Friday, November 16, 2012

Cacoila with Cauliflower Rice

Cacoila is a delicious Portuguese-style of pulled pork that is made with peppers instead of BBQ sauce. I was first introduced to this dish several years ago while visiting family in the New Bedford area of Massachusetts, also known as Little Portugal. I grew up eating a few of the traditional New Bedford-style Portuguese foods—Gaspar's Chourico and Linguica (is there any other brand worth mentioning?), blood sausage, kale soup. All great dishes and luckily for me, easily adaptable to the paleo/primal lifestyle. The first time I had this dish, it was served on a nice fluffy Portuguese roll as a sandwich. It was superbly delicious. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but I definitely remember the taste of their cacoila, so I did my best to replicate it. It's not perfect, but I think I got pretty close and managed to stay pretty close to the traditional taste. It's been several years for me, so I may need a New Englander to tell me for sure!

1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground black pepper
couple dashes of cumin
couple dashes of coriander
2 lbs. pork butt
½ cup Portuguese brand crushed red pepper*
2 onions, sliced into rings
3 red peppers, seeded and sliced into thick strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp orange zest, preferably fresh
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
¾ cup orange juice (freshly squeezed preferred but not required)
1¼ cup red wine (Portuguese if you can find it)
4 tbsp tomato paste

In a small dish, combine salt, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, ground black pepper, cumin, and coriander. Wash and pat pork butt dry with paper towels. In a dish large enough to hold your pork butt, rub the spice mixture over the entire piece. Set in dish and coat the outside of the pork butt with all of the crushed red pepper. Marinate in the fridge at least 24 hours but preferably up to 48 hours.

At time of cooking, remove pork butt from fridge and allow to come to room temperature while prepping the pot. In the bottom of a stock pot or dutch oven, layer onion rings and pepper strips. Add garlic, orange zest, parsley, and bay leaf. Set pork butt on top of onions and peppers, making sure the lid will still sit securely on top. If not, you may need to create a well in the onions and peppers to make room. Pour the orange juice and red wine over the top of the pork butt to fill up mostly to half way up the pot. If not, add more orange juice or red wine to fill. The meat should be somewhat sitting in the liquid, but its not crucial as long as there is room for the onions and peppers to cook down so that most of the meat sits in the liquid later as it simmers. Bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to low or simmer and cover. Simmer for 3-3½ hours, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid doesn't dry out. The onions and peppers and meat should release liquids while cooking, so the meat should remain half to three-quarters submerged. If not, add liquid to keep it mostly covered. 

After 3½ hours, check meat. It should shred easily between to forks. If it doesn't, keep on a simmer while covered until the meat does shred. Once the meat is completely shredded, add tomato paste and increase heat to medium low to cook off extra liquid. This will allow the mixture to thicken and become more stew-like. You can thicken to your desired consistency.

Traditionally, this dish is served on rice or Portuguese bread as a sandwich. To make this more paleo/primal-friendly, I served mine on a bed of cauliflower rice. 

*Note: If, like me, you are unable to locate a Portuguese brand of crushed red peppers, you can easily create your own mixture with the following recipe:

Crushed Red Peppers
2-3 red peppers, only stem removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt

Process red peppers including seeds in a food processor. Pepper choice will depend on heat desired. For less spicy, I used just red bell peppers and added 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. You could also add red cherry peppers for added heat or another spicier red chili pepper. Once thoroughly minced, add olive oil and salt and blend until a thick paste.