Gifts. Check. Festive getup. Check. Cuban roast. Wait, what? You’re not a true Miamian until you’ve experienced the magic of a home-cooked Noche Buena (Christmas Eve, for the non-natives) meal: sweet plantain, yucca, moros, and pork.
And, yeah, saucing up an entire swine and cooking it for 12 hours under the ground sounds completely overwhelming. But do you really think that’s how your Cuban neighbors do it? No way. Those smart people have a secret weapon called La Caja China, an aluminum-insulated wooden box that acts as a pork-roasting barbecue that even Bobby Flay has used.
But since we don’t all know how to throw it down like the grill master, we caught up with La Caja China’s owner Roberto Guerra to get the skinny on how to cook a piggy.
Who’s Coming? “It’s important to have an idea of the number of guests you’ll be serving so you know what size pig you’ll need. Here’s an easy formula: number of people x 0.5 = product in pounds.”
Pick a Theme “The process of roasting a pig is a very social one, so make it fun! Of course, we do ours Cuban-style, but go ahead and do some research on the different cultures that are famous for their pig roasts: Spain, Hawaii, Puerto Rico. We like to do it up with a themed drink (mojitos), typical side dishes (moros, yucca, sweet plantains), and native music. But feel free to customize your dinner.”
The Magic of La Caja China “Without La Caja China you’re looking at an entire day of cooking. But our roasting box does the work in less than four hours. Plus, if you use the worksheet available on our website you really can’t go wrong.”
Special Sauce “The flavor is in the mojo sauce. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to make a better mojo than mine, but you can try! Use sour orange juice, oregano, cumin, salt, and garlic. You’ll then inject the pig under the skin with the mojo hours before you start roasting.”
Timing is Everything “With La Caja China, the pig is sandwiched between two racks, so when the time comes, you can flip it easily. After the pig is in the box, place your ash tray and grill grid tray on top of La Caja China and add Kingsford charcoal. You’ll need to add more coal every hour. After three hours, the pig is ready to be flipped. You’ll then leave it in the box so the skin toasts for about 45 minutes to one hour.”
Finishing Touches “After four hours you’ll have a crowd-pleasing lechón. Use Cuban bread to make sandwiches or pull the meat straight off the bone. Delicious!”
La Caja China, $219-$1,250, available at La Caja China.