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Pork belly: an experiment in deliciousness

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

During the week my meals are pretty lame, but that’s by design. Weekday meals keep me fueled, but weekend meals feed my soul. Otherwise y’all, I’d be getting down with high octane deliciousness all the time, trust.

I tend to watch the Food Network quite a bit, mostly because I’m fascinated by the dishes expert-level chefs can whip up. Perhaps in another life I went to culinary school and opened my own restaurant instead of being a veteran of the IT industry, but in this life I have much catching up to do.

Getting back to the Food Network: they love them some pork belly. Would you believe that aside from bacon I’ve never tried it? A few weeks ago, I decided to do something about that.

This recipe, oh my goodness, this recipe for Roasted Pork Belly with Brown Sugar Glaze was killer. Even before the glazing, I was taste testing the pork belly more times than I really needed, it was that delicious. Definitely not an all the time thing or I’d be having major issues, but it was awesome. And, two days later I used the leftovers for a homemade pizza.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Asado de Puerco (slow-simmered Mexican-style pork)… recipe and photos included

February 15, 2015 Leave a comment

I’ve tried making this dish a few times before, but never really hit on a winning recipe. My measure is usually “does it taste as good as my favorite Mexican restaurant?” The answer had been no for a while, but today I think I finally got it. So here we go:

Total prep time: about two hours. Taste? Delicioso :)

Total prep time: about two hours. Taste? Delicioso 🙂

The recipe calls for two Chili Ancho pods and one Chili Cascavel pod

The recipe calls for two Chili Ancho pods and one Chili Cascavel pod. De-vein each pod and remove all seeds.

Boil the pods for about 15 minutes until they're soft.

Boil the pods for about 15 minutes until they’re soft.

Once the pods are soft, put them in a blender along with maybe 1/3 cup of the water they boiled in, and puree. Using a strainer, strain out the excess liquid and you will have a nice looking paste left over.

Once the pods are soft, put them in a blender along with maybe 1/3 cup of the water they boiled in, and puree. Using a strainer, strain out the excess liquid and you will have a nice looking paste left over.

Included here is about 1 lb of cubed, boneless pork shoulder, one clove of garlic (minced), and about 1/2 cup raw onion

Included here is about 1 lb of cubed, boneless pork shoulder, one clove of garlic (minced), and about 1/2 cup raw onion. Brown the cubed pork in two batches in a Dutch oven using 1 TB of oil. Once the meat has been browned, throw in the onions and garlic.

Here we have 1 tsp of Mexican Oregano, 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper, and 1 tsp of ground Cumin. The liquid is 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Add this to the pork, onions and garlic along with 1 cup of water. Turn heat to low and simmer covered  for at least an hour, maybe more (depending on how tender you like it). Watch the liquid level as you may have to add some from time to time.

Here we have 1 tsp of Mexican Oregano, 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper, and 1 tsp of ground Cumin. The liquid is 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Add this to the pork, onions and garlic along with 1 cup of water and the chili paste. Turn heat to low and simmer covered for at least an hour, maybe more (depending on how tender you like it). Watch the liquid level as you may have to add some from time to time.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chili Ancho pods, de-veined and de-seeded
  • 1 Chili Cascavel pod, de-veined and de-seeded
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 lb cubed boneless pork shoulder (trimmed of excess fat)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TB oil

Directions:

  1. Soak both chiles in boiling water until pliable, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until very smooth. Press the mixture through a sieve and reserve.
  2. Cut the meat into 1-inch pieces. Heat oil in Dutch oven on the stovetop (medium heat). Working in batches, brown the pork in a single layer so as not to crowd the pan. Transfer the browned pork to a plate before adding the next batch.
  3. When all the pork is browned, return it to the pot and add the ground chile paste, onion and garlic. Mix well and add the salt, oregano, cumin and pepper. Add 1 cup of water and the vinegar. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the meat is tender, cooking for at least 1 hour, adding a bit of additional water as needed if the mixture dries out too much.

A variation on pork carnitas using a slow cooker

August 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Took about 7 hours, but well worth it.

In the recent past, I’ve posted about making Puerco Pibil in the crockpot. One of the drawbacks to doing this was how strong the spices were in the house. My eyes were watering for a while, as if I’d just chopped up a whole mess of onions. That’s good and that’s bad, as they say.

From that last experiment, I still had a large cube of pork butt in the freezer. Yesterday I decided to throw it into the crockpot, bone and all, with the following ingredients:

Seasonings:

  • 1 tsp salt (can use more if so desired)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp achiote paste (for the red coloring and some extra flavoring)

Achiote paste can be hard to come by, unless you have a grocery store nearby that has a pretty good stock of Hispanic foods. In the previous Puerco Pibil posts, I made the achiote from scratch; this time, I went the easy route. It doesn’t carry the same flavor punch, but when you’re not in the mood to be in the kitchen all day, you have to sacrifice a little, right?

