Spicy Coffee-Braised Pork

Spicy coffee braised pork with jasmine rice and buttered corn It's dinner Chez Chamie again. Tonight, I had to use up the rest of the family pack of pork ribs from the coffee-glazed ribs the other night. There were only two of them and four of us and I have new coffee in the house that I didn't feel like brewing just yet. The answer is a no-brainer, right? Coffee-rubbed pork for the win, of course!

Okay, so it wouldn't have been quite as much of a no-brainer if I wasn't on this cooking with coffee kick. I did want to see how the coffee flavor would hold up against other strong flavors and I wanted to use it dry instead of brewed. And since I've been so wrapped up in work the past few days, I haven't got out shopping and the cupboard is pretty bare of other ingredients. I actually came up with two very different flavor profiles -- both of them much better than they should have been considering the very little thought I put into them. The dish in the picture is the end result -- chunks of slow-cooked pork in a savory, hearty gravy with just a hint of coffee flavor. If you didn't know it was in there, you probably wouldn't taste the coffee. You'd definitely taste the richness, though.

The other dish -- which really, is this dish at an earlier stage -- was spicy coffee-rubbed pork, i.e., the same meat, the same rub before I added water and let it braise and slow-cook for an hour. At that point, I'd coated the pork chunks with the spice-and-coffee rub and browned them in just enouh oil to coat the bottom of the pan. The pork was cooked through, the coffee-spice rub was crusted on the meat and the coffee flavor aded a heady depth to the more piquant spices. The pork was sweet and juicy, the coffee was rich and smoky and the pepper, cumin, cloves and allspice were just ...amazing. Here's the recipe for the rub.

Spicy Coffee Rub for Pork

  • 1/4 cup medium roast coffee, ground extra fine
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a covered jar and shake well to blend. Keep in mind that spices, like coffee, rapidly degrade in flavor after they're ground. I happen to be very picky about that, so the allspice, cloves, pepper and cumin were all ground immediately before blending. And of course, so was the coffee. If you make this up in a larger batch in advance, you should probably plan on keeping it in a tightly covered jar.

For grilled spicy coffee-rubbed pork:

Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Toss the pork with the coffee rub mixture in a bag to coat the meat on all sides. Heat a heavy skillet or pot over medium heat until a drop of water skitters around on the metal. Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the pork a few cubes at a time to prevent cooling down the pan too much. Brown the pork on all sides, then continue cooking for 6-10 minutes, until the pork is cooked through but still juicy. Remove the cubed pork from the pan to a warm platter.

You can stop at this point and serve the meat on a bed of rice pilaf. It will be tneder,  juicy and deliciously spiced with a strong undercurrent of coffee to balance the spiciness. Or, you can continue to braise the pork.

Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Return the meat to the pan. Cover the pan tightly and turn down the flame to low. Let the meat cook over low heat for 45 to 50 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure that the water doesn't boil off. The tight cover, heavy pan and low heat are vital here... if you use stainless steel waterless cookware, you won't have to add any water and nothing will burn.

Remove the meat from the pan. Mix 2 tsp of corn starch into a cup of cold water. Add it to the drippings remaining in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring until it clear and thickened. Adjust salt to taste. Return the meat to the gravy and let heat through. Serve over rice.

The coffee was Dean's Beans Timor Astabe, which I have not drunk yet. I can tell you, though, that it would probably make amazing chocolate covered coffee beans just from tasting the grounds as I was blending the spices in. That's probably not important if you're going to braise the pork -- the coffee flavor isn't very pronounced. It's very pronounced if you stop with grilling, though. You definitely want to use a coffee that tastes good to you when you lick the grounds off your fingertip.

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