Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Feast

Look PN is back!     
     On April 20, 2011, PN and I had a Feast. It was an amazing feast. The table was loaded with delicious foods. And do you know what the theme was? Mexican. Can you believe I have never made Mexican food before? I mean, maybe you can if you have been following this blog and realized I never discuss south of the border cuisine. But, it was totally unintentional. It's just not something I think of making on a day to day basis, but I love Mexican food. Making it was actually fairly unintentional too, I just had that large pork shoulder on my hands (remember me hacking away at it?) and I couldn't figure out how to cook it while dealing with it as little as possible. Googling brought the best ideas to the forefront: use the slow cooker and make carnitas!


     The slow cooker is my friend. I rubbed a bunch of spices onto the pork, and put it into the slow cooker with chicken broth (made courtesy bouillon cubes, I love those things and had almost forgotten I had them, tsk tsk) and then got to enjoy lovely stewing pork and spices aroma while I spent the day baking with AN. Yup, this was that same day. It's great to remember so much hard work. Even though, it doesn't really seem like work to cut a pork shoulder into quarters and dump it into the slow cooker, but hey, it counts if I get a meal out of it!


     The rest of the fixings, the salsa and black beans, I whipped up on the 20th itself. It was ridiculously easy. Why do I not make Mexican food more often? Cut up some tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and garlic and squirt with some lime juice: you have salsa! Cook up some black beans with onions, green pepper, and garlic (it's a theme!) and you have great beans. Rice goes into the rice cooker, and you have the best table of food ever. 


     I have no words to describe how good this meal tasted. The salsa was a little bit too spicy (I should have tried that Serrano Chile before adding the whole thing to the salsa, but I was scared! This is what I get for being a wimp - at least now I know Serranos are spicier than Jalapenos), but the mildness of the beans really evened it out. You also need that fresh tanginess of tomatoes to cut down on the thickness of beans and rice. Mexicans are geniuses. And I have not even gotten to the pork yet. I don't know how to do it justice. The deep notes of the cinnamon and other spices had completely blended into it, it was soft and tender and completely fell apart when you attacked it with a fork, and it was just pure deliciousness. I am getting so hungry thinking about it, you have no idea. Let's hope I get to make Mexican food again soon.


Carnitas 
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Serves 2 

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Oregano 
1/2 tsp Coriander
1/4 tsp Cinnamon 
1 lb Pork Shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into Four large pieces
1 cup Chicken Broth

First, combine the garlic powder, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Then, add the four pieces of pork shoulder, turning them thoroughly to make sure each is covered in the spice mixture. Once all the spice mixture has been rubbed onto the pieces, place them in a slow cooker. Slowly pour the cup of chicken broth around the pieces of pork, so it doesn't take the spice rub off, cover the slow cooker, and turn it on Low. Allow everything to cook for 4 hours, then turn off the slow cooker. At this time, take the pieces of pork out and shred them by pulling each apart using two forks (the easiest method I have found). Once the pieces are all shredded, place them back into the liquid. If you are serving immediately, heat everything through in a pan on the stove and then serve.

I made this a day in advance. So, I allowed it to sit in the slow cooker and the cooking liquids overnight, and then heated it the next day by putting it onto a baking sheet and sticking it in an oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. I think the juices really soak into the meat by the second day, so by all means make this a day ahead and keep it, it will taste great.

Black Beans 

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 Mid-Sized Yellow Onion, finely chopped
1 Small Serrano Chile, deseeded and finely chopped
1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed 
1/3 cup Water
1/2 tsp Oregano 

First, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan or frying pan at medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, stirring them together and frying them for two minutes, until the onions are translucent and the garlic is turning golden brown. Then, add the black beans, water, and chile. Stir everything together, and then stir in the oregano. Use your spoon to mash some of the beans into the pan, and mix them in with everything else. Allow everything to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has boiled off and the beans are soft. Take off the heat and serve with plain rice.

Salsa 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen from the New York Times

2 Tomatoes, Chopped 
1/2 Mid-Sized Yellow Onion, finely chopped
1 Small Serrano Chile, deseeded and finely chopped (or Jalapeno)
1 Garlic Clove, minced 
1/2 Lime, for Juice

In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, chile, and garlic together. Squeeze the juice of the half lime into the bowl, and stir everything thoroughly to combine. Allow it to sit for at least 15 mins to absorb flavors, and serve it within a couple of hours of making it. 

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