All the Spokane food-related stuff that I can't figure out how to wedge into my other blog.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ad hoc pork carnitas

I used to be really into charcuterie. A few years ago, I wound back my meat eating to almost nothing. Pork is the cornerstone of great charcuterie and is something we rarely eat now. Of course any time we go to breakfast, Maddie gorges on bacon, but otherwise, we're pretty much a pork-free house.

This time of year I can't help myself. I gotta make at least one holiday pate. So there's pork around.

I started a country pate tonight -- I ground some pork butt and added a bunch of goodies to marinate into a forcemeat.

I had a bit of pork butt left over. So I made carnitas. Yum.

When my mom was about 45(?) she went to California Culinary Academy for two years. Part of her training was an externship. I don't know why cooking schools call what everyone else calls an "internship" an "externship," but they do. Anyway. My mom spent 6 months or so working at the Jordan Winery where she worked with some hotshot chef guy to put out big fancy dinners for high rollers.
This is so easy it's just crazy. I put red peppercorns in it cause I had them.
Red peppercorns are hard not to put in just about everything.

But she said the best part of that job was working during the days in the kitchen with the Senoritas. Aside from prepping and helping the hotshot chef the Senoritas' main duties were making sure the pickers, growers, and farmhands were well-fed. Since all these guys were Mexican, it made sense that Mexican women ran the "work" kitchen. So my mom ended up learning great Mexican cuisine from the Senoritas.

And she really learned the cuisine. She came out of there cooking amazing Mexican food with the same comfortable, second-nature ease that she had when she whipped out a roasted chicken or a quick French loaf. Mexican was my favorite of all the "new" stuff Mom learned in her time at CCA. And this particluar recipe makes me happy this time of year.

Pretty much done, but a guy could cook this for another 15 minutes or so.

She showed me this carnitas recipe about 10 years ago when we were doing some Christmas charcuterie cooking. Everyone was gone doing Christmassy shopping and running around. We had a bit of pork left over and she knocked this little cook's treat out and we enjoyed it in a quiet house after cleaning up. These are great to eat right out of the pan, or laid out onto tortillas as I've done here -- with whatever you have on hand.

This makes enough for two to four people to snack on.

  • One pound pork butt or blade steak, cubed into small bite sized bits.
  • Some or all of the following: 3-4 dried peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 TB dried oregano.
  1. Put the pork and spices in a heavy saute pan or cast iron pan and just cover with water.
  2. Cook on medium-high until water gently boils away.
  3. Turn heat to medium-low and let the fat render out of the pork. The idea now is to slowly fry the pork in its own fat at low heat for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When all the little pork bits are crusty and yummy it's done.

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