Friday, September 3, 2010

Pork Carnitas

Here is the third and final part of our perfect Pork Carnitas! It is super easy, low--maintenance, and has a great smoky (not sweet!) flavor.  I found the recipe on Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen and my sister and I tweaked it just a bit to enhance the flavor.  Sadly, our tweaking resulted in a bit more work and one more dish to clean, but it definitely strengthens the flavor.  But even without our little addition, this is still a great pork for tacos, burritos, taco salad, and of course, my beloved carnitas.

Recipe Source: Tasty Kitchen
Serves: 6

3.5 lbs. Pork Shoulder Roast or Pork Butt
1 quart chicken stock
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
1 whole onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp. Cumin
1 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tbsp. Pepper
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder

Additional taco garnishments:
shredded lettuce
shredded Monterey Jack cheese or crumbled Queso Fresco
small corn or flour tortillas
Chipotle Ranch Dressing
Corn Salsa

1. In a small bowl, combine the stock, tomato paste, garlic, onion, bay leaf, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and chipotle powder.  Stir everything to combine.

2.  Place your pork in a large pot or crockpot.  Pour your seasoned mixture over the pork.  If cooking on the stovetop, bring the pork to a boil, turn down to low and simmer, covered for 3-5 hours, or until the meat easily shreds.

3.  If cooking in a crockpot, simply cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until the meat easily shreds.

4.  Once the meat is tender and shreds easily, transfer to a cutting board and trim the fat.  Then shred or pull into small pieces.  Save the liquid. from your pot for later.

5.  Preheat your oven to 450°F.  Transfer the shredded meat to a large baking dish.

6.  In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and 2 Tbsp. slightly cooled pork liquid.  Stir well, making sure there are no lumps.  Set aside.

7.  In a small saucepan, bring about 2 cups of reserved pork liquid to a boil.  Once it's boiling, stir in the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Boil for 1-2 minutes, or until thickened.

8.  Pour this slightly thickened mixture over your shredded pork and stir to combine.  Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes.  (I usually cover the pork for the first 15 minutes and then bake it uncovered for the remainder of the time to get it slightly crispy.)

As an alternative to the thickened mixture, you can just pour a couple cups of reserved pork liquid over the pork before you bake it.  I liked how the thicker mixture really coated the meat and I liked the texture and added flavor it gave the meat. However, you can save yourself some time and another dirty dish by just pouring the straight liquid over your meat.

9.  If serving in tacos, top the pork with the corn salsa, chipotle dressing, shredded Monterey Jack cheese or queso fresco, and shredded lettuce. 

These carnitas are probably in our top 3 favorite recipes of all time so we hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chipotle Ranch Dressing

The second part of the perfect pork carnita... the chipotle Ranch dressing!

If you thought the corn salsa was easy... wait till you see this. It doesn't get any easier than this and the resulting dressing is fantastic. I love it over my taco salads, tacos, burritos, and of course, pork carnitas. I usually have a container with this stuff sitting in the back of my fridge for last minute quesadillas and burritos.

1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
mayonnaise and milk as called for on the dressing packet (I definitely prefer a bit more milk to the mayonnaise when I make this... I think it gets too thick going half and half, so I usually use a little less mayo and a bit more milk to get the right texture)
1/2 t. - 1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 lime

1.  Prepare dressing according to package directions.

2.  Add chipotle powder and some fresh lime juice, according to taste.  Go easy at first, as the chipotle and lime will intensify as it sits.  I usually start with the 1/2 tsp. of chipotle powder and just a couple squeezes of fresh lime juice.  Then I taste it a little later and adjust as necessary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Corn Salsa

So, before Cafe Rio showed up in Las Vegas, I had to get my fresh Mexican salad fix elsewhere.  (Believe me, it was painful.  I had to wait years or drive to Utah to get my fix...)  Luckily, my husband stumbled on a fresh Mexican grill, called Zaba's here in town and they were a very good substitute.  What I liked about Zaba's was that they had the same idea behind their salads and food, i.e., fresh meat, homemade tortillas, and delicious dressings, but different sauces and accompaniments, giving their food an entirely different flavor.  One of my very very favorite things to order there is their pork carnitas tacos. They are the perfect blend of smoky pork (NOT sweet!... I do NOT like sweet pork), cilantro, delicious corn salsa, and an awesome chipotle ranch dressing.  I love the tacos so much, that I could easily eat them once a week.  So, I decided I needed to re-create them at home.  I went searching for bits and pieces of the meal and ended up with an almost perfect substitute for my Zaba's tacos.

The next three posts will have all you need to make your very own Zaba's inspired Pork Carnitas.
And here's part 1 of our perfect pork carnitas meal... the corn salsa.

So, in my quest to recreate my beloved Zaba's carnitas, I had to find a corn salsa. They use this delightful medium corn salsa, that had something weird in that I couldn't quite label.  Obviously, I don't eat a lot of jicama because that's what it is... and I didn't recognize it.  I loved it, though.  It tastes sort of like a cross between an apple and snap pea.  I looked high and low for a corn salsa recipe that was similar to the Zaba's variation and I couldn't really find one, so Dacia and I created one ourselves.  Granted, there isn't much to it... just throw some veggies together and call it done.  But, as simple as it is, it's mighty tasty.  It was spectacular with tortilla chips and of course delicious over the carnitas tacos.  It's super simple to whip up and a nice change from your typical tomato salsa.  I highly recommend this stuff.

2 Cups frozen corn, defrosted, and drained of excess liquid
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced jicama
juice from 1 lime
1/2 -1 cup cilantro (you can probably bet which way I lean...)
salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder to taste

1.  Throw your corn, onion, and jicama all together in a bowl.

2.  Add lime juice and seasonings to taste.  And that's it.