Holiday cooking

Miami chefs put a twist on Easter classics


Confit pork belly, chimichurri, root beer give new flavors to traditional ham and lamb.

Main dish

Spicy Root Beer Glazed Lamb Ribs

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons Sriracha or other chili-garlic hot sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 racks (8 bones per rack) lamb ribs, patted dry with paper towels

1 12-oz bottle root beer

2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek or other Asian chili hot sauce

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine sesame oil, chili-garlic sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl, and stir to dissolve the salt. Rub the mixture all over the ribs, then place ribs in a large zip-seal bag. Pour the root beer into the bag with the ribs, then seal and refrigerate 12 hours, or overnight.

Remove ribs from the marinade, reserving the liquid to a covered, refrigerated bowl. Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place a piece of aluminum foil onto a baking sheet. Put the ribs, meat side up, onto the foil, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place a piece of parchment paper over the ribs, then another sheet of foil over the parchment. Fold the edges and seal with the bottom to make an airtight package.

Bake ribs until almost fork-tender, about two hours. Open the foil packet and test; a fork inserted into the meat will go in with some effort.

Transfer reserved marinade to a small saucepan. Add garlic, green onions and rice vinegar to marinade and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until sauce is reduced by half, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour pan juices from foil packet into saucepan with the sauce. Add Asian chili sauce. Bring back to a simmer and cook sauce until slightly thickened to a glaze, about 10 more minutes.

Increase oven to 450 degrees. Line another baking sheet with foil and transfer ribs to new baking sheet.

Brush both sides of ribs with thickened glazing sauce. Cook in hot oven until glaze begins to cook onto meat, 3 to 5 minutes. Brush another coat of glaze onto the ribs; repeat 3 more times, cooking 3 to 4 minutes per time, until meat is shiny, glazed, browned and fully fork-tender. Sprinkle sesame seeds onto ribs and cook for 5 more minutes. Allow meat to rest, tented under foil, for 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving: 257 calories (40 percent from fat), 11.6 g fat (3 g saturated, 5 g monounsaturated), 102 mg cholesterol, 32 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 418 mg sodium.

Main dish

Chimichurri Roast Ham

1 bone-in ham with skin, about 8 pounds (shank end if possible)


3 cups kosher salt

3 cups light brown sugar

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

2 apples, chopped

1 cup apple cider vinegar

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2 gallons hot water

Chimichurri Rub:

2 cups finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup oregano leaves, chopped

8 garlic cloves, chopped fine

1 tablespoon crushed red chili flakes

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a large stockpot, combine all brine ingredients, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Refrigerate or place on ice to cool. Meanwhile, use a paring knife to score the skin in a cross-hatch about 1/4-inch deep. Place the ham in the chilled brine and refrigerate 12 hours, or overnight.

Remove the ham from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Put the meat, wide cut side down, on a roasting rack placed over a roasting pan. Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 500.

In a blender, puree all rub ingredients until smooth. Rub the ham all over with the chimichurri, reserving some. Roast the ham for 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 and brush with remaining chimichurri. Roast until ham’s internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, about 2 1/2 hours. Allow the ham to rest, tented under foil, at least 45 minutes before slicing.

Makes 10 servings

Per serving: 485 calories (37 percent from fat), 20 g fat (6 g saturated, 10 g monounsaturated), 230 mg cholesterol, 70 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3947 mg sodium.

Main dish

Jamón Con Piña (Puerto Rican-style Pineapple Ham)

1 precooked boneless ham, about 4 pounds

1 cup fresh pineapple juice

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup brown sugar

2 oz orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau)

10 cloves

8-10 slices fresh pineapple

In a sauce pot over medium heat, add juice, wine, sugar, liqueur and three of the cloves. Simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is reduced slightly, about 8 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use a paring knife to score the ham about 1 inch deep in several places. Add remaining cloves to the scored meat. Put ham on a roasting pan, pour reduced liquid on top, and cover with pineapple slices. Bake for 30 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 10 servings

Per serving: 284 calories (24 percent from fat), 9 g fat (3 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated), 78 mg cholesterol, 25 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2386 mg sodium.


Pork Belly Medianoche

Pork belly confit (made in advance, recipe below)

1 pound jamón con piña, sliced

1 pound Swiss cheese, sliced

30 pickle slices

6 medianoche or potato rolls

Yuzu dijonaise (recipe below)

Slice chilled pork belly into 1/2-inch pieces and sear in a nonstick pan over high heat on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Slice open the rolls and spread yuzu dijonaise on both sides. Place a layer of pickles on one side of each roll, followed by cheese, sliced jamón, then pork belly. Toast in a panini press until bread is slightly browned and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Yuzu Dijonaise

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon yuzu juice

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Refrigerate until ready for use.

Pork Belly Confit

2-pound slab pork belly, skin removed

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

1 quart vegetable oil

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 clove garlic, sliced

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Season pork belly with salt and pepper, then put pork belly and remaining ingredients in a covered Dutch oven and bake for four hours. Remove pork belly from oil onto a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 6 sandwiches

Per serving: 744 calories (55 percent from fat), 45 g fat (20 g saturated, 15 g monounsaturated), 110 mg cholesterol, 34 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1604 mg sodium.

Slightly sweet, clove-flecked pineapple ham — jamón con piña — is an Easter dinner tradition in the home of chef Jose Mendín’s grandmother, near San Juan.

But when Mendín bakes the ham, as satisfying as the warm slices are right out of the oven, Mendín prefers to use them the next day as a brunch ingredient.

“I’d do a pimped-up sandwich, or use leftover meat to make fried rice with an egg on top,” said Mendín, chef-owner of Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group. “Since the ham can be made ahead, I love the idea of serving it as part of an Easter brunch.”

Mendín and other South Florida restaurant chefs — Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment, and Robbyns Martinez of Himmarshee Public House and Rok:Brgr — played with classic Easter ham and lamb dishes to come up with recipes home cooks can use to impress their holiday guests.

Lamb has been part of Jewish and Christian springtime holidays since biblical times. Ham came to U.S. Easter dinner tables much later, after European settlers brought their salt-curing techniques to the colonies. A big cut, the hams aged through the winter and were ready by Easter.

A Miami-born Jewish Latina, Bernstein drew inspiration from her mother’s Argentine cooking for a chimichurri rub she used to coat roast ham.

Bernstein knows her way around pork (she’s the reigning queen of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s popular Swine & Wine event), and it shows in this recipe.

An initial blast of heat in a 500-degree oven sets the ham’s skin on a course to becoming a crispy, addictive bark. The meat remains juicy and deeply seasoned after roasting at a lower temperature thanks to an overnight brine spiked with apple cider vinegar.

From his Himmarshee Public House kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, Martinez said he set out to use lamb to create “a complex flavor profile using ingredients that are easy to come by and a recipe that is doable for the home chef.”

He accomplished that by lacquering lamb ribs with a spicy-sweet glaze of the Asian hot sauce Sriracha and root beer (his preferred bottle: Abita from Louisiana).

“The ribs are sweet and have a slightly spicy finish with a sticky, caramelized glaze,” Martinez said.

Usually grilled or broiled until a delicate medium-rare, ribs get a low-and-slow bake before being glazed and finished under high heat. They become fall-off-the-bone tender when ready to serve.

Martinez said he enjoyed mixing ingredients like sesame oil, rice vinegar and Sriracha with American staples like lamb and root beer. “The hint of Asian influences enhances a traditional American dish,” he said.

As for Mendín, his jamón con piña looks and tastes like a classic Easter ham: a precooked, boneless roast with pineapple rings set on a sticky glaze of brown sugar and orange liqueur.

But combine leftover slices of that sweet-salty roast pork with homemade pork belly confit, creamy yuzu mustard, tangy pickles and Swiss cheese in an eggy-yellow roll? That is a medianoche to top all medianoches.

Mendín’s take on Easter ham and its sandwich spinoff are easy enough to make at home.

But for those who would rather let Mendín do the cooking, his grandmother’s jamón con piña and his medianoche will be served at PB Steak’s Easter brunch, from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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