Tag Archives: chips

Luscious Pork

7 Dec

Sorry for the absence dear readers and food porn spectators! But as promised, here is the carnitas tacos post.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish. In a nutshell, it is a typical Mexican preparation where the pork is first confit in lard, shred, and then fried. Quite obviously it is not a dish for the fainthearted or health conscious individual. However, for porketarians–that is true believers in the protein supremacy of king pork–carnitas is a delightful treat.

As with most traditional recipes, carnitas suffers from what I like to think of as the “grandma” syndrome. Let me elaborate. More often than not, staple dish recipes tend to have multiple different methods and interpretations. This often degenerates into something that goes along these lines: “my grandma used to cook this with the following special ingredients A, B and C that really made the dish better than other people’s version.” Although specific ingredients can often achieve amazing improvements upon preparations, I find that these claims are often more emotional than rational. Undoubtedly food preferences are intrinsically tied to memories and emotions. However, a reasonable level of objectivity is needed when determining what are better ways of preparing a specific dish that would please most people (not just those that had that grandmother that cooked it in a particular way). That objectivity can be found in methods as opposed to ingredients. Great methods can sometimes mean the difference between a great dish, and a mediocre one. The test of a great chef isn’t his use of amazing, fancy or expensive elements, but his dash of creativity and the right methods for the ingredients he has on hand. Carnitas is a dish that perfectly lends itself to such a test. Generally speaking it is made with pork shoulder (one of the cheapest cuts), and lard.

Here I sliced about a pound of pork fat that the butcher gave me for free and cooked it at low heat with a bit of water for about an hour and a half until most of it had rendered into lard. Needless to say I trimmed all the fat of the shoulder and used it in the rendering process. I cut the meat into fist sized chunks and cooked it in the rendered fat (which I had strained into a clean pot) at very low heat along with a variety of peppers, onions, garlic, orange peel, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, and peppercorns.

Pork Fat and Shoulder

After three hours or so I took out the meat and pulled it discarding of any connective tissue or fatty parts. Once I had cleaned all the shred meat I sauteed it with a bit of the cooking lard along with some more coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt. At the same time I sliced some tortilla chips and fried them for some tasty chips!

Shreded Pork and Fresh Chips

Previously I had made a Pico de Gallo, just tomato, peppers, onions, garlic, lime juice, a bit of oil, pepper, and obviously salt. In the meantime I had some beans cooking with some bacon, sauteed onions, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, coriander and pepper.

Pico de Gallo and Bean Puree

Once I had the pork ready along with the pico de gallo and beans I threw together a bit of rice with lime juice and finely chopped coriander. The rest was delicious history.

Chips, Carnitas Tacos, and Lime and Cilantro Rice

Here are the recipes. Yum!

Soup trio

29 Nov

Soups are always great during winter because they are so comforting. Often times though soups don’t get the same aesthetic treatment as main courses do. Here I made three simple and common soups but strove to make them not only delicious but visually appetizing as well.

The starting point for most dishes is always what is going to flavor the base. Here I neatly arranged the main elements that played in the layers of each soup. The first soup, a classic pumpkin cream, was complimented by cardamom and cloves. The second soup, a black bean puree, went hand in hand with ground cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. The final soup, a bacon and split pea, relied on a touch of white pepper and sea salt crystals at the end. In addition to these spices I used fresh bay leaves for all three soups. On a side note, fresh spices and herbs tend to not give as much flavor as their dry counterparts.

Cloves, Cumin, White Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Cardamom, Fleur de Sel, and Coriander
Fresh bay leaves

For the first soup I started a simple base of melted butter with ground cloves and cardamom with the bay leaves. After the spices started bubbling a bit I added onions. Diced pumpkin followed with some chicken stock. Normally if I was cooking a larger amount of pumpkin soup I would bake it instead of steaming it in the pot with the stock (that way the pumpkin keeps more of its flavor). Once the pumpkin was cooked I pulled out the cardamom and bay leaves and blended it all together with some heated cream.

Base for the pumpkin soup
Cooking the diced pumpkin with the base
Blending once the pumpkin was cooked

For the second soup I sauted some red onions, bacon and garlic as a base. Although there are infinite ways to make this soup, I stuck to fairly standard elements and seasonings. Once the bacon had rendered some of its water and had started to caramelize a bit I threw in the cayenne pepper, coriander, and cumin. As soon as the base was ready I added the black beans along with some chicken stock and let it simmer. Once the flavors had developed I blended it all together.

Base for the black bean soup
Adding the spices to the black bean soup base

The final soup was probably the easiest, yet the one that took the longest. I rinsed the peas and cooked with them in water for roughly an hour. Once they had begun to break apart I added minced onions that had been sauteed in bacon fat along with a bit of cream and chicken stock.

Cooking the peas with the base

After all three soups had been blended I garnished them with elements that complimented the bases. For the pumpkin soup I placed drops of cream along with some toasted pecans. For the black bean soup I added some shredded chicken, some freshly fried tortilla chips, and a tomato paprika coulis. As for the split pea soup, I went with the traditional: steamed carrots and bacon bits.

The three soups nicely arranged
Soups arranged in a line!

Here are the recipes. Yum!