Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad with Tomatillo Dressing
I can’t believe Whip It Up is over! This little recipe challenge has done amazing things for my cookery/lack-of-cookery skills. I actually feel comfortable in the kitchen with all the pans and gadgets and things. I have been saving the best of my summer domesticity for last, partly because I wanted to feel a little more comfortable in the kitchen before attempting to make Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad from scratch…and partly because I didn’t actually find the recipe (hiding in the bottom of my pile of recipes) until recently. For those of you who know the goodness, nay, the divinity of Cafe Rio, you are about to enter . Mecca. Please remove your shoes and give your toesies a good scrub before proceeding. For those of you who do not subscribe to the Cafe Rio religion, you are in for a TREAT! There are not many words in the English language (or possibly even the English AND Spanish languages combined, although I am nowhere close to even conversational in Spanish) that can accurately describe the epicurean nirvana that is Cafe Rio. So I’m not even going to try. All I can say is that regardless of your cookery skills, and despite the seemingly never-ending wait for the pork to get done (18 hours in a crock-pot, your nostrils will be tantalized for HOURS!), this is so worth it. On Sunday I threw a little dinner party, and if you are questioning the edibility of these recipes, please contact Vanessa and Cole, or Aaron and Amy for their opinions. (Hint, in their opinion(s), this was a-MAY-zing!).
My Cafe Rio night consists of several different recipes, all super-easy, although I did have a very Handsome Sous Chef at my disposal. (Is it against Policy to sneak the Sous Chef a kiss? Hope not!) After the break will be recipes for Pork Barbacoa (sweet and spicy shredded pork) and the Creamy Tomatillo dressing, as well as a quick guestimation of my Pico de Gallo recipe. Also required for a true Cafe Rio salad is Cilantro Rice, which I posted about here. To build your salad, you start with a flour tortilla, add a smidge handful of cheese, a spoonful or two of black beans, a spoonful or two of rice, as much pork as you think you can get away with, pile on shredded romaine lettuce, a couple of spoonfuls of pico, some guacamole if you have it, the tomatillo dressing and then homemade tortilla strips (which I forgot to take pictures of…sorry). This high-piled concoction will change your life. Seriously.
See? Don’t you feel changed? Don’t you believe me? A-MAY-ZING! Before I get into the details of the cookery, here are the nitty gritties:
Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa
5-6 lb. pork roast
21 oz. Dr. Pepper (or Coke, do NOT use diet soda)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
7 oz. can chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
6-ish oz. red taco sauce (I used hot)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Place roast in crock-pot, cover half-way with water and cook on low for 12 hours. (I started my Pork Adventure at midnight and everything worked out perfectly for Sunday dinner at 6:00 pm.) After 12 hours, drain pork (retain liquid if you want sauce for burritos, simply mix with a can of verde enchilada sauce and away you go).
Mix remaining ingredients until sugar dissolves. I didn’t keep the actual chilies, I dumped the can into a bowl and added enough Dr. Pepper to get all the sauce off of the chilies, then I tossed them. I also rinsed out the can with Dr. Pepper for more adobo goodness. My version had a fairly good kick to it, but if you LOVE hotness, then blend everything + 2 or 3 chilies in the blender. (Also, the adobo sauce tends to stain plastic, using a glass or metal mixing bowl will make your clean-up of adobo sauce considerably less frustrating).
Add Dr. Pepper mixture to the roast and cook on low an additional 4 hours.
Take out roast and shred, add back into sauce and cook for 2 more hours. At this point the meat was so tender it practically shredded itself.
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Cafe Rio Tomatillo Dressing
Do not skip this part, the dressing is my favorite part of the salad! Creamy and spicy and zesty, it is absolute heaven. I actually use leftover dressing for a tomatillo-cilantro salsa, this stuff makes regular, everyday corn-chips taste like exotic, savory treats. (Because we all know, corn is not exotic on it’s own.) If it can transform corn chips, just IMAGINE what it will do for your salad! Besides, it takes 3 minutes to put together.
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
3 tomatillos (remove papery skin), rough chop
1 cup mayo
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup (or more) cilantro, rough chop
3 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp green Tabasco sauce
juice from 1 lime
Dump everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate in air-tight container (or your entire fridge will smell like garlic and cilantro).
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3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, minced
1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 section of green pepper, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/3-1/2 cup vinegar (use your best judgement)
salt and pepper
Mix it up really well and refrigerate. I put my pico in a Tupperware and shook it up really well right before serving to re-mix.
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Now, invite some people over and get cooking! Do you remember how to put together the salad?
Tortilla – you can make your own, mine came from a package.
Cheese –it is a good idea to warm these two up so the cheese is a little melty.
Beans – black or pinto (mine came straight out of the can, warmed in the microwave with a little garlic powder and green Tabasco sauce).
Rice – don’t be stingy now!
Pork – I am actually salivating while writing this post…
Lettuce – Shredded Romaine, you want small enough pieces to get a little of everything on your fork
Pico de Gallo – I like extra pico, so I give myself an extra scoop.
Tortilla Strips – slice a corn tortilla into strips, brush with olive oil and salt and pepper and bake on a foil-covered sheet for 15-20 minutes at 350-ish.
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing – I like to keep mine on the side so my lettuce doesn’t get too slobbery.
This is really best served with a cold Dr. Pepper with a few slices of lime squeezed into it, but if that seems like Dr. Pepper overload, your beverage of choice will probably be fine.
Enjoy a little ginormous taste of the Utah original, Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad.