Monday, May 19, 2008

Café Rio Pork Salad -- Full Recipe

This is a take on the famous Café Rio pork salad. In fact, this is less a carbon copy of than it is an improvement on the salad so many dearly love. The cooking is broken up into eight major components: pork, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, beans, rice, and dressing. Other components that require no cooking are: romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese, sour cream. For best taste, these components need to come together quickly. I’ll try to indicate the best procedure for maximizing freshness. I’ll also state which items may be made ahead. Okay here goes.



• 3.5 lbs pork shoulder (a.k.a. pork butt) — boneless is easiest
• 10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
• 8 oz. Dr. Pepper
• 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
• 1 can chopped green chiles
• 2 teaspoons salt

• 8 plum tomatoes (a.k.a. roma tomatoes)
• 1 handful cilantro — buy 1 bunch, you’ll need it later as well
• Juice of ½ lime
• ½ tablespoon olive oil — if you don’t have olive oil, skip the oil
• Salt to taste

• 3 avocadoes
• 2 cloves garlic
• Juice of ½ lime
• Salt to taste

• 8 6 or 8-inch flour tortillas
• 2 ½ to 3 cups vegetable oil
• Salt to taste

• 2 cans black beans
• 1 onion
• 2 tablespoons olive oil — if you don’t have olive oil, use vegetable oil
• 1 can low sodium chicken stock or chicken broth
• Salt to taste

• 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
• 3 cups water
• Juice of 1 lime
• Zest of 1 lime
• 1 handful cilantro
• 1 ½ teaspoons salt

• 1 Hidden Valley Ranch buttermilk packet
• 2 tomatillos
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 cup mayonnaise — not Miracle Whip, mayonnaise
• ½ chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce or ½ chopped serrano chile — optional


• 2 heads or 3 hearts of romaine lettuce
• 1 container sour cream
• ½ pound cheddar cheese



Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place pork in crock pot bowl. Add brown sugar and green chiles. Pour in enchilada sauce and Dr. Pepper. Put aluminum foil over bowl and cut 8–10 slits. Place in oven and cook for 5–6 hours.

Take bowl from oven. Remove pork to a cutting board under which you’ve placed two layers of paper towels. Place liquid into sauce pot, turn burner on high, and let boil while you pull the pork. Now, take two forks and pull the pork apart. Pull until the entire butt is reduced to a big pile of stringy pork. Remove unnecessary fat globs.

Place pork in liquid. Reduce until mixture is not runny. The pork is runny if you pull some out with a tong and you see a string of liquid coming dripping off. A few drops is okay, but no liquid strings.

Place pork in container and set aside.

* You can make the pork ahead. Pork placed in an air tight container will keep for 5–7 days in the fridge. If you do make ahead, remove pork and reheat it in a sauce pot before using.

2. Dressing

Husk the tomatillos and cut them in half. Roast them in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

While tomatillos are roasting, place ranch packet in a food processor. Add buttermilk and mayonnaise. When tomatillos are roasted, place them in the processor and process until smooth.

If you want your dressing spicier, add ½ chipotle chile or ½ serrano chile before processing.

* You can make this ahead. Dressing stored in an airtight container will last 3–4 days, at a minimum. I wouldn’t make it anymore than a day ahead, however. You want the freshest taste possible.

4. Rice

Place rice in a strainer and clean with running water. Place in a medium non-stick pot with an oven proof lid. Add water and salt and zest. Place in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until fluffy.

While rice is cooking, finely dice cilantro. Remove rice from oven and fluff it with a fork or spoon. Add cilantro and lime juice. Place in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Set aside.

5. Guacamole

Cut avocados in half and core them. Remove the meat and place in a food processor. Mince garlic and add to food processor. Add lime juice and salt. Process.

Processing time depends on how chunky you want you guac. I like mine smooth, so I process until the mixture looks like butter. If you like your guac chunkier, then process for less time.

6. Salsa

Cut tomatoes in half. Remove seeds. Dice tomatoes into fairly small pieces and place them in a mixing bowl. Finely dice cilantro and place in bowl. Add olive oil, lime juice, and salt. Mix.

7. Beans

Dice onion. Place olive oil in sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onions and salt and sauté for 4– 6 minutes, or until translucent. Place beans in a strainer and clean with running water. Add beans to pot. Pour in chicken stock or broth. Turn heat to high and reduce until mixture is no longer soupy. Turn burner to low and let sit.

8. Tortillas

Place oil in a large pot over medium high heat. When oil has come to temperature introduce tortilla. Fry until first side is lightly brown. Flip tortilla and lightly brown the other side. Remove tortilla and place in a place lined with four layers of paper towels. Salt to taste. Repeat this process until you have fried each tortilla.

Take Tortillas two at a time and cube them — four lengthwise slices and four vertical slices works well. Store tortillas on a plate or in a bowl.

9. Other ingredients

Shred cheddar cheese and place in bowl. Chop romaine — ½ wide strips work well. Open sour cream.

All the cooking and prep is finished. Now it’s on to . . .



Plate components as follows (portions are entirely up to you, but if you’re not a hog, this recipe feeds 4–6):

1. Tortillas
2. Pork
3. Rice
4. Beans
5. Cheese
6. Sour cream (on one side)
7. Gauc (on side opposite sour cream)
8. Salsa
9. Romaine
10. Dressing

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