Tag Archives: pork

Viva la Cuban!

This morning we ventured over to Sandy’s Cafe in Little Havana, a few streets over from Duval. Open 24 hours with an all day menu, and I have a hankering for a Cuban Sandwich. Sandy’s does not disappoint.

IMG_3058 (8 of 8)Sandy’s features outside only seating. We find a pleasant spot against the building under an awning where we can watch the world go by under an already scorching sun.

IMG_3443 (4 of 8)Orders are placed at the counter. I’m trying a cafe con leche for the first time, a shot of buchi (expresso) with cream and sugar. A bit too sweet for me. I should have asked for less sugar, but nevertheless cafe con leche makes a fine wake me up drink.

IMG_3442 (5 of 8)Sandwiches arrive wrapped in paper inside take-out containers and accompanied by a very small serving of passable shoestring fries.  The second you unwrap your sammy, you know… A feast for the eyes and the palate. A soft bun, loaded with roast pork crisped up and caramelized on the flat top, ham, fresh tomatoes and shredded lettuce, topped with thin cucumber pickle and pressed lightly. $7.99.

IMG_3449 (1 of 8)While eating, sitting up against the building with a window open to the small kitchen, you are surrounded by the mouth watering smell of pork roasting and frying on the griddle. The cook adds spice to the mix and it is positively intoxicating. Everyone should start their day this way.

IMG_3439 (6 of 8)Off to explore Higgs Beach and the Key West Garden Club at the West Martello Fort Tower. Already too hot to wander and take pics like I like to. I’ll save that for an early morning before we leave.

IMG_3468 (3 of 3)IMG_3478 (2 of 3)After a long day in the hot sun relaxing and swimming at the Inn, we are up for some more Cuban food, something that really does not exist in Ottawa.

El Siboney, tucked away in a residential part of Old Key West, celebrates its Cuban indigenous roots. The homey restaurant and warm decor features renderings and sculpture of this native population, the way other restaurants here are cluttered with cats and roosters. The Siboney are depicted much like American Indians were in the 1800’s. This population mixed with the Spanish as they arrived in the America’s much like Mexico’s indigenous peoples.

This neighbourhood joint, relatively free of tourists, had a fairly extensive menu in both English and Spanish. We are quickly seated and brought a basket of warm Cuban bread — white, toasty and buttered.

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I order a “Cuban Style” Hatuey beer, made in the USA. It is thin and bitter, not my preference but drinkable.

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We have limited experience with Cuban fare and want to try a few things. Rob orders the BBQ chicken with plantanos maduros (fried ripe plantains), rice and black beans, which are separate sides not mixed. The rice, coloured a deep yellow with annatto seed, a common spice in Mexican cuisine, provides a nice foil for the sweet, juicy chicken. The plantains are fried to a deep caramel, chewy and perfect. I decide on the roast pork, cassava and tamale. We choose a side of croquetta just to try.

Food comes out quickly and looks amazing. Rob’s chicken is a large half, generously sauced with a sweet BBQ sauce. He applies some of the house-made hot sauce and sings its praises.

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My heaping serving of moist, flavourful pork, comes with cassava, a starchy, bland, gluey, root vegetable, a staple in a good part of the world, which may substitute for a potato but has way less flavour. Both the pork and the cassava are covered in under-fried (in a good way) garlicky onions that provide a nice texture and mild bite. Cassava serves to fill hungry bellies and I don’t really care for it so it gets left. The tamale, made with fine masa flour, has great corn taste and the lightly sweet, cumin scented tomato sauce coating makes for a delicious accompaniment to the roast pork.IMG_3064 (3 of 5)

The side of shared croquetta are also well made and tasty. Darkly crisp, just shy of burnt, they are filled with smoky ham and potato.

IMG_3065 (4 of 5)Overall a cheap and very satisfying homemade meal.


Piggy Market 2.0!

The new and even better Piggy Market re-opened November 12th as an artisan delicatessen and craft butcher shop. I dropped in this week for a quick chat with Dave Neil, co-owner of Piggy. He explained that craft butcher is an Irish designation for meat that is hung to age not cryovaced. The new butchery offers custom cutting of local beef (O’Brien Farms) and Ontario pork as well as heritage pork – Large Black, Berkshire, and Tamworth, which they rotate on a weekly basis. This means you can visit Piggy and have your beef ground while you wait (they take orders ahead of time on the phone as well), and have your steaks cut to your desired thickness. If you are interested in stocking your freezer and want a more hands on approach you can order a 1/2 pig, whole lamb or prime cut of beef, and they will butcher it to your specifications after hours while you watch. You also have the option to sign a waiver and do some of the cutting yourself.

Piggy is also committed to featuring the best charcuterie available locally. Currently they are carrying an array of wonderful treats such as lardo, cutatello, rosetta and salame from Dolce Lucano of Woodbridge, Ontario (exclusive) and smoked molasses and cracked black pepper bacon (!) and dried sausage from Seed to Sausage in the Charbot Lake area. This is probably the best charcuterie Rob and I have come across in our travels and Piggy brings it to us right here in Ottawa. Check out Piggy’s website and blog for weekly offerings, or just pop in and be inspired like we do.

For the upcoming holiday season, Piggy Market helps you get into a festive mood with offerings like goose, duck, suckling pig, turkey (local and local organic), tortiere and plum puddings, beef suet for mince meat and for your feathered friends, and high fat butter from Stirling, Ontario for your baking. They also offer prepared charcutierie platters on slate boards for your entertaining needs.

Piggy continues to carry all your favorites: a selection of Ontario and Quebec cheeses, local eggs and dairy, Art-Is-In bread, Jamaican patties, Bryson Farms products, local produce, Pascal’s ice cream, Piggy’s own to die for 4-cheese mac and cheese and more.

On our first visit to the new re-opened Piggy Market, we were inspired by a beautiful flank steak and changed our dinner plans. We marinated it, grilled it, sliced it and served it with grilled red peppers and onions, a cilantro relish and some hot sauce. We’ll cover the meal in more detail for a future posting, but here’s a delicious preview.


Rites of Spring: BBQ Ribs

Along with the greening trees and putting away the parkas and boots for the season, there’s nothing that makes me happier for change in seasons than getting to work with the BBQ. Don’t get me wrong, we use the BBQ year-round (heck, the only thing I shovel in Winter is the path to the BBQ out back), but that’s usually for grilling. I’m talking about BBQ (you know, as a noun) — low and slow over smoke.

This year on Mother’s Day, Maureen requested BBQ ribs and I was very happy to oblige. I was looking forward to trying out a new gadget: an iGrill. A temperature probe that works with an accompanying app that gets real-time temperature info transmitted to your iPhone or iPad. This enables less direct fussing over consistent heat as you can tell the heat at all times wherever you are and an alarm will sound if temperature gets to high or low. It certainly reduces the babysitting that real BBQ sometimes demands. I really only tended the BBQ all day for adding wood chips to my smoker drawer and spritzing the ribs with a mop mixture to keep them from drying out.
















For this recipe, I used trimmed baby back ribs and a clean-out-the-cupboard rub composed mostly of Renee’s Desert Rub (a southwestern favourite of ours made with ancho chiles, spices and brown sugar).  Also used was a clean-out-the-fridge-BBQ sauce with two main components, Piggy Market‘s Happy Goat Pig Slathering Sauce, made with Happy Goat coffee which added an earthy quality and Renee’s Desert Glaze, made with their rub mixture suspended in a thick prickly pear syrup.

While the rub is important and so is the sauce, neither come close to the technique in influencing the outcome: Tender, BBQ ribs that have sweetened with smoke and heat. This time around I used a mixture of cherry wood and alder wood smoke.

There’s no recipe here, but this is the basic technique:

  • Trim the ribs to clean up any loose flesh or fat.
  • Apply rub liberally and yes, RUB IT IN. it’s this action that helps to break down the tissue of the meat to soak in the flavour and smoke. I like to let the meat sit after applying rub for at least 30-60 minutes. It helps it to soak into the meat and ensures that there’s not a powdery coating on the meat.
  • I set the BBQ for approximately 275 degrees F and start the smoking process. I soak about 2/3 of the chips in water  and mix them with dry chips in the smoker drawer of the BBQ. This ensures that they just don’t catch fire and burn up. It also lets them provide smoke for a longer period of time. I replenish the chips about once every 40 minutes or so, as they reduce to ash.
  • I place the ribs, bone side down on the grill, on the opposite side of the heat source to ensure indirect heat only. I make sure to put my temperature probe on the side of the meat for accurate readings.
  • Whenever I replace wood chips I lift the BBQ lid and spray it with the mop liquid, made from cider vinegar, a little ketchup, some rub spices and some bread and butter pickle juice (yes, really!).
  • There’s no hard and fast rule here. The longer you do this, the more tender the meat will be, as long as the heat is maintained and kept from drying out. This time I let them smoke for about 4 hours, which is about an hour more than what I would consider the minimum.
  • Just when they are about ready, I use the sauce I prepared, and brush it on. I avoid the overly thick, strong and smoky BBQ sauces as the flavour should come from the meat and the sauce only embellishes it. I always favour a light glaze-style sauce.
  • I turn up the BBQ to high and get some grill marks on the racks and then bring them inside. I always cut them and serve individual ribs. They’re messy enough to eat without having the diners wrangle sharp knives with saucy fingers.

This time I served them with a red cabbage coleslaw and a fresh corn salad, made with scallions, red pepper and pickled jalapeno with an agave nectar and lime vinaigrette.