A few months ago, we went for much needed beach time in South Florida. After too much sun, we decided a trip to Little Havana in Miami would be wiser than more sun. These Double Espresso Pork Chops are my ode to that beautiful day, a brilliant coffee culture and the food we experienced on Calle Ocho.
What is Calle Ocho?
Calle Ocho is the main street in the area of Miami called Little Havana. Home to many Cuban immigrants, it’s also a culinary and cultural hub of Miami. Hand-rolled cigar shops, coffee bars and restaurants featuring Cuban specialties abound. It was a beautiful afternoon discovering more about this culture that has been so hidden all these years. Pork and mixed seafood ceviche were the food highlights.
Cuban Coffee Culture
For Cubans, coffee isn’t so much about a rush of energy to get through the day. It’s about friendship. It’s a social ritual. The most ordered drink is simply a Cafe Cubano. It is basically a double espresso brewed with sugar. It’s very strong and very sweet. What I found so interesting was they served it in a small styrofoam cup with 3 very tiny cups, the size of individual coffee creamers. I pondered this for awhile then before leaving the shop asked the owner what it was about. She confirmed what we thought…they were for sharing with those around you. It was so inspiring! FYI, should you be in Cuba, you won’t find this practice. It is only a Cuban American custom but is practiced in Cuban neighborhoods throughout the US. And the actual name for the drink served this way is a Colada not Cafe Cubano.
Double Espresso Pork Chop Inspiration
Our little day trip inspired me to combine my two favorite experiences of that day into a recipe – espresso and pork. I have used espresso in both the brine and the rub. The espresso flavor is more of a background note, but it definitely adds a richness to the rub. Cuban food is not typically very spicy, just super flavorful. To keep the flavor going, the rub also has smoked paprika, chile powder, granulated garlic and onion which formed a delicious crust when searing the pork chops.
Best Pork Chops to Use
While pork is a popular protein source, it can be very sketchy if you don’t get it from a quality source. I use Greensbury Market pork because the farms they source from allow the pigs to roam about eating bugs, scraps and whatever else they come across along with organic feed. (Fact: Pigs are omnivores as are chickens.) The pork products (as well as poultry) are completely organic which, particularly for pork, is very hard to find. Whole30ers will be happy to know they are Whole30 approved and everything is clearly marked. You can use code GETHHR for a 10% discount on your first order.
Why brine pork chops?
Many cuts of pork are super juicy because they have a higher fat ratio to muscle. Pork chops have very little. Like chicken breasts, they need a little TLC to make sure they don’t dry out during the cooking process. Typical brine ingredients are a liquid of some sort, a relatively large amount of salt and a little sweetness along with some flavoring agents. I used espresso for the liquid, Whole30 friendly apple juice for the sweetness, and garlic and bay leaves for flavor.
What kind of espresso to use
Espresso is really just finely ground coffee. It is always unflavored and can vary in lightness of roast. For this recipe, you want a French Roast or other dark roast coffee. You can just use finely ground unflavored coffee or you can buy espresso powder. Just don’t use instant coffee. That is NOT the same thing at all and is much weaker. To use finely ground coffee, add 2 tbsp to 2 cups boiling water and let it sit for several minutes. Strain then use as directed.
Sauce for Double Espresso Pork Chops
Because of the brine, you really don’t need any sauce other than the juices that naturally come out during the resting period. That said, my chimichurri was just hanging out in my freezer, so I thawed it and used it for a sauce. The Greensbury pork was super juicy and delicious, so to be honest, I felt it took away from the pork’s natural flavor and wished I had just used the natural juices.
What to serve with Double Espresso Pork Chops
Traditional Cuban meal accompaniments would be black beans and rice along and some sweet plantains. But since I’m always trying to get more veggies in my diet, we had roasted sweet potatoes and proscuitto wrapped asparagus. (It was pork-palooza at our house!) The chimichurri sauce WAS good on the roasted sweet potatoes which happen to also be a traditional Cuban side dish – Batatas Fritas – so I felt we carried out the theme even without the beans, rice and plantains.
Double Espresso Pork Chops (Whole30 & Paleo)Course: MainCuisine: Cuban
Espresso brined and rubbed pork chops offer a flavorful crust and natural sauce from juices.
2 cups brewed espresso (long draw or follow directions above)
1 cup apple juice
1 tsp garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 pork chops
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Ancho chile powder
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp finely ground coffee or instant espresso
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
- Mix together the brine ingredients and add enough ice cubes to make it very cold to the touch.
- Add pork chops. Brine for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 12 hours in the fridge.
- Mix together the dry rub ingredients.
- When ready to cook, remove from the brine and pat dry.
- Coat very well with the rub.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat until smoking.
- Add some avocado oil to coat.
- Cook on one side until the bottom is golden (you will see it on the edges) then flip and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes or until the pork registers 145 degrees.
- Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve with pan juices or chimichurri sauce.
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