. I guess I'm going to have to bake Cuban bread....