Food · Recipes

Eggplant Experiment – Cafe Rio “sweet pork”

It’s been an exciting week in the kitchen! The day after making zucchini stroganoff I tried my hand at making homemade Cafe Rio for my husband and I. Cafe Rio, for those of you who don’t know, is a very popular and delicious restaurant in Utah, where I lived for 6 years. There are lots of copycat recipes for Cafe Rio out there. I decided to try making some sweet pork for my husband. For myself, I planned on at least making rice, plus the yummy cilantro dressing, and serving it over salad. But ever since ordering an eggplant dish at a Persian restaurant in San Francisco recently, I had been thinking I should experiment with eggplant as a meat substitute. So, thus “Sweet Pork Eggplant” was born! I used the same sauce on the eggplant as on the pork, and it turned out pretty good! And all together it was a delicious meal.

The tomatillo/cilantro dressing recipe is here: Kalyn’s Kitchen [I used canned tomatillos, and buttermilk ranch from the bottle and it was fine]

My rice was inspired by this recipe: Bountiful Kitchen [Instead of using the dressing I just added cilantro and lime juice to the rice] This could easily be done using low-protein rice for a lower Phe count

The sweet pork recipe I used can be found here: Oh, Sweet Basil: Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

It is really simple. It uses root beer, this sauce, and brown sugar. I used much less brown sugar than it called for, and my husband and I were both pleased with the way it tasted. For the sauce, I called my grocery store ahead of time to make sure they had it. The first one I called did not have it, but the second one did, so I was glad I called. I just poured about 3/4 of the pack over the crock pot pork, and used the remaining 1/4 for my eggplant dish.

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This was a total experiment, so I really had no idea what I was doing. But this is what I did. Preheated the oven to 425. I greased a 11 x 17 baking dish with butter. I quartered the eggplant. I put the pieces of eggplant in the dish and buttered the tops. I put them in the oven for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I mixed the Old El Paso sauce, maybe 1/4 cup root beer and probably 1/3 cup brown sugar in a bowl. After the 8 minutes I pulled out the eggplant and covered them with the sauce.

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Then I put them in the oven for another 20 minutes.

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Served this over salad, topped with the rice, dressing and crushed chips (the store I was at didn’t have tortilla strips) It was yummy! Overall another cooking success.

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