Fricasé de Costillas de Puerco al Estilo de Chamarreta

Braised Pork Ribs Chamarreta

Maricel Presilla is a respected food historian, restaurateur, chef, and writer. She was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States, with her family, as a young woman. Maricel adapted this recipe from a home cook in the rural community of Chamarreta in eastern Cuba. As Maricel explains, “In this mountainous region, seasonings are Spartan, but somehow manage to do justice to the good flavor of the local pork.”

This is not a classic Cuban fricasé as most Cubans know it, a dish made with tomatoes, bell peppers, and several other ingredients, but a pared down braise made with the few ingredients available to rural cooks. The intensity and purity of flavor obtained by limiting the number of ingredients seems so modern, however, that I decided to include this recipe in the Cocina Nueva chapter. Maricel suggests serving the pork with Congrí Oriental (Red Beans and Rice) or with boiled yuca or boniato.

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Ingredients

  • pounds meaty pork spare ribs, cut to order (see below)
  • ½ cup fresh bitter orange juice, or ¼ cup regular orange juice and ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 8 green onions (white and tender green parts), finely chopped

Method

Have your butcher separate the ribs and cut them crosswise into 2-inch sections. Rinse the ribs under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels. Place them in a large bowl and toss with the bitter orange juice and salt; set aside for 10 minutes.

Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, and not allowing the pieces to touch, brown the ribs in their own fat, stirring often, about 15 minutes. When the last batch of ribs are browned, return all of the ribs to the pot, add the garlic and green onions, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Add 3 to 4 cups water (enough to halfway cover the ribs) to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot tightly, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the ribs are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If too much liquid remains, uncover the pot and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the sauce reduces and thickens to your liking. You should have enough sauce to spoon over a side of rice or tubers.