Carnitas, literally meaning “little meats”, is a dish of Mexican cuisine that originated in the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes three to four hours, and the result is very tender and juicy meat, which is then typically served with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), diced onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and refried beans (frijoles refritos).
Pork carnitas are traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich boston butt or picnic ham cuts of pork. The 6–16 lb (3–7 kg) sections are usually cut down to a workable (6–10 lb) size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or deep frying.
The traditional way to cook carnitas is in a copper pot (or any thick-bottomed pot), which disperses the heat evenly in a process similar to confit. Lard is used to cover the dish in proportion to the amount of meat being cooked. Once the lard has melted, pork and flavorings are added (usually salt, chili, cumin, oregano or Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic cloves). Traditional carnitas are then made by a process of simmering the meat in the lard until tender over a very low heat. Once appropriate tenderness is achieved, the heat is turned up and the outside of the pork begins to crisp. At this stage, the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped with a cleaver. (WIKIPEDIA)
Having read that, you are probably thinking TOO MUCH WORK! Indeed, my spouse made carnitas the traditional way, complete with the copper pan we bought in Quiroga when we visited that area of Mexico. It took hours and was incredible BUT….too time consuming and messy!
One of my favorite Mexican TV cooks is Pati Jinich, who has a program on PBS and on YouTube (Pati’s Mexican Table). The following recipe is her version and done on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. It was PERFECT and a lot less onerous.
Brown Sugar Carnitas
- 1 cup lard, vegetable shortening, or oil (I used oil)
- 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, fat on, cut into 3” chunks
- 4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups milk, divided
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute.
Heat the lard in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Season the meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper. Once the lard has melted, add the meat, brown on all sides, stirring and flipping as it does, for about 10 to 12 minutes.
In the jar of a blender, pour 1 ½ cups of the milk and add the garlic, onion and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Pour over the meat and let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, drop in the bay leaves, and cover. Cook covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, flipping the chunks of meat a couple times in between.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup milk with the sugar. Pour over the carnitas, stir, and let them continue to cook, uncovered, for another 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and place in a bowl. Shred with a couple forks, add a couple tablespoons of the seasoned fat remaining in the casserole and toss.
This is normally eaten in tacos with toppings like sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo salsa, etc. As you can see we skipped the tacos/tortillas and simply plated it with some rice and green beans.
Just in time for News Year’s Eve! As a change this year I decided to have Oysters Rockefeller in place of the usual escargots. Alas, they were impossible to find as fresh and on second thought I did not want to have to shuck them. Third choice was either mussels or scallops. NO mussels to be found. I had to settle on frozen scallops. This recipe from Closet Cooking was not only simple, but really awesome with the mustard sauce. Since I neglected to take a photo, this is the photo which accompanied the recipe.
It was perfect with the broiled asparagus AND very perfect with the leftover mustard sauce, so much so that |I had an idea for using this sauce on Eggs Benedict some time.
Let me know if you try it! It made a great and simple romantic dinner for two.
Seared Scallops in a Cajun Mustard Cream Sauce
Prep Time:5 minutes Cook Time:10 minutes
Total Time:15 minutes Servings: 2
- 1-pound sea scallops (about 1 inch thick) I used ten scallops
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Cajun mustard (or grainy mustard)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Pat the scallops dry and press on the Cajun seasoning.
- Met the butter into the oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add the scallops and sear until lightly golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side, before setting aside.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the heavy cream, mustards and lemon juice, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
- Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste and serve the scallops in the sauce garnished with the chopped parsley.
Option: Replace the butter and oil with bacon grease or butter yet, start by cooking 4 strips bacon, use the grease to cook the scallops in and sprinkle the crumbled bacon onto the scallops just before serving!
Option: Add 1/4 cup chicken broth or seafood broth or white wine to the pan before adding the cream and deglaze the plan by scrapping all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while the broth simmers.
Option: Add 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese to the sauce!
I chose not to use any of the options this time around!!
Happy New Year!!
Too many string beans from Costco AGAIN! What to do? Stir fry of course. Hope you enjoy this recipe with or without the rice…
Shrimp and Green Bean Stir Fry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound large shrimp-shelled, deveined and cut into 1-inch pieces (I cheated and used a dozen frozen, cooked shrimp – no need to thaw)
- 1/2 pound green beans, thinly sliced 1/4 inch thick on an extreme diagonal
- 1 or 2 sliced radishes (optional) seriously, I have started cooking radishes in my stir fries)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- Freshly ground pepper
- OPTIONAL RICE
Heat a wok until very hot.
Add the vegetable oil and heat until shimmering.
Add the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds.
Add the shrimp and a pinch of salt and stir-fry until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink, about 30 seconds.
Add the green beans and radishes and 2 tablespoons of the stock and stir-fry until the beans soften slightly, about 3 minutes.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of stock along with the fish sauce and a generous pinch of pepper and stir-fry until the shrimp are cooked through and the beans are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer.
Serve right away.
Thought I could Thai one on since it is now summer…LOL. Sorry that there is no photo, but we were travelling and no camera available.
Thai Basil Beef Bowls
Yield: about 4 servings
- 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice or long-grain white rice for serving
- 1 lb. flank steak, sliced against the grain into thin strips
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, diced into 2-inch strips
- 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 cup matchstick carrots
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves (roughly chop larger leaves), plus more for garnish
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp Sambal Oleek, or more to taste (optional)
- Cook rice according to directions listed on package.
- For the sauce:
- In a small mixing bowl whisk together soy sauce and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in water, fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and Sambal Oleek if using, set aside.
