Real Food for Real Life

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carnitas Dinner

Shopping at Aldi this past week, I bought a very nice whole pork loin for $1.99 a pound. I sliced a couple of nice thick chops off one end earlier this week, but was still left with a nice big piece of loin. Contemplating what to do with this, my mind turned to carnitas, one of my all time favorite foods (I kind of think of it as a food group all of its own). Whenever we eat at Taqueria Piasano's I usually order something involving this tasty pork (side note - if in the Hamilton, Ohio area and you love comida mexicana, this is a must stop). Often thought of as fried pork, it is really a slow cooked pork roast (usually a fairly fatty butt or shoulder),that is then chopped or shredded before a final roasting in the oven. The resulting mix of tender and crispy bits is a pork eating delight!! While a much leaner cut of pork then the traditional roasts, I have made carnitas quite successfully in the past using loin, and being the weekend with ample time for preparation, I decided to do it again. I prepped the loin and cooked it in my crockpot on Saturday, shredding it up and getting it all ready for its final roasting that night before putting in the fridge. The fresh salsa and everything else I made Sunday afternoon. Give this a try, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and with a little planning, not to difficult to make.


1 whole pork loin (4 to 5 lbs.)
1 onion, sliced into fairly thick half rings
3 or 4 poblano chilies, sliced into strips
6 large garlic cloves, peeled & halved lengthwise
1 orange, sliced & deseeded
1 can/bottle beer
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, & ground cumin

Slice the onion and peppers, peel & halve the garlic cloves and toss it all in the bottom of a large crockpot. Season all sides of the pork loin liberally with the salt, pepper, and ground cumin; place into the pot fat side up. Place a couple of the orange slices onto of the loin, tuck the remaining slices around the sides. Without disturbing the seasonings, pour in the beer, cover, and cook on low for 6 hours (no peeking, the smell will be enough to hold you).
Remove the loin from the pot and let cool until cool enough to handle; slice into approximately one inch slices and without removing the remaining fat, break these slices up with you fingers. Toss the pork with the onion, peppers, and garlic from the pot with about a cup of the cooking liquid. Cover and refridgerate until the next (or another) day.
On the intended day preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the pork and veggie mix onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until you get the desired amount of brown crispy bits (it should still be moist underneath).

Salsa Ranchera

1/2 lb. tomatillos
1 small onion
4 large garlic cloves
3 (or 4) canned chipotle peppers & some of the adodo sauce
3 tbs. lime juice
1/3 to 1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro

Peel the papery outer covering off tomatillos, wash and dry well; halve horizontally and place on a baking sheet (I use a foil lined one for easy cleanup). Peel and quarter the onion, scatter large pieces on the sheet. Peel the garlic cloves and add whole to the sheet. Broil several inches from the element until the veggies start to char; check frequently, it will not take long. Remove from the oven and scoop everything into a blender; pulse a few times. Add the lime juice, salt, chipotle (at least 3 for proper color & taste, more if you desire to turn up the heat), and some of the adobo sauce from the can; pulse a few times. Add the fresh cilantro (I use what is left after using the topmost sprigs for chopped onions and cilantro), a few small stems are no harm as they will be processed. Pulse a a few more times to desired consistency; do nit make it too smooth, you still want to see some individual bits of color and the salsa should have texture. If it is too thick add a small amount of water and stir to combine.
It is best to make this at least a few hours before you intend to use it; it will keep for a week or so tightly covered in the fridge. After the big meal I like to put the remains in a squirt bottle (you may want to thin it a little at this time) so it is easy to store and use for the rest of the week. This is a wonderful all purpose salsa and is very good on those morning eggs. Makes about 2 cups of salsa.

"Refried" Beans (Frijoles)

2 small or 1 large can of beans of choice
1 large onion, diced
1 generous tbs. adobo seasoning (a Cuban seasoning available in most grocery stores)
1 can/bottle of beer

While not authentic, this is the easiest "refried" bean recipe, and the recipe tastes great, no matter the type of bean used (I've used pinto, black, red, and great northern beans).
Saute the onion in a medium saucepan just until softened ad beginning to turn golden. Add the adobo and saute for a minute to release the fragrance; add the beans with the canning liquid and the beer (slowly for the beer), stir to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid is gone (this will depend on the desired consistency of the finised product). Mash about 1/2 of the beans in the pan, but still leave a lot of texture and large bean pieces.

"Spanish" Rice

This is so easy I really can't even call it a recipe. To cooked white rice add a few large spoonfuls of your favorite bottled salsa, then toss in some thinly sliced fresh scallion and serve. This is also very good with diced hard boiled egg scattered over the top at serving (store any leftovers separately).

For ServingWhenever we eat like this we do it family style, with bowls of the pork, beans, and rice on the table. We also have warm tortillas (I like corn, everyone else likes flour), as well as an assortment of delicious items with which to dress our plates. Above we have finely diced onion with fresh cilantro, the salsa ranchera, grated cotija cheese, juicy lime wedges, pickled jalapenos and carrots, and diced avocado.
A cervesa or margarita for the adults, and some agua fresca or horchatta for the younger set and you have the makings of a fine feast. Enjoy.

Easy Avocado Tip

Avocado can be slippery to deal easy way around this is to halve the avocado lengthwise, remove the pit (if you reserve this and place it into your guacamole bowl it helps inhibit browning somewhat). Slice or dice the avocado while still in te skin - for the dices, just run a spoon around the skin and pop the dices right into a bowl - for the slices, just run your thumb between the skin and the flesh and the slices come right out. If only using 1/2 the avocado, do not remove the pit - store that half in the fridge wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.


  1. Trish E. on Facebook said:
    I am loving your blog -- great job! Can't wait for the next installment. I love the stories that go along with the recipes.
    November 10, 2009 at 11:36am

  2. Mary S. on Facebook said:
    Glad you are enjoying it. The more I write the easier it gets (this is a different sort of writing then I had become accustomed to :)
    November 10, 2009 at 4:50pm

  3. Deanna B. on Facebook said:
    I love your blog! The stories and pictures are awesome!
    November 10, 2009 at 10:20pm

  4. Mary S. on Facebook said:
    Thanks Deanna!
    November 11, 2009 at 9:56am

  5. Tracey C. on Facebook said:
    Your blog is so professional Mary! Watch out Rachel Ray... :)
    November 11, 2009 at 10:42pm


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