As in all things, one of the traits I love most about the slow cooker method is the fact that you don’t have to thaw out the meat beforehand. I threw the thing in totally frozen with the spices and a cup of chicken broth. 6-7 hours on low, and the meat will get tender enough to shred off the bone into the broth.

One of the trademarks for carnitas is having a bit of crunchiness. So, when you’re done, scoop out the meat using a strainer into a baking dish, shred it up, and pop in the oven using the broiler setting for about 6 minutes. Take the pan out (be careful, it’ll be really hot), stir up the meat again and pop back in for another 6 minutes.

Boo-yah… tasty, crunchy pork carnitas without having to use a deep fryer.

Puerco Pibil in the crockpot is a great thing

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Tasty stuff.

It took about 7 hours on low, but the pork came out so tender. I was in a cooking mood so it was an epic event combined with Charro beans, rice, and a nice Mandarin Orange cake for dessert.

Delicious. And the best part is, the oven didn’t have to be used for the Puerco Pibil. The house stayed cool, and cleanup was a breeze.

Cooking is one of my ways of decompressing after a hard work week these days. The other is working up a sweat at the dojo. Good times.

Recipe: Enchiladas. The ways to make them are endless

January 6, 2011 2 comments

An example. Kinda look like El Pato enchiladas "tan tan!"

As requested, here is my post on enchiladas. Hope you enjoy 🙂

There are a few schools of thought to making these delicious works of gooey wondrousness:

  1. They can only be made using ground beef, chicken, or cheese. I have had them with carne guisado, molé, and hell, even potatoes. In other words, the filling is entirely up to you and your taste.
  2. You have to make the filling from scratch. Sure, you can roast a chicken in the oven, but that takes a while. Why not go get an original recipe rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, chop that sucker up, and use that? Ideas are forming, I can tell 🙂
  3. One can only use “authentic” cheeses. Queso fresco is something I can eat oodles of. But I’ve used Gruyere before, and it was exquisite. The trick to this is simply, if the cheese melts well, use it. Back in the day, my mother used to cut up cubes of Velveeta and use that for the filling and topping. I’m not advocating it, I’m just telling the story as it happened.
  4. Enchilada sauce is the only way to go. Not even. Try sauteeing some onion, throw in stewed tomatoes and seasoning, and let it all break down and cook for a while. Another Mom story: She would use Wolf brand chili (no beans) as the sauce with the aforementioned Velveeta cheese. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly go that route, but hey, if it floats your boat, try it. It’s not BAD tasting at all… why won’t you believe me???

For now, we’ll go with the notion that you want to use Enchilada sauce. McCormick’s has a good one in powder form that you can find at your local supermarket. All it requires is water and some tomato sauce, and let cook for five minutes. If all you can find is the canned stuff, hey, that’s ok. Sometimes one has to experiment to find the right combination for deliciousness.

Fiesta Seasoning (based in Texas) also has an Enchilada sauce powder I like to use (check it out, they even have a recipe on their site). Follow the instructions on the bottle and it’ll make some tasty sauce.

A good typical combination is shredding up a brick of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. Those will yield good, melty results.

So the basic way of making these bad boys:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of corn tortillas (fresh from the tortilleria or the supermarket, it doesn’t matter)
  • Grated cheese – I really don’t like pre-shredded cheese because it seems like it’s too dry. Get a couple of bricks and grate them up. Big difference in taste.
  • Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • Enchilada Sauce – what kind is up to you.
  • Some sort of stuffing – ground beef, shredded chicken, fajĂ­ta, cheese, whatever’s clever.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a rectangle cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Get a frying pan and put enough oil to cover the bottom. Set it at about medium heat. It shouldn’t take long to heat up.
  3. Get your sauce, cooked stuffing (no raw meat here, people) and cheese ready. I like to put them in seperate containers and arrange things like a factory line. Makes things easier.
  4. Put some of the sauce in the  cake pan and sort of coat the bottom lightly. This will prevent the tortillas from sticking during the baking process.
  5. This bit is important… you will need a pair of tongs and hopefully don’t mind some burnt fingertips. Get a tortilla and put it in the oil. After 5 seconds, use the tongs to flip to the other side. Take tortilla out of the oil and let it rest on a paper towel-covered plate. This should blot out a lot of the oil. If you’re hardcore, get some of the stuffing and put it down the middle of the tortilla, then roll it up and take the pain of the burned fingertips. That’s how they do it in the old country!
  6. Put the rolled up stuffed tortilla seam side down in the pan and make a row until you’ve gotten as many as you wanted.
  7. Top with sauce and cheese. Cover pan with foil and put in the oven to bake for 20-30 minutes.

An example of how most folks line them up.

Now, some folks don’t use the oil if they’re using freshly made warm tortillas. I tend to think if you don’t use oil to fry them up, they will break apart very quickly. It’s up to you how you want to do it.

Try these sides to compliment the enchiladas. After this meal, you’re going to want to go out and get an accordion and a sombrero and go sing your songs of heartbreak and love to the customers at the local cantina. ARRRIIIIIBBBBBAAAAAA!

Puerco Pibil… it was worth it

September 11, 2010 2 comments

Cochinita pibil (also known as puerco pibil) is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaves.

When I have the time and the energy, I like to try recipes that take a little extra effort. Sure, buying spices in powder or paste form is quicker and easier, but where’s the fun in that? Traditionally, one can use what’s known as a “molcajete” (pronounced molca-he-te) in grinding up spices into powder form. Here’s a picture of one (very similar to a mortar and pestle but seasoned from years of use):

Traditional molcajete, used to grind up spices

Unfortunately, I do not have a molcajete in the house, so I went a more conventional route – I used a small coffee grinder. Worked just as well, let me tell you 🙂

The hardest part of the preparation was actually locating the spices used in this dish. It wasn’t so bad finding peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and cumin seeds, but the annatto seeds were scarce. Annatto seeds (also known as achiote) give dishes a nice red color. They don’t really provide much flavor, just asthetics.

I went to two major grocery stores and two mom and pop shops. It wasn’t until I hit the last mom and pop shop where I scored the annatto seeds. It’s like gold to me as a result.

Spices!

Spices pulverized into powder... cool coloring

The traditional recipe calls for peppers… most people use habaneros for that extreme kick. I’m not a pepper person, so I left it out. Chop them up and use them if you like the fi-yah. Since no peppers were in evidence, I gave it another kind of kick; a splash of tequila in the mix. Just a splash is needed, so one of those little itty bitty bottles served on airplanes did the trick:

No Don Julio? Patron will suffice 🙂

Ok, enough chit-chat; here is the recipe I followed:

Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsp annatto seeds (also known as achiote seeds)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 8 allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tbsp salt (kosher salt works well)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • juice of 5 lemons
  • banana leaves (to layer in the pan)
  • splash of tequila (for that little extra something)
  • Pork butt (also known as Boston butt), 5 lbs cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Use a coffee grinder to grind up the spices into a fine powder. It’ll take a little time because the cloves look like little twigs. In a blender, add orange juice, lemon juice, ground spices, tequila and garlic cloves and blend for a minute or two.
  2. Put the cut up pork and the mixture from the blender into a freezer bag and let the mixture coat the meat.
  3. Put a layer of banana leaves in a cake pan, add the pork, and then put another layer of banana leaves. Cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees for four hours. Seriously, four hours is what it takes when using banana leaves. It’s worth it, trust me.

Puerco Pibil spiced up and ready for the oven

And 4 hours later… the verdict is in. Very tasty and tender. My husband loved it and I did too. I’m glad I tried it.

Puerco Pibil and Fideo... gooooood stuff

Believe it or not, Robert Rodriguez (director of El Mariachi, Desperado, and Machete) inspired me to make this. I caught his “10 minute Cooking School” series and he demonstrated his version of this dish. Excellent stuff.

Making Pork Carnitas without all the grease and WITH the flavor

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Printable version here: Pork Carnitas

If you’ve ever had pork carnitas (shredded, deep fried pork) you know that the traditional way to make them is to deep fry them in lard. I don’t know about you, but this cowgirl has to watch her fat intake. So, is there really a way to make them WITHOUT lard WITHOUT losing the taste?

Yep.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 lbs boneless pork butt (shoulder), cut into 2-inch cubes (I found that my local supermarket actually has it pre-chopped and labeled “Carnitas”)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Split the onion into quarters. Set aside.
  2. Season pork chunks with 1 tbsp salt and place in a 9×13 casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces.
  3. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork, then nestle the orange pieces within the pork.
  4. Add 2 onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick pieces to casserole. Pour vegetable oil over surface.
  5. Result before going into the oven

  6. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook about 3.5 hours until pork is fork tender.
  7. Set strainer over large bowl. Using tongs, remove orange sections, cinnamon, bay leaves, onion, and garlic from pork. They won’t be needed again so you can dispose as desired.
  8. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer and let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole dish.
  9. Using a flat spoon, skim fat from surface and add back to pork, then shred the pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt.
  10. Turn on oven to Broiler setting and put casserole back in the oven to brown for six minutes. Remove casserole, stir up the pork with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp.
  11. Here is the result:

    Carnitas ready for tacos

    Now you can get a couple of tortillas, brown them in a pan or a comal and fill them up with carnitas. Garnish with whatever you like, guacamole, cheese, cilantro, onion, all are acceptable.

Yum:

Garnished with cilantro and queso fresco. Yum.

You may think that adding a cinnamon stick, orange sections and juice, and bay leaves are unconventional, but they really did add to the flavor.

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