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Carnitas Dinner

by VM Brasseur on July 27th, 2008

My expected plans for Saturday fell through, leaving me temporarily rudderless. Then I got a yen for trying to make carnitas again. No single human should be tasked with consuming four to five pounds of pork by themselves so I invited others over to share the piggy goodness. Other people coming over? That makes it an Event. In my world Events require much more than a few pounds of porculence. They require side dishes, desserts, beverages, the cleaning of one’s living space, etc. Therefore on Thursday I went from having absolutely no plans for Saturday to being suddenly over-extended. The guest list for the evening totaled six, including myself. The menu:

  • Drinks:
    • Sangria
    • Margaritas
    • Golden Ale (homebrew)
  • Starter:
    • chips and guacamole
  • Main event:
    • Carnitas taco bar
    • Posole Verde
    • Black beans two ways: refried and whole
  • Dessert
    • Vanilla cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche
    • Tropical fruits
    • Mead (homebrew)

Recipes, analyses follow. It may be more details than you want/need but I hope to use it as a reference to improve future attempts. Thou hast been warned…

Sangria

On Friday (the day before the event) I added the following ingredients to a container:

  • 1 grapefruit, sliced thin
  • 1 orange, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1+ cups brandy
  • 1 bottle of dry red wine

The next morning I tasted the brew and was floored by the grapefruit. “Ick!” I thought, “Bitter!”. Hrm. OK, memo to self, no grapefruit in a sangria. At least no grapefruit pith. I decanted the liquid into another container, added some simple syrup, set it to steep on another two oranges and one lemon, thinly sliced. End result? Still somewhat bitter but not overwhelmingly so. What to try next time: avoid grapefruit altogether (WTH was I thinking?), try to include some in-season fruits (currently stone fruits like peaches, etc.).

Margaritas

Curiously enough my cocktail book does not include a recipe for margaritas. Er…right. I went to the web and compared a number of recipes, eventually coming up with the following:

  • 1 part orange liqueur of some variety
  • 2 parts freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 parts light tequila

Having a bottle of tequila and a big bag full of limes I opted for proportions of 250ml orange liqueur, 500ml lime juice and 750mil tequila. The result was tasty to me but my guests all seem to prefer something sweeter. Next time I’ll add “1 part simple syrup” to the recipe and I believe all will be happy.

Golden Ale (homebrew)

This is my latest batch of homebrew. It’s supposed to be a nice, hearty golden ale, moderate in malt and hops. In reality it ended up tasting very reminiscent of a hefeweissen. Hefeweissen? Really? Curious… I don’t dislike it but I don’t intend to go out of my way to drink it all up. I suspect that a third racking and more time resting prior to bottling would have done good things for this brew. Nevertheless it’s a decent enough inoffensive beer.

Chips and guacamole

Chips? Yeah, totally bought from Trader Joe’s. They weren’t the sturdy, restaurant dipping-style that I had wanted but they did the job. The guac was my personal recipe and, judging from the fact that a big bowl of it didn’t last more than half an hour after people arrived, I think it’s a good one.

  • 1+ lbs avocado, seeded and skinned
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1-ish tomato, finely diced
  • 1 serrano, finely diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt

The avocados get mashed/whipped with a fork (leave some chunks) and the rest mixed in afterwards. My personal disappointment this time was that hours after constructing the mixture I noticed no heat or flavor from the serrano. Next time I may try a serrano and a jalapeno so as to hedge my bets.

Carnitas taco bar

Screw the taco bar thing. The real star here is the carnitas. For this attempt I tried:

  • 4.75 lbs pork shoulder/butt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • juice of 2 limes
  • water to cover

The night before the Event I tossed the whole lot together in a Le Creuset dutch oven, reached a boil then tossed it into an oven preheated to 300 degrees and raced out of the house to attend that evening’s dinner engagement. Five hours later I cruised back into home base, moved the dutch oven from the oven to the stovetop and promptly went to bed. The next morning I moved it to the refrigerator. Hours later I lifted the now-congealed lard from the top of the mixture and, thankfully, reserved it for future use. I also strained off the liquid. This was used elsewhere (as you’ll soon see). The defatted, strained porculence sat until 1.5 hrs prior to dinner. At that time I placed it (in a 13×10 Pyrex baking dish) along with a small amount of the reserved liquid into a 400 degree oven. I stirred it every fifteen minutes so it would develop a golden crust on as many sides as possible. The result? Disappointing, to a point. Sure, it tasted decent enough but the pork was dry and wasn’t very crispy on the edges. The next time I make this I’ll defat the mixture, strain off the liquid then add the fat back to the pork in order to aid in the crisping process. It will also add a very good mouthfeel and keep the pork from seeming too dry.

Posole Verde

My basic recipe comes from, of course, Rancho Gordo. I love this stuff, even if the blackening of the vegetables does make it one of the most high-impact dishes that I make. It just takes so much time and attention to get the veggies just right. This time in addition to the two poblanos and one serrano I also used one jalapeno and an anaheim chile. Instead of the stock I used the liquid strained from the carnitas. Yes, it was much less than the 1.5 quarts of stock called for by the recipe but I’ve never seen much need for that much liquid in this recipe and, well, it was damn tasty as-is. Corrections for this current recipe? None that I know of.

Black beans two ways: refried and whole

The whole beans were cooked with a sprig of espazote, a head of garlic and a couple teaspoons of Mexican oregano. The espazote and garlic were discarded after cooking. Half of the beans were destined to be refried, the other half to be left whole. The refried beans were prepared using lard removed from the carnitas. End result (both ways): quite tasty. The only thing I would change is paying a little more attention to the amount of salt in the beans. Both the refried and the whole could have used more.

Vanilla cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche

Vanilla cookies? Yeah, purchased from Trader Joe’s. I’m crazy but I’m not insane enough to try baking in the middle of everything else that I was trying to do.

Dulce de leche? Nothing could be easier. Get at can of sweetened, condensed milk. Add to a pan filled with water (to cover the can, preferably). Bring to a boil, immediately drop to a simmer. Keep there for three or four hours. Cool can and empty contents into another receptacle. Voila, dulce de leche. Yes, I admit that there’s a very slight chance that the can of SC milk could overheat and explode on you. The chance is slim but it’s still there. Take the proper precautions (top on the pan, etc.) and the risks appear limited. Don’t sweat it. Regardless, the chemistry of heating sweetened milk in a can results in a caramelicious treat. Results: sandwiched between two Trader Joe’s Ultimate Vanilla Wafers this was a good thing indeed. Improvements: I would have liked to have tried this with a little fleur de sel in the sandwich.

Tropical fruits

Papaya, mango, pineapple. All cubed and tossed with finely-minced mint. Hard to go wrong here, really.

Mead (homebrew)

Yes, this is the same mead from a few years ago. It was my initial foray into fermenting and it keeps getting better as the years go by. Thanks to the advice of my then-local homebrew store I’d bottled this stuff in containers which can sustain the pressure from potential yeast action. Because of that my mead has become pleasantly effervescent rather than exploding all over the place. The last time I cracked a bottle was in February of this year. The bottle I cracked last night was even more effervescent and was thoroughly enjoyable. There are maybe ten bottles left in that batch so I’ll have the opportunity to see how it ages.

From → Food, Recipe

One Comment
  1. Anneke permalink

    May I just say I truly enjoyed the carnitas! The posole verde was also a joy for me. I should sneak over to your house and steal all your leftovers, then blame it on a dreadlocked white guy.

    As for the margarita, I don’t like mine that sweet, so I wouldn’t go particularly for more sugar with that as the purpose. The mix was simply far stronger than most that I’ve had. Perhaps the water used in something like simple syrup, or water from ice cubes, is what cuts it in the ones I’ve had before. There was no rocks to the ‘rita on the rocks? Whatever, it was tasty enough for me, but a bit too strong for my constitution. I could have sworn there was something salty to it, but then I was eating it with the corn chips — there’s a reason people match food and drinks, and it’s no foolishness.

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