Pork Carnitas

carnitas 5

A homemade corn tortilla, some pickled onions, avocado served with the tender pork and you have a perfect taco.

On our Mexican travels we have had some amazing carnitas, both in Michoacan, which is renowned for carnitas, but also at a Saturday mercado in Mexico City.  Once you have had great carnitas, that is something you will dream of when you get home!  Finally I’ve figured out how to do it at home, and it is the method as well as the recipe that is important.  

Ingredients

  • 2-2.5 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper (approx. 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2-3 tablespoon oil

For serving:

  • 12-16 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • freshly chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 limes, quartered

For the brine:

  • 1/2 cup sea or kosher salt
  • 2-3 quarts water

Instructions

  • Add 2 quarts cold water to a mixing bowl along with 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt.  Stir to dissolve.  Cut the pork shoulder into 2″ chunks.  Add the pork chunks to the brine, cover, and store in the fridge for an hour.  If the pork isn’t completely submerged just add a bit more water.
  • Once brined, remove the pork chunks and pat them dry.  Add them to a clean mixing bowl along with:  2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional), 1 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 2-3 tablespoons oil.  Combine well.
  • Add pork pieces to a casserole dish along with the juice of 1 orange, the juice of 1 lime, 1/2 onion cut into chunks, 1 jalapeno sliced in half, and 4 peeled garlic cloves.  I usually put the leftover orange pieces in the pan as well.   Cover tightly with foil and bake at 300F for three hours.
  • After three hours give it the fork tender test.  If you can insert a fork into the pork with no resistance then it’s done.  If the chunks are still firm give it another half hour.
  • Remove the pork and set aside.  Strain the resting liquid into a bowl and be sure to give it a taste!  As it sits the fat will rise to the top — you can remove some of the fat if you want but I use most of it.
  • To crisp up the Carnitas we’ll put the shredded pork chunks under the broiler (approx. 525F).   You can use the same baking dish, just be sure to remove the leftover fruit and veggie chunks.  Add the pork back to the dish and shred with two forks.  I usually give it a partial shred, leaving it chunky, but you can always shred finer if you want.
  • Drizzle some of the resting liquid over the pork and broil for 5 minutes.  Take a look and broil for another 5 minutes if you want it crispier.

 

For serving you’ll need corn tortillas, 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, some freshly chopped cilantro, the Salsa Verde, 3-4 limes, and cheese (optional).  You can warm up the tortillas in the oven but you’ll get happier faces if you crisp them up in hot dry skillet first.  I usually put a large skillet over medium high heat and crisp up 3-4 at a time, storing them in a tortilla warmer or tea towel.

If there are Carnitas leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge.  I usually store the resting liquid separately.  To re-heat, simply add pork to a saucepan along with some of the resting liquid, cover, and simmer over medium until heated through.
Carnitas 9

Chop the pork into 2 inch pieces and coat all over with the oil and seasonings.

Carnitas 8

Nestle all the pork in with the onion, jalapeño, garlic and squeeze the orange all over.  Tuck the orange pieces in, then cover tightly before slow roasting.

Carnitas 3

Three hours later this pork is tender and your house smells amazing.

Carnitas 4

I drizzled the pork with a little bacon fat just to add to the porky goodness.  Yum.

Carnitas 2

Put the pan under the broiler, and watch carefully – you only want a few crispy bits.

Carnitas 6

Stir the pork back into the cooking liquid and garnish with cilantro.

Carnitas 1

Fragrant and juicy tomatoes make a fantastic base for this refreshing Pico de Gallo.

Carnitas 10

What a fantastic bite!  Reminiscent of eating carnitas on a street corner or mercado in Mexico, we loved every morsel.

I’ve found this amazing new website (new to me anyway), and this recipe is courtesy of Mexicanplease …. check out that website, everything I’ve tried has been perfect …. including the flour tortillas made with bacon, delicious.

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

Smooth, creamy and absolutely delicious – this will make you crave a salad.

