Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mom's Carnitas

My mom and aunt make outstanding carnitas. And until now I thought I'd never be able to come near them in quality. But you know what? Last night I did... My friend Dan is above there to prove it. And what's more is that it wasn't even that hard. All one needs is the correct method--the rest is nearly impossible to screw up.

Carnitas are chunks of pork that are slow cooked until rendering their own fat and caramelizing. They should be savory, juicy, and falling apart. We like to use country-style pork ribs (boneless) but any fatty, boneless cut of pork will do. (For this reason, I would not recommend tenderloin.) Serve in tacos, burritos, or in a sufficiently large mound all on their own. And I personally think one should not eat carnitas without guacamole!

I called my mom the other day asking her for her "recipe." I put that in quotes because my mom doesn't follow recipes. Rather, she remembers basic formulas, hand-measures ingredients, and drops them in a pot. (And that's why she doesn't care for baking so much.) Anyway, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Mom, I want to make carnitas like yours and Jesse's.

Mom: Well the first thing you should do then is get an electric skillet.

Me: What? No... I doubt Mexicans in Mexico use those, Mom. Do they even sell them there?

Mom: Well, no. People wouldn't buy them!

And now you know where my love for kitchen gadgets comes from. Anyway, she says you can use a large dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot. That's what I did and it worked beautifully.

Mom's Carnitas

Adapted from Mom
Serves 6-8

• 2.5 lbs country-style pork ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon coriander
• 2 cloves garlic, smashed
• the peel of 1 lime, green zest only
• 2 cups water
• flour tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, chopped onion and cilantro for serving

Place all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover pot and allow pork to braise on low heat for 2 hours or until the meat is tender. (Check for tenderness by prodding the meat with the tines of a fork. If it begins to spread and fall apart into a ropey pile, it's tender enough.) Remove the lime peel.

Remove the cover from the pot and raise heat to medium-high. Boil water and juices from the meat until only pork fat remains, about 45 minutes. Allow meat to caramelize in its fat for about 15 minutes longer, watching to make sure it does not dry out. Serve with flour tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, chopped onion, salsa and cilantro.

Wait you read this far down? Good for you! You get a bonus recipe then!

Grilled Chiles Rellenos
makes 12 peppers

• 12 large Jalapeños
• 12 ounces cream cheese
• 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut in half
• 24 toothpicks

Slice the jalapeños lengthwise to create a 1.5 inch cut, from the stem to about a quarter inch above the tip. Use a 1/4 teaspoon to wedge inside the cut, gutting the seeds and membrane from the inside of the jalapeño to hollow it out. (I like to recruit my husband for this step.)

Cook's note: Be VERY careful when handling jalapeños! Do not touch your eyes, or face, lest you'd like to spend the next the next few hours dipping these body parts in a bowl of milk. If you don't think you can be careful, use rubber gloves.

Slice bricks of cream cheese cross-wise to create long blocks that are slightly smaller than the size of the jalapeños, about 1 ounce each. Squeeze the peppers open. (It's okay if they break a little.) Stuff with cream cheese using 1/4 teaspoon if necessary.

Wrap jalapeños with bacon strips being careful to cover holes and openings. Secure with two toothpicks each.

Grill on low heat, turning often, until bacon is crisp and jalapeños are slightly charred, about 25 minutes.

I'm thinking I might need to get this someday...


Tyler said...

A wonderful recipe! Great pictures! Brilliant Edmond's family secret!

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