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  1. Tuesday, January 27

    Easy Homemade Carnitas, My New Favorite!

    I love carnitas. Well, let me clarify, I love good carnitas. I’