Chocolate and Espresso–Braised Pork with Jasmine Rice and Grilled Sweet Corn–Avocado Salad

Jason Murchison

Napa Valley Unified School District - Napa, CA

This dish was the winner of the Sodexo Recipes for a Better Tomorrow contest, held at the James Beard House in May 2011.



  • Ten 6-ounce pieces boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
  • 15 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup chile powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons ground espresso
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/4 gallon low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bunches oregano
Jasmine Rice:
  • 8 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 cups jasmine rice
​​​​​​​Grilled Sweet Corn–Avocado Salad:
  • 8 ears sweet white corn, shucked
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 hass avocados, pitted and peeled, flesh diced, peels reserved
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 poblano chilies, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 2 bunches cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste


Pat the pork pieces dry and set aside. Combine the garlic, chile powder, brown sugar, paprika, salt, espresso, cocoa, and black pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Rub the pork with the spice blend, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Heat an 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it starts to smoke, add the pork pieces to the pot and brown evenly on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the onions and butter to the pot and cook until onions are caramelized. (If the onions start to burn, lower the heat.) Add the white wine and lime juice to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Return the pork to the pot, then add enough beef stock to cover it by 3/4. Add the lime zest, tomato paste, and oregano. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot with parchment and tin foil. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

While the pork cooks, make the rice: pour the water into a large saucepan over high heat; add the salt. Bring the water to a simmer, then add the rice. Reduce the heat to low and let the rice lightly simmer, uncovered, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Cover the rice and remove from heat. Let sit for 40 minutes.

While the rice sits, make the grilled sweet corn–avocado salad. Preheat the broiler. Lightly coat each ear of corn with the olive oil and broil until the cobs are charred. Transfer to a large pan or dish and cover with plastic. Let sit for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until cool.

Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and place them in a large bowl. Add the avocado, shallots, poblano chilies, half of the cilantro, and the heirloom grape tomatoes to the bowl. Mix to combine and refrigerate until needed.

Combine the reserved cilantro, cane sugar, olive oil, and lime juice in a blender and blend to make a smooth vinaigrette. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper taste.

When the pork is finished, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and take out the pork. Set the pot over high heat and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Continue boiling until it has reduced by half. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water. Whisk to combine into a slurry. Add the slurry to the reduced braising liquid and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

To serve, plate 1/2 cup of jasmine rice on a serving plate, then top with a piece of braised pork. Drizzle the pork with sauce. Spoon some salad into a reserved avocado shell and place next to the pork. Garnish the pork with a sprig of fresh oregano.


10 servings