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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Moist and tender meatballs

I’ve made meatballs for so many years I can’t even remember when I started.  Then, over the last few years we’ve tasted some pretty amazing meatballs, most notably and surprisingly – in Mexico!  I decided I better start rethinking my meatball game.  After research and the usual taste testing, these won out.  They are so moist and tender you won’t believe the difference.  I like to make a double batch and freeze a bunch for another day.

Spaghetti & meatballs

One perfectly moist meatball, set on a bed of saucy tangled pasta – heaven.

 

 

  • 2 pounds ground meat (equal parts ground beef & ground pork)
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic cloves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Meatballs 2

Add the milk, eggs and seasonings to the panko first in order to have it all evenly distributed without overmixing your meatballs.

Meatballs 1

Next -get your herbs in there.

Meatballs 3

This is where the large fork comes in handy.  If you over mix the meatballs they will get tough, so this allows you to gently combine everything.

 

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork (this keeps your meatballs from getting overworked) until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Meatballs 4

Ready to pop in the oven.  These were on the larger size so they took about 18 minutes to cook through.  Don’t overcook them!  Break one open at that point and check.

Meatballs 5

If serving with spaghetti – submerge meatballs into tomato sauce and allow to simmer until pasta is ready.

Always cook the pasta for the last few minutes in the tomato sauce to allow the sauce to coat all pasta.

Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over top.

Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for these meatballs!

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Pork tenderloin, lightly crispy on the outside, perfectly pink inside, it is one of the most versatile pieces of meat you can cook with.

Pork & chimichurri 2

Served with yams, sliced thickly and roasted – they were the perfect accompaniment to this slightly spicy, very herbaceous chimichurri sauce.

If you haven’t had chimichurri, you must give it a try!  So good, it brings any meat to life, and works equally well on on roasted vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • About 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Pork Tenderloin:

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), trimmed of excess fat, patted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lime juice, for drizzling
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish
  • Pork & chimichurri

    I like to butterfly the pork tenderloin, and pound the thicker areas enough so that it is equally thick – that really helps it cook evenly.

  1. Combine the garlic, jalapeno and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, oregano, and lime juice. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to marry.
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of the chimichurri to serve and marinate the pork in the rest. Put the pork and marinade in a sealable plastic bag and set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat an outdoor charcoal grill or oven broiler to high.
  4. Remove the pork from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Season both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill the pork on the hottest part of the barbecue for 4 minutes per side, until well charred. Allow the tenderloin to rest for about 5 minutes prior to slicing. Spoon some chimichurri over the meat, drizzle with lime juice, garnish with parsley, and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.
Pork & chimichurri 1

Make sure it rests!  So important to allow the meat to sit long enough to for the juices to settle in and your pork will always by tender and juicy.

Pork Chili Verde

or as Stella calls it, Mexican Green Chili!

Chili Verde 4

The most fun comes when you get to dress up your chili bowl just the way you like it.  Stella said it was so good she couldn’t stop eating.  Magic words for Nana’s ears!!

Serves 6

  • 2-3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • lard for browning the meat
  • flour for dredging
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 jars tomatillo salsa
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 tin white kidney beans
  • 1 small tin diced green chilis (use mild or spicy depending on who’s coming for dinner!)

Preheat oven to 325.

Heat the lard in a large heavy bottom saucepan.  (Yes, you can use a neutral oil, but lard does add a certain level of flavour that you won’t get with neutral oil)

Season pork with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.

Fry the pork pieces a few at a time, until you have a golden crust.  If you overcrowd the pan they will steam rather than get a nice carmelized crust.

Chili Verde 1

Once all the pork has been browned, saute the onions and peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper while you do that, then deglaze the pan with the chicken stock.  Stir in the tomatillo salsa and then return all the pork to the saucepan.  Stir to combine, and then bake in the slow oven for about 3 hours, until the pork is tender and falling apart with just a touch.  Stir in the beans, green chilis and corn, allow to heat through.

Chili Verde 2

Bring the whole saucepan to the table and surround with toppings for everybody to help themselves.

Suggested toppings:

  • sliced radish
  • cubes of avocado
  • sliced jalapeno
  • grated cheese
  • crumbled taco chips
  • cilantro
  • green onions
  • Sour cream

 

  • Serve with a loaf of crusty bread ….. try my recipe, (No Knead bread) its quick and easy, and completes this meal perfectly.