- For the beef and veggies:
- Toss beef with 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp cornstarch. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet or wok over moderately high heat. Add beef and cook until browned on both sides but still slightly under-cooked in the center. Transfer beef to a plate while leaving oil in skillet. Reduce heat slightly, add bell pepper, onions and garlic and sauté until crisp tender, about 2 – 3 minutes (if needed you can add another 1 tsp of oil to the skillet). Add carrots, whisk sauce mixture once more then pour into skillet and allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 1 minute. Return beef to skillet along with basil leaves, toss until basil has just wilted. Serve immediately over cooked rice garnished with small basil leaves and sesame seeds if desired.
- Recipe source: Cooking Classy
We are back! On March 10th we flew with two friends to Mexico City for three days and then we flew over to Puerto Vallarta for a few more days to visit with our friends who have moved over there last year. A bonus was seeing our old friends Bruce and Mary who we had last seen four years ago. FYI…Bruce and Mary have a wonderful blog Set Free in Mexico https://setfreeinmexico.com/ if you want to read about their adventures.
Today’s recipe is an easy one…mix the marinating ingredients and pour over the chops, refrigerating for 6 hours or so. After that, just BBQ…
Marinated Grilled Pork Chops
- 4 to 6 pork chops
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard or gourmet mustard blend
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Wash chops and pat dry. Put in a large food storage bag. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the chops. Seal the bag and turn to coat the pork chops. Refrigerate for *3 to 6 hours, turning occasionally.
- Grill the chops over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until the chops register about 160° on an instant read thermometer.
Not wanting to cook a whole turkey this Thanksgiving amigos? Give this Martha Stewart recipe a shot…it only uses a small skinless turkey breast 30 to 35 minutes of oven time…
Spice Rubbed Turkey Breast with Roasted Carrots
- 2 pounds carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch lengths
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled* (see below)
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 lb. turkey breast skinless
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1/2 plain low fat yogurt
- 2 T fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, garlic and 1 T. oil. Push them to the sides. Place turkey in centre of pan and rub with 1 T oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes, tossing carrots halfway through cooking. Let turkey rest 10 minutes before slicing.
In a small bowl mix yogurt, lime juice and 1/4 tsp. cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with carrots and sauce.
How to Peel Garlic? Cut the bottom off of your garlic cloves and place them on a paper towel in the microwave. Stop after 20 to 30 seconds and remove the garlic. Squeeze the top of the garlic buds and the skin will slip off. Chop as needed.
One of our favourite restaurants in Merida, Yucatan Il Caffe Italiano serves this wonderful seafood dish. We usually pop in after Sunday afternoon symphony. This is one wonderful dish and makes a little seafood go a long way! If you are buying fresh seafood, just purchase TWO pieces of EACH seafood PER PERSON.
Reef Spaghetti – Spaghetti allo Scoglio
- fresh clams (although I used frozen and they were just fine)
- fresh mussels (frozen is fine)
- shrimp (frozen is fine) De-veined and tails removed!
- 2 or 3 plum tomatoes chopped (I would use more next time)
- bunch of parsley
- 1 clove of garlic OR MORE
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup of white wine
- spaghetti (dependent on how many people)
If using frozen seafood, first thaw them in the refrigerator in cold salted water for about 30 minutes. Thaw each seafood separately. Salt a pot of water for the spaghetti and set it to boil. Heat 2 T. of oil in a broad skillet with the garlic. When the garlic is browned, remove it (and eat it if you want..LOL). Add the drained clams and mussels. Cover and cook over a brisk flame, shaking the pan every now and then until the shellfish have opened. Turn off the flame and let them cool slightly. Remove empty or unopened shells. Do NOT try to open closed shells as they are already dead and eating them could make you quite sick!!!
Start to boil the spaghetti!!
In a separate deep skillet add more oil and garlic. Add the chopped tomatoes. and shredded basil leaves.Salt. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes. Stir in all of the shellfish (including the shrimp), adding some of the white wine (to your taste) Simmer another five minutes.
Transfer the drained, cooked spaghetti to your serving dish, add a little olive oil and ground pepper. Toss and then stir in the sauce with the seafood. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce…and don not forget more wine…to drink, of course!!
Happy Easter to all! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
Looking for a summery menu a week ago, I decided to make my favourite two salads, Amish Macaroni and June Vance’s Four Bean. I wasn’t in the mood for hamburgers and went searching for something a little different as a quick accompaniment. I found it in this sandwich which mimics one of my other favourite salads, Cabrese, with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil. Just before we sat down to eat I assembled the prepared ingredients and fired up our stove top grill…the result was awesome!
Grilled Margherita Sandwiches (Adapted from CookingClub.com)
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: about 10 minutes Level: easy Makes: 4 sandwiches
• 8 (1/2-inch) slices crusty Italian bread
• 2 large garlic cloves, quartered
• 4 to 8 thin slices whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 3 oz.) (I was tempted to use goat)
• 2 large plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
• 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves per sandwich
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic-pepper seasoning
• 1 -2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Roasted peppers (optional)
Rub both sides of each bread slice with garlic and a little extra virgin olive oil. Place 4 slices on work surface; top each with one-fourth of the cheese and half of the tomato, roasted peppers and basil. Sprinkle each with 1/8 teaspoon of the seasoning; top with remaining cheese and bread slices.
Brush tops of sandwiches with some of the oil; sprinkle with some of the seasoning. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in large skillet or on a stove-top grill over medium heat until hot.You could use a panini press I guess.
Place sandwiches, brushed-sides down, in skillet; cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown and cheese on bottom of sandwich begins to melt.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush tops of sandwiches with remaining oil; sprinkle with remaining seasoning. Turn; cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted.