Chef's Kitchen: Cuba Libre's Puerco Cha Cha Cha, Fritters & Empanadas

By Allison Walker Torres, Entertainment Reporter/Anchor
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 11:23 AM EDT

It's a pork dish with a name that might have you breaking into dance.

Puerco Cha Cha Cha is one of Cuba Libre's (Pointe Orlando) most buzz-worthy presentations.

"It’s very cool because no one else in this city has this cut of meat," said Executive Chef Jose Gonzalez.

It's a pork chop with three cuts of meat — the loin, rib, and "all the way on the outside you are going to see a pork belly.” (TIP: As the butcher for "chuleta" cut). The meat is smothered with an herb salsa before hitting the grill, then the fryer.

To accompany our main attraction are the empanadas de la casa (using chicken thighs) and "popable" roasted coconut crab fritters

Let's cook!

Puerco Cha Cha

Three pork favorites in one jumbo cut: bone-in loin chop with meaty rib and crisp pork belly. Created by Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar’s Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1.5 tablespoons dried orange zest
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbl whole fennel seed, toasted and ground
  • 8 teaspoons salt (Kosher)
  • 6 pork chops (chuleta cut)

Pick the herbs, leaves only — no stems. Micro plane the garlic, then combine with the herbs.

Mince the herbs extremely finely with a knife until they are almost powdered. Toast all the spices, then cool and grind very fine. Combine the minced herbs, orange zest, salt, and the toasted/ground spices. Mix together well. For each chop use approximately two tablespoons of marinade and let sit overnight.

To serve, grill it over medium heat on both sides to get grill marks and render the fat, then deep fry until crispy and golden brown to finish it.

Coconut Crab Fritters:

Jumbo lump crab meat, fresh grated coconut, peppers, fresh herbs. Sweet chili dipping sauce

Created by Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar’s Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces claw crab meat
  • 6 ounces lump crab meat
  • 1.5 ounces Japanese bread crumbs
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 ounces red bell peppers, chopped fine
  • 2 ounces dried unsweetened coconut
  • 0.75 oz scallions, sliced thin

Directions for the balls:

Combine all ingredients together gently — fold gently without breaking up the crab meat. Portion into .75 (3/4) oz balls. Makes 30

Empanada de la Casa:

Hand chopped chicken, corn, sweet peppers and Jack cheese

Created by Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar’s Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot

Ingredients:

  • 10 empanada discs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 12 oz boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 tablespoon blended oil
  • ½ cup onions, small dice
  • 1 ear corn, kernels stripped
  • 0.15 oz Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded

Directions:

Partially freeze the chicken. Dice partially frozen chicken very finely, or grind to medium if possible. You can also purchase ground chicken. Strip corn kernels from ear of corn. In a sauté pan, heat oil and sauté onions until softened, but do not pick up any color.

Add the ground chicken, oregano and crushed red pepper. Cook chicken about half way and then add corn and salt. Finish cooking, adjust seasoning and coo the mixture. Once cool, add cheese before assembling empanadas.

Make an egg wash from the eggs and water; whisk well to combine. Fill each empanada disc with 1.75 oz of filling. Brush the edges of the disc with egg wash and close. Press and crimp edge to seal. Prepare a cookie sheet or baking dish by lining with parchment paper and spraying with nonstick spray.

Place the empanadas on the sheet and bake at 400°F for eight minutes. After eight minutes, remove from the oven and brush tops with a tin layer of egg wash. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately three to five minutes.