Chili Verde 3

 

Mexico City bites

We arrive in Mexico City late, and won’t even be there for 24 hours before flying out to Tuxtla ….. this presents a real dilemma for us, requiring us to narrow down the places we eat.  We’ve eaten our way through CDMX more than a few times, and on a restricted time frame, but this will be the shortest eating walking, walking in order to eat stop.  EEK.  I’m already dreaming of the places to quickly stop for a bite.

cdmx churro

Churros are a natural start for us!  This place, El Morro, is one of the oldest Churreria spots in the city, and they are delicious.  It is usually easy to get a table early in the day, but you should see the lineups late afternoon and into the night!

cdmx el morro churro

Next head to a mercado – the food is always amazing in the markets, and once we’ve had our coffee and churro it is time for a savoury bite ….. how about carnitas?  These tacos are mouth watering pork goodness.

cdmx carnitas 2

Every bit of the pork is waiting to be chopped up and served in a taco.  We loved the tortillas they made at this stand, they have fresh herbs in the tortilla masa and added so much flavour.

cdmx carnitas 1

No shortage of amazing toppings for your taco.

cdmx carnitas

It’s hard to only eat a couple of tacos at this place, but so many more steps and bites to come …

cdmx fruit

Time to lighten things up a bit …. how about some fruit?  These cups of fruit and vegetables are available everywhere and bursting with freshness.

cdmx fruit 2

Look for these vendors on the streets – you can choose whatever you want in your cup!

cdmx mango

Don’t miss the mango!

cdmx peruvian ceviche

How about a little ceviche next?  So refreshing and absolutely delicious.

cdmx walk

When you walk this much, your little 5 year old legs need a boost from big sister …..

cdmx la docena

La Docena – our favourite oyster bar.  These blue crab tostada’s with habanero foam are the bomb!  Served with a crisp white from the Baja region its a perfect bite.

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cdmx la docena 2

Crunchy oyster croutons served with fresh greens and creamy avocado – love this salad.

cdmx dessert

Save room for dessert – these pastries are a great way to finish off a day.

Less than a day to eat, so many bites waiting …… we will get off that plane with an appetite and start walking!

 

Fajita Seasoning

Fajita Seasoning 1

Having this seasoning mix on hand makes dinner easy breezy!  (lemon squeezy??) Make a double batch and you can keep it for months in a cool, dry spot.  Use it on vegetables, fish or meat alike, these flavours go so well together and make dinner quick and simple.

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

How easy is this? just toss it all into a bowl and thoroughly mix.  Do yourself a favour and make lots.

Fajita Seasoning

Just looking at this, you can tell it’s tasty, right??

This works with anything your imagination can come up with …. salad dressing or vegetable dip or seafood bake …. you let me know if you come up with more!

 

For fajitas:

  • protein (or not to make it vegetarian)
  • onions
  • peppers

 

To make fajitas, simply generously sprinkle slivered chicken (or any meat, seafood of your choice) and toss in fry pan until just cooked through.

Cook sliced peppers and onions separately so they don’t overcook.

Serve with:

  • lime crema (sounds fancy, but it’s just a squeeze of lime juice with sour cream and a bit of salt)
  • salsa
  • avocado
  • lime wedges
  • chopped cilantro
  • toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • tortillas

You can so easily turn this into what is crazy popular right now,  power bowls!  Just serve with cooked quinoa or grain of your choice.

Turn it into a sheet pan dinner, also featured everywhere right now, just generously sprinkle everything with the seasoning and toss it into a hot oven (?400?).

Yes, you are welcome, you didn’t know dinner could be so quick, easy, healthy and delicious, did you???

 

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 1

How pretty is this colourful group of seasoning?

Ever noticed how many ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce on those premade taco seasoning packs??  Stop the madness with this mixture.  A little bit of flour makes the ground meat have a wee bit of a saucy texture.  Don’t stop at ground meat for goodness sake (pun? word play?)..  Sprinkle this over vegetables and roast them up – drizzle with a little lime crema and you’ve got an amazingly tasty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (use less if you aren’t keen on the heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Mix all this up in a small bowl, and then have it on hand to season meat or vegetables.  You’ll be so glad you took a few minutes to get this ready.

Taco Seasoning 2

To use this for ground meat tacos, brown your meat in a fry pan, then add 2 tbsp mixture for each pound of ground meat and add about 2 tbsp water, stir and cook just until meat is cooked through.

If you want to leave the flour out altogether that is just great, that makes it even more versatile:

Salad Vinaigrette:  1 tbsp mix to 2 tbsp lime juice and 7 tbsp olive oil.

Vegetable (or chip!) Dip: 1 tbsp (or to taste) with 1/4 cup each plain yogurt and good mayonnaise.

Grilled Shrimp:   Sprinkle a generous amount over shrimp before grilling.

Taco Seasoning 3

I like to mix up 3 x this recipe and just keep it on hand.  Try it, you’ll do the same thing!