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, if needed you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk.

Creamy Cucumber dressing 3

My trusty little bullet whipped this up in no time.

Creamy cucumber dressing 4

My herbs are so happy this year!

Creamy cucumber dressing 5

Here it is, the infamous salt I had Grant, Wilson and Vivian trekking all over                              Mexico City looking for.  Was it worth the effort?  You bet.

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Ricotta Galette or Tomato Galette

Got a plethora of zucchini in your garden?  Here you go, you are very welcome.  Even if you don’t, head to the grocer or market and buy some because this galette is just that good.

Galette 8

This photo is gorgeous …. but even that doesn’t do it justice.  Oh, the crispy puffy pastry, the creamy rich base …the fresh from the garden (or market) zucchini …. and the aroma as it bakes. This is a sure winner, and certain to be on repeat.

Veg Galette 3

Incredibly delicious as a tomato galette also.

Serve this with a salad for a great vegetarian meal or cut into small pieces for an appetizer, either way it’s fantastic!

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

Glaze:
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Veg Galette 2

Glazed and ready for the oven – they already look and smell fantastic.

 

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Galette 2

See …. not quite enough cutting in yet, those butter cubes are too big.

Galette 3

Small, pea sized bits now and the liquid added.

Galette 4

Do not over mix, just get it together and wrap it to put in fridge for at least 30 minutes).

Galette 7

Salt, and allow to sit for a bit in order to draw the liquid out.

Galette 5

As you can see …. I’m not the best at an exact “12 inch” circle …. but I’m working on that!

Galette 6

Mix all your cheeses with the olive oil & garlic blend … adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

Galette 1

WHAT??  Already I’m crazy about this and it hasn’t even hit the oven yet.  Yes, I need to work on my even edges … ha ha

Veg Galette

Tonight we had enough people celebrating Stella turning 6 that I needed to make 2 …. so I did a tomato galette as well as zucchini.  Both were delicious.

Be as inventive as you like with the cheeses, using the amounts as your guidelines.  With the tomato galette I used aged gouda as well as the ricotta and parmesan.  With the zucchini, tonight I had old white cheddar on hand ….  What won’t change is how amazing your house smells!  Go ahead, invite the neighbours in …..

 

Absolutely full credit (as well as the copy/paste feature) for this recipe – IN TOTAL – goes to Deb Perelman at http://www.smitten kitchen.com  – one of the very rare recipes I didn’t play around with at all …. okay except I used a couple of patty pan squash because I had them….

 

Lemony Greek Chicken Thighs

Greek chicken 4

So delicious – olives, caper berries, sweet onions and tender chicken thighs …… you will be licking the pan, at least Leah did!

This is one of those “guideline” recipes.  I’m going to go ahead and give some amounts, but feel free to adjust to whatever you have on hand, or whatever your taste buds are asking for!

  • vegetable or peanut oil
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 large lemon, halved, then sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed lightly then halved
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup mixed olives (I used kalamata, stuffed green & caper berries)
  • 2 tbsp of sliced sun dried tomatoes
  • generous handful of minced herbs (today I used parsley, oregano & thyme)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Splash of good dry white wine

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Bring cast iron skillet up to a moderate temperature, add just enough neutral oil to generously coat the pan.  As soon as it starts to shimmer, add chicken thighs. Try not to overcrowd the pan as you want to get a nice sear on the chicken pieces.

Turn once they release easily from the skillet.  Once the second side has seared, remove from the heat.

To the same pan, add a splash of white wine and the onions, garlic, lemon & sun dried tomatoes.  Saute until the onion is translucent and just starting to soften.  Add the herbs and nestle the chicken back into the skillet.  Scatter olive mixture in amongst the chicken and put the whole skillet into an oven at 375 for 30 minutes.  Watch carefully and if you think the chicken is browning too quickly – cover with tinfoil so it cooks through.

Remove from heat, if desired finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a splash of your best olive oil.