Carnitas

Carnitas has always been a bit mysterious to this white woman from the midwest. It’s delicious, yes, but could I tell you what’s in it? Nope. But! We found a recipe, and it turned out to be one of those recipes that was basically: put a bunch of ingredients in a pot and then walk away for a couple of hours. I can do that. Then we had some yummy tacos for dinner – plus leftovers.

3.5lb-4.b boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 0.125″ thick, cut into 2″ chunks
2c water (we ended up using more)
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2T juice from one lime
1t ground cumin
1t dried oregano
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
1 orange, halved

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300F. Combine all ingredients (1t salt, 0.5t pepper) except the orange in a large dutch over (the liquid should just cover the meat). Juice the orange into a bowl and remove any seeds. Put the juice and the spent orange halves into a pot. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, then cover and put into the oven until the meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with a fork, about two hours.

Remove the pot from the oven and turn the oven to broil. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl; remove the orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from the cooking liquid and discard. Place the pot over high heat and simmer the liquid until thick and syrupy, 8-12 minutes. You should have about 1c of liquid.

Using two forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in the reduced liquid, season with salt & pepper to taste. Spread the pork in an even layer on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet or broiler pan. Place the sheet on the lower-middle rack and broil until the top of the meat is well browned but not charred and the edges are slightly crisp, 5-8 minutes. Flip the meat over and continue to broil until the other side is the same, another 5-8 minutes.

Serve immediately with tortillas & garnishes. (Potential garnishes: corn tortillas, lime wedges, minced onion, fresh cilantro, sliced radishes, sour cream)

Chicken Cacciatore

This chicken cacciatore recipe is an old one from the October 2000 Cook’s Illustrated. It’s one of the first things I learned how to cook, and has become comfort food for me. Pair it with some good bread, and this is a hearty meal that makes me feel at home.

8 bone-in chicken thighs (about three pounds, the thighs I got this time were HUGE and four were about 2.5lbs, so I just went with that)
salt & pepper
1t olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6oz portobello mushroom caps, cut into 0.75″ cubes
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1.5T flour (Yes, I used flour. Feel free to sub in cornstarch)
1.5c dry red wine (not merlot, nothing oaked)
0.5c chicken stock
1-14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2t minced fresh thyme
1 piece parmesan cheese rind
2t minced fresh sage

Season chicken with salt & pepper. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add four thighs, skin-side down, and cook until skin in crisp & brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and brown on other side, another 5 minutes. Transfer to plate, and brown remaining thighs, transferring to plate when they’re done.

Drain off all but 1T fat from the pot. Add onion, mushrooms, and 0.5t salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until moisture evaporates and vegetables begin to brown, 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile, remove and discard skin from thighs. Add garlic to pot, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add mine, scraping pot bottom to loosen brown bits. Stir in stock, tomatoes, thyme, cheese rind, and pepper to taste. Submerge chicken pieces in liquid and bring to boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 45 minutes, turning chicken pieces halfway through cooking.

Discard cheese rind, stir in sage, adjust seasonings with salt & pepper, and serve.

Tomatillo-beef stew

It’s tomatillo season at my local farmer’s market, so when the latest Milk Street magazine had a *super* easy tomatillo stew recipe, we jumped on it. You can eat it both as a stew, but also as fillings for tacos, as you see in the picture above. Both are good options.

2.5 lbs boneless beef chuck, trimmed & cut into 2″ chunks
1 yellow onion, diced
5 medium garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
2 jalapeños, 1 stemmed, seeded, roughly chopped, 1 stemmed & sliced into rounds
3 bay leaves
1t dried oregano
0.5t ground cumin
salt & pepper
1lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1.5″ chunks
12oz tomatillos, husked, cored, and roughly chopped
pumpkin seeds, toasted, for serving
roughly chopped cilantro, for serving

  1. Heat the oven to 325F. In a dutch oven. toss together beef, onion, garlic, chopped jalapeño, bay, oregano, cumin, 1.5t salt, and 1t pepper. Cover, transfer to oven and cook for two hours.
  2. Remove pot from oven, stir in potatoes and tomatillos. Cover, return to oven and cook until potatoes are tender and a knife inserted into the beef meets no resistance, another 1-1.5 hours.
  3. Remove and discard the bay, taste, and season with further salt & pepper. Serve sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro.

Homemade Tomato Salsa

a bowl of homemade tomato salsa, with tomatoes, onions, jalapeño, and cilantro.

You know what tastes like summertime? Fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market. The best way I know to use some of them up is homemade salsa. It’s easy to make and we have been known to go through a batch a week.

Homemade tomato salsa

12 small-ish tomatoes (I like early girl, Roma will do in a pinch)
1 onion, quartered
1 jalapeño, remove seeds if you don’t like it spicy
2 cloves of garlic
juice from 0.5 lemon
1T-ish of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
cilantro to taste

Core the tomatoes, put them, the onion, the jalapeño, and the garlic in your food processor. Run it until everything is as pureed as you like it. move to bowl. Add the lemon juice and seasoning salt. Mix. Chop about 2T of cilantro. Taste, adjusting seasoning to your liking. Once satisfied, let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Salsa, like soup, tastes better when the flavors have a chance to blend.

Mmm…. guacamole

a bowl of homemade guacamoleThere’s really only one thing to do when you have a bunch of avocados that are about to be too squishy to use: make guacamole!

This is the Alton Brown guac recipe, and yes, it controversially uses tomatoes. I like extra veggies.

3 Haas Avocados (I had a bunch of small avocados from Trader Joe’s – I just used the 4 or 5 I had since they were on the teeny side)
1 lime, juiced
0.5t kosher salt
0.5t cumin
0.5t cayenne (yes, you can lower this amount if you find it too spicy)
0.5 onion, diced
0.5 jalapeño, diced (I remove the seeds – the cayenne gives it enough kick)
1 roma tomato (the recipe calls for 2, but that always seems like overkill to me)
1T chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

Scoop out the avocado pulp and put it in a large bowl with the lime juice, toss to coat. Add the spices, then use a fork (or your potato masher if you have one) to mash everything together. Fold in all the other ingredients. Let it sit for an hour, then serve.