Mojo (pronounced moho), is a generic term for many variations of a sauce that originally came from the Canary Islands of Spain. There are many variations used throughout islands in the Caribbean, including the island of Cuba. Mojo Criollo, used in Cuban food, traditionally uses olive oil, garlic, herbs and citrus juice. It’s typically used as a sauce for pork or boiled yuca. The sauce also works well with chicken, fish, roasted potatoes and other cooked or roasted vegetables.
This version of Mojo Criollo is one that my husband’s mother has used for many years when cooking for her family. It uses vinegar instead of citrus juice, so the acidity of the vinegar essentially substitutes for the acidity of the citrus juice. This version also uses parsley, which makes it very similar to the South American chimichurri sauce. I used white wine vinegar because I prefer its flavor and aroma in the mojo, and because it’s a little more subtle than other vinegars such as apple cider. The large amount of parsley helps balance the amount of garlic used. The signature technique in making the sauce is using very hot oil to flash fry the garlic and parsley, helping create the characteristic flavor of the mojo. However you use it, this mojo is an easy and inexpensive way to add a little island flavor to your favorite meat, fish, or vegetables.
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 whole head of garlic, skins removed and cloves smashed, chopped finely
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
(Note: As this recipe involves using very hot oil, please use extreme caution when handling the oil).
Rinse, dry, and finely chop the parsley. Measure out 1 cup of chopped parsley and place in a large deep saucepan. On cutting board, smash garlic cloves with the side of a large, wide chef’s knife. Chop the garlic finely and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Continuing to use the side of the knife, smash the garlic with the salt until the garlic begins to release its juice. Scoop up the garlic with the knife and put in the saucepan with the parsley. Add 1 cup of vinegar and the ground black pepper to the saucepan, making sure the parsley and garlic are submerged in the vinegar. This will keep them from burning when the hot oil is added.
In another smaller saucepan, heat 1 cup of olive oil over medium high heat just until the oil begins to smoke. Holding the lid of the large saucepan in front of the large saucepan, pour hot oil quickly into the large saucepan and quickly cover with the lid to prevent oil from splattering, as there will be a strong reaction when the hot oil combines with the vinegar. Let cool, and store in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Makes 2 cups