“Cafe Kelly” Sweet Pork Salad
Friends rallied around us and showed me so much love and support when I gave birth for the first and only time (a huge thank you to three birth moms), showering us with baby gifts, meals and encouragement. One of my favorites was a Cafe Rio inspired pork salad that was so incredibly good from my friend who delivered dinner to our home in the most beautiful presentation. I was recovering from a c-section and could barely walk, so Christa’s kind, thoughtful and extra tasty meal will always be special to me.
I had never ever eaten at Cafe Rio, a fast, casual restaurant chain based in Salt Lake City, Utah, but became an instant fan. From Christa’s yummy recipes, I have made a few changes, such as decreasing the brown sugar from 2 cups to 1 cup in the pork. This build-your-own salad meal is a crowd pleaser and allows dinner guests to include exactly what and how much of what they like.
This sweet pulled pork recipe as well as the creamy tomatillo ranch salad dressing, pico de gallo, green chile rice, guacamole, crispy tortilla strips, paired with a few more components create an unforgettable, satisfying feast. The preparation requires some advance planning for an all-day affair with the slow cooker, but is well worth the effort.
1: Slow Cooker Sweet Pulled Pork
- 1 boneless pork butt roast, 3-1/2 to 4 pounds
- add water to cover half the pork in slow cooker
Cover the pork roast half way with water and cook on high in a slow cooker for 5 hours. Take the pork out, then drain the liquid before adding the remaining ingredients. Transfer pork back to the crock pot then shred with two forks, then pour the following over top.
- 1 can (12 ounces) Coca-Cola
- 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
- 1 cup brown sugar
Cook on high in slow cooker for 3 additional hours, then serve with tortillas, rice beans, salad.
2: Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Salad Dressing
- 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tomatillos, peel and discard outer dry skins
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Blend everything together in a blender until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.
This flavorful creamy tomatillo ranch salad dressing will easily last a week or so in the refrigerator and tastes great on other foods as well.
3: Pico de Gallo
- 1 container grape or cherry tomatoes, diced (to make 2 cups)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
- salt and pepper as needed
4: Green Chile Rice
- 3 cups rice (rinse and drain twice with water)
- 5 cups water
- 4 teaspoons dried minced garlic
- 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles
- 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
Rinse rice twice in the rice cooker bowl. (Put rice into rice cooker bowl, run water over it and run hand through rice to rinse and carefully pour off excess water without spilling rice. Repeat.) Put all the rice ingredients into rice cooker and cook until done. (With my rice cooker, it just means to plug it in to the wall and push down one button, which will pop up about 20 minutes later when it is finished. I bought my rice cooker in Taiwan after many years of being an anti rice cooker person. (No regrets, I should have gotten one long ago.) Serve immediately.
- 3 avocados, peel and pits removed
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- juice from 1/2 lime
Put everything in food processor and pulse until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.
6: Crispy Tortilla Strips
- 6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
- 2 cups corn oil
Heat oil on medium high in a large skillet until hot then drop the strips into the pan. Cook until crispy, stirring if needed to separate strips. Using a slotted spoon, removed tortillas from oil and place onto a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt immediately. Set aside until serving time.
7: Additional Ingredients
- 1 can (14 ounces) beans (ranch, borracho, black, or chili), warmed
- green leaf lettuce, sliced
- grated cotija cheese
- flour tortillas, warmed
Begin building salad with a hot tortilla on the bottom, then add the warm ingredients, followed by the cold ones.
This wooden bowl is the perfect size for the HEB freshly made flour tortillas I buy at the grocery store. I use two wooden bowls as I heat the tortillas on the stove, three at a time, then use one bowl as the lid. They stay warm until we serve them.