Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Pork, Lime Rice, and Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Cafe Rio is my favorite restaurant, ever.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I would go there weekly.  Probably more than weekly.  I remember having a free meal every other month. (You get a free meal after purchasing 10 meals.) After I got married, I stopped going as much, and then we decided to get crazy and move across the country.

The nearest Cafe Rio is approximately 777 miles away.

That's an interesting coincidence... Since that's also my anniversary. Huh... Must be a sign or something.

A few years ago, before I moved across the country, I found an assortment of Cafe Rio copycat recipes.  I tried and played with each one, making my own adjustments, and below is what I have come up with.

Spoiler alert: I have tasted official Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing side by side with my recipe below and I could NOT tell a difference. Take that!

It is easiest if you split the work into two days:

Day 1:
Cook the pork on low (then stick it in the fridge overnight/during the next day before you're ready to prepare dinner - you can skim the grease/fat that hardens and rises to the top this way).
Make the dressing and let it sit in the fridge, getting "happy" (the dressing flavors intensify and the dressing itself gets thicker if you let it sit a while).
Make the pico de gallo and let it sit in the fridge, getting "happy" (flavors will intensify).

Day 2:
Heat up/finish cooking the pork in the yummy sauce while you...
Make the rice.

It's slightly less work this way.

Well, it's the same amount of work, but less work each day, and day 2 is much faster (dinner ready in 45 minutes is fine by me!).

I've included recipes for sweet pork, cilantro lime dressing, lime rice, and pico de gallo. I don't like my Cafe Rio salad with beans, and I'm too lazy to make the tortilla strips that go on top.

My point is, prepare what you want. Make the salad your own! Get crazy!

Cilantro Lime Dressing:
1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c milk
1 lime, zest and juice
1 packet of ranch dressing mix
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c cilantro, roughly chopped (most of the time I use 1/2 or more of an entire bundle)
1/4 c green salsa (La Costena or Herdez brand)
Chili Lime Cholula, to taste (original Cholula will work as well)

Mix all ingredients in the blender, put in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.

Lime Rice:
1 cup long-grain, brown rice
1 3/4 cups water
2 tsp chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup green salsa (use leftovers from the dressing recipe!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tsp butter

Combine everything in a rice cooker and let it do its magic. (You can use white rice instead of brown. You also can substitute straight up chicken broth or chicken stock instead of the bouillon and water.)

Pico De Gallo
1 tomato, diced
a few sprigs (2-3) cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, diced
sprinkle of salt, to taste

Basically this is a fresh, chunky salsa.  Combine tomato, cilantro, onion and sprinkle of salt.  Let sit in the fridge until the flavors get happy.

Sweet Pork
2 pounds pork (I use pork butt roast)
2 cans Coke, divided (You could also use Dr. Pepper. If you use Root Beer, it will not taste like Cafe Rio's.)
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 c green salsa (same as in the dressing and rice!)
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce (I like Old El Paso medium heat)

Put pork, 1 can of Coke, garlic salt and 1/4 cup brown sugar in crock pot on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. When done, shred pork. Mix 1 can of Coke, green salsa, enchilada sauce, and 3/4 cup brown sugar in a bowl, then pour over shredded pork in crock pot and cook on high for 45 minutes, or on low for 2 hours.

Other items needed:
Shredded romaine lettuce
Sour cream
Extra sprigs of cilantro
Fresh lime wedges

When everything is done, build your salad, or burrito, or taco. Whatever!

I like to put a tortilla on my plate, followed by a a small scoop of rice, a little bit of shredded pork, then some shredded lettuce. Add sour cream, pico, cilantro, and a lime wedge. Pour on as much dressing as suits your fancy.

Then sit back, put your feet up, and relax, because this meal is a ton of work!

Personally I'd rather spend $10 and go to Cafe Rio.