Carnitas!

Daniel eating Clams and Head On Shrimp over Israeli Cous Cous

So Daniel my love brought up a good point stating that my kitchen is actually more like a test kitchen…Well why I never thought of that lord only knows.  I find it really hard to remember recipes that I have conjured up.  We are even contemplating painting a wall within the kitchen that all black  paint that turns into an instant chalkboard.

Theres nothing like it.  Theres nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when I finish a dish and taste it’s oh so satisfying combination of flavors. That just make me so happy!  In this latest recipe I call for a somewhat more complicated array of ingredients that simply meld together so well.  Here you don’t lose the lovely pork flavor.  The pork butt cut is so succulent but add to that all these other ingredients then well…you get this interesting mix of flavors and texture!

Dee (I sometimes call her Dee Dee Ramone) my good friend Danielle had a going away party, and what better way to connect before her departure than some time spent cooking together in my kitchen.  So we made CARNITAS!!! Aye aye aye! It was delicious ! Better than any carnitas that I have had.  It’s probably something that a bit more complicated than your normal recipe but it was a sure to please

Oh and thank you Wikipedia for defining the pork butt vs. shoulder.   The butt contrary to popular belief is actually the lower part of the shoulder and is well marbled and fatty!  You need that fat and that glutenous quality, because without it you would be stuck with a big hunk of undesirable cooked meat.

Serve with warm corn tortillas- garnish with salsa roja, cilantro, wedges of lime, slivers of radishes, and diced white onions.

If you don’t have lard or pork fat handy just don’t use it! You dont have to but it’s much better if you do.  And if you can’t find Chayote squash just dont use it!  Use 1/2 a carrot instead.   It imparts a really nice sweetness.

Also, think of this salsa as a SAUCE! In traditional Mexican cooking some recipes can call for broth in order to add more of a savory body to the salsa.

Dee Dee Ramone cooking up some goodness

Carnitas

4 lbs Pork BUTT!
1 Stick Cinnamon
4 wedges of an orange
1/2 C. pork fat
2 bay leaf
1/2 T Green Peppercorns
1/2 T. Coriander
1/2 C. Orange Juice
1 C. Water
1 Chayote Squash
1 T Ground Coffee
3 Sprigs of Sage
 
salt
pepper
 
Directions:
Cut the pork butt according to the size of your pan.  A large 4 lb cut that I used was cut into quarters.   Rub the meat well with salt, pepper, coffee grinds and pork fat.  AND THEN…
 
 
Go ahead and just add EVERYTHING in the pot at once.  That’s right all at once to be able to let everything steep, and steam together in that covered pot.
Cover and cook on medium heat.  Cook for 20 minutes on this cooking time and turn down to low simmer with the cover still on.  Let cook and simmer slowly till liquid fully evaporates and meat is tender and still juicy.  1 hour or so.   You are looking for something that is going to fall apart yet when it does the juices and other aromatics will combine in the bottom of the pot to create a lusty and enticing aromatic crust of pork crispness.
When the meat is tender enough to fall apart just loosely fork through it and continue to cook.
 
TIP:  When the liquid in the pan has evaporated but the pork still isn’t tender add more liquid…stock would be a great option here…pork or chicken but water is great…and continue to slowly cook covered on low heat.
But what if you have too  much liquid on the bottom of the pan and your meat is already tender??  Turn up that heat and take the cover off and let that evaporate.  As that liquid evaporates the fat stays and so does the flavor.  Since the fat stays then the meat will crisp nicely.

Roasted Salsa Roja

 
I like to serve this alongside a lovely salsa using some of the pork liquid that I steal from the pot of Carnitas in its middle cooking stage.
 
 
1/2 C. Pork liquid ( you can substitute with beef stock or chicken stock if this is not handy.)
1 whole Serrano
1 Small White Onion
1/2 C. Chopped Cilantro
1/2 C. Lime Juice
4-5 Semi Ripe Tomatoes
2 Cloves Garlic
Olive Oil
 
Salt
Pepper
 
 
Cut your Tomatoes in half, wedge your onions , and lightly smash your garlic clove, remove the stem of the chile.   Lay these ingredients on a baking sheet and roast on high at 425º for 20 minutes or until serrano becomes blistered and tomatoes have a slight char.
 
Add all ingredients except your cilantro and lime zest into a bowl and puree until you have reached your desired consistency.  Add Lime zest and Cilantro at the very end and pulse for a quick 3 seconds.  Season accordingly to your palate.
 
 
The end result is a delicious and bright salsa.
 
I like my Salsa Roja to be bright, limey and well seasoned and savory.  But here salt plays a major role to bind the subjects together.  That tart, tangy, and savory salsa won’t be that savory without the well-rounded balance of salt.  So add just enough but not too much.
 
Now go and enjoy your summer- with all the fix-ins and Yeasayer!  I am enamored with these guys!  Can I somehow cook for them too?  I love the tremor in his voice…the melodies and the lively and epic beat.
 
 

Green Lace and Pork and a Red Sun

I have been mad with stuffing.  Like a mad scientist…but in this case a mad cook donning a floral apron .  It’s been stuffed beef, chicken, eggplant, squab, pork, calamari… i.e EVERYTHING!  Each time I stuff a dish and slow cook it, I just internally exclaim to myself that this could be my favorite recipe.  The moist and delectable filling will make you want to savor every single bite of this comfy and warm dish, as well as all other meaty stuffed delectables.

This is a very delightful and homely dish that is best served for people who will enjoy good home cooking at its purest.

The best part about the preparation in this recipe is blanching the large leaves.  The leaves are just so beautiful and pliable.  Savoy cabbage is just gorgeous, can I even say that it reminds me of a very beautiful piece of lace…but not a doily.  I really enjoy handling the Savoy cabbage not just for its pleasing appearance but also for its pliability.

Using a really good chicken stock in this recipe is very important.  For every thing that I cook I usually make a stock that takes overnight or at least 6 hours to stew and simmer because I definitely believe that a good stock is a staple item in any cooks kitchen.

Will serve 2-4

Soft Stewed and Stuffed Savoy Cabbage w/Pork & Carrots

1/2 lb pork
1/4 lb. Fatty Pork or Pork Sausage meat
1 1/2 C. Grated Carrots
1/4 C. Minced Parsley
1 C. Grated Yellow Onion
1 T Fennel Seed
1 C. Bread Crumbs
2 Med Eggs
8 Outer Leaves of a Savoy Cabbage
4 C. Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Directions:
  • Prep:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375°
  • Grate 1 1/2 Cups of carrots.
  • Grate or Fine mince 1 cup of Yellow Onions
  • Fine chop Parsley
  • Blanch leaves of Savoy Cabbage.:
* 1st : In a wide pan boil water and season with salt.  When water comes to a boil add a few leaves at a time to your water will take about 1-2 minutes per leaf.  What you are looking for when blanching each leaf is that you want them pretty pliable.  This includes the tougher part of the central rib.  When that rib looks pretty translucent take them out and let cook.
*2nd : You want a fairly flat surface to roll the stuffing. The central rib also needs some trimming, so lay your cabbage leaf face down so that the central rib is facing up.  Filet that outer part so that when the leaf is facing down, it will be able to lay flat, but be careful not to take too much off.  Still don’t understand?  email me.
Reserve 1/2 C. of Carrots and 1/4 C. of onions. Set Aside. In a medium-large bowl add both types of pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, the rest of the onions and carrots, fennel seed, breadcrumbs, 1/2 T. Salt and 1 tsp. Cracked black pepper.  Using your hands, incorporate these items till it becomes one mass.
Laying each cabbage leaf with the naturally flat rib side up (you want the filet ribbed side facing down), add about a scant 1/4 cup of filling into the middle of each leaf.  Roll as if each roll were an eggroll or a burrito…you get the point.   Begin to roll with the bottom part of the leaf (i.e the bottom of the rib) first.  Tuck then tuck both sides (left and right) and end with a neat tight roll.
Lay each individual roll in your desired dish, you can crowd them its okay.  In this case I used a 8×8 inch Pyrex which fit 8-10 nicely.  Pour chicken stock to cover.  Sprinkle reserved carrots and onions to cover.  Bake covered at 375° for 40-60 minutes.