Timothy Cunningham

Chuletas Can-Can: Puerto Rico's perfect pork chop (Oven style)

Chueltas Can-Can or Can-Can Chops are a new experience for me.  A friend of mine had a hog butchered. The butcher left the pork  belly, skin, fat & loin meat attached to the pork chops.  It is called Can-Can (or sometimes Kan-Kan) because the skin and fat make a frill pattern much like the frilled skirt of the classic "Can-Can" dancers of old.

The cut itself offers the promise of a meaty juicy pork chop combined with the rich fat of the belly and that crispy, crispy fried skin that crunches when you bite into it.

It also holds challenges in that the cooking method that best suits a pork chops is not the same methods that suit pork belly and pig skins!

Finding recipes for Chueltas Can-Can were not abundant. So I pieced together what recipes I could find, synthesized it with research from what constitutes traditional Puerto Rican cuisine and set about experimenting.  I cooked the pork two different ways: 

Brine the meat.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 Tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 Tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano

Dissolve salt and sugar into the water. Put the pork and and brine into a zip top bag and let sit in fridge for between 2 to 8 hours.  Afterwards discard brine and rinse the pork completely.  Return the pork to the fridge for 2-3 hours to allow the brine to equalize through the meat.

After the pork has rested, use a sharp knife to score the skin and fat into thin segments.  Rub only the "frill" fat with kosher salt and a tablespoon of baking powder. The baking powder will change  the alkalinity of the fat to help it render more crispy when fried.

Bake at 350 F

In large bowl rub pork with 
  • Sofrito (see future recipe)
  • garlic powder
  • ground pepper
  • ground coriander seeds
  • onion powder
  • Olive oil
Place on oven tray, covered in foil in preheated oven at 350 F. Cook for 10 - 15 or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 110 F. While the pork is cooking, now is time to heat up the fry oil. When the pork has reached 110 F you may remove the pork from the oven and fry it immediately.  You can also optionally let the internal temperature reach 140 F if you plan to fry the put the chops in the fridge to cool down completely and fry later.

Fry at 350 F

In a very tall pot, add enough cooking oil to submerge the entire pork chop.  The pot needs to be tall because the oil will rise up and you don't want a kitchen fire! Please be safe.  Heat the oil to 350 F. Remove the pork from the oven and pat dry with paper towels.

Slowly and carefully lower the chop into fry oil, checking often to see if the fat is getting crispy, the internal temperature of the pork needs to reach between 145 F and 160 F according to the USDA to be safe to eat. For taste and moisture purposes, anything above 150 is a travesty.   The meat will continue to rise in internal temperature after you remove it from the hot oil. So plan for a 10 degree "carry over" once the pork is removed. So if you want 150 F pork, remove it from the oil just when the internal temp reaches 140 F.  But continue to monitor the temperature to make sure it indeed reaches at least 145. If not, return to oil to cook some more.

Let pork rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serve up on a very large platter, with yellow rice, fried plantains and  pineapple, mango & jalapeño salsa.


Lamb Kofta and Zucchini pasta in heirloom tomato sauce

Michelle made these the other day and it was so good! I usually like my lamb in the form of a chop that pink and rare.  She likes lamb more "cooked" and from parts that are not as gamey.  This lamb kofta was a dish we both could love. 

The side of Zucchini "pasta" tossed through some heirloom tomatoes, oil and garlic was genius inspired from desperation to use up all of our heirloom tomatoes from our garden this summer. 

What is Kofta?

Kofta is a type of meatball from the Middle East and Asia.  Urdu spoken in Pakistan, India and the Middle East the word کوفتہ‎, romanized: koftah, literally means  'pounded meat' because the added all the ingredients and then pounded them in a mortar and pestle. Today thankfully we have meat grinders and food processors!

Kofta Ingredients 

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2 Onion grated (on box grater or in food processor)
  • 1/4 bread crumbs (Panko bread crumbs are the best)
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • Kabob Skewers  

Kofta Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing by hand till thoroughly mixed. Oil the skewers prior with olive oil or other cooking oil. Form meat into a cigar shape wrapped around the skewer.   Meat should adhere firmly to the flat skewers and not move around. If the mince it too wet, add more bread crumbs.

Grill Instructions:  over lump charcoal making sure the coals have transitioned from the "active flame" stage to the "white ash" hot stage. Cook for about 6 minutes, rotating often.  

Plan B: If you feel the grill is flaming up too much and the outside of the kafta is getting too much char without the inside cooking fully, remove from the grill.  When the skewer is cool enough, carefully slide the kafta off the skewer, put on baking tray and finish in the oven at 250 F till the kafta is cooked all the way through.

Stove Instructions: Heat 1/2 tsp oil in skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Cook kafta in batches for minutes each, turning koftas while cooking to get browning on all sides.

Cold Heirloom Tomato Soup

Home grown heirloom tomatoes are nothing like the sad, insipid tomatoes you get from the grocery store.  Those tomatoes, even the ones that claim to be heirloom, have been picked while green and firm to survive shipping. On the journey the color changes but the taste doesn't improve much.

This year I planted 32 heirloom plants.  Picking 10 or more pounds (4.5 kilos) per day, we have had to pull out all the tomato recipes. 

Gazpacho is a traditional recipe recipe from Spain.  This "Cold Heirloom Tomato Soup" recipe is similar to gazpacho but lacks the traditional red sweet (bell) peppers and stale bread (to act as thickener) 


  • 3 medium heirloom tomatoes, stem removed and diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used homemade butternut squash vinegar)
  • small bunch of oregano
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • salt &  pepper to taste


Puree all ingredients with a stick blender and chill for 1 hour


Garnish with white truffle oil,  smoked paprika & grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Eating worlds hottest chili pepper for the first time.

Tried the world's hottest pepper today!  You can view the results here: Carolina Reaper Taste Test