Recipe: This Lech贸n with Mojo Is Anything But Your Average Easter Ham

Chef Mario Christerna鈥檚 family鈥檚 slow-cooked pork shoulder is a little bit Cuban, a little bit Mexican, and a total showstopper

When Mario Christerna was in his twenties, his mother remarried. Initially, Christerna, a Mexican American and the chef-owner of Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co., felt protective of his mom as he got to know his new stepfather, who is Cuban. Then he tasted his lech贸n. After taking one bite of the juicy pork, he recalls, 鈥淚 felt respect for him, because I was like, 鈥榃ow, he cooks!鈥欌 After that, it became a tradition for the family to enjoy the roast together every Easter following church services.

Over the years, they鈥檝e perfected the recipe, with Christerna, now 41, and his mom incorporating elements they cook with often, such as Mexican oregano, green bell peppers, and Bijol seasoning. 鈥淲e added our thing to it,鈥 says the chef, whose Boyle Heights restaurant is less than three miles from his childhood home. He adds, 鈥淚t鈥檚 rich, salty, flavorful, and comforting. You know when you taste something and you can tell that someone was having a good day in the kitchen? It tastes like that. When you bite into it and close your eyes, you鈥檙e like, 鈥楽omeone with love made that.鈥欌 Here, he shares the recipe.

Lech贸n with Mojo

2 陆聽 cups peeled whole garlic cloves

陆 green bell pepper, cored and seeded

4 cups orange juice, ideally fresh-squeezed

zest of 2 oranges

1 陆 tsp Mexican dried oregano

陆 tsp cumin

录 tsp Bijol seasoning

7 Tbsp kosher salt

4 Tbsp olive oil

1 10-pound, bone-in pork shoulder

1 bay leaf

陆 green bell pepper, cored and seeded

2 onions, sliced in rounds

leaves from 1 bunch of parsley

Begin preparations three days out. Make the mojo sauce. In a food processor, combine two cups of the garlic, bell pepper, orange juice, zest, oregano, cumin, Bijol, four tablespoons of salt, and two of olive oil. Blend until smooth.

Salt the pork shoulder with the remaining salt and refrigerate for three hours. Then cut several slits all over the skin side, and insert the remaining garlic cloves. Place the pork shoulder in an eight-quart container and marinate it in one third of the mojo sauce with a bay leaf for two days in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pork from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. In a large saut茅 pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and sear the pork on all sides. Then place it in a roasting pan, skin side down. In the same pan, cook the remaining sauce and onions until the onions are translucent, then pour the sauce over the pork. Wrap the pan in foil and roast in the oven for six hours, replacing the foil and tenting it after two hours and basting every hour. Then remove the foil, flip the pork over, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Remove the roast from the oven. Let it rest for at least an hour. Slice the meat, pour the drippings and sauce over it, garnish with parsley. Serves many with lots of leftovers.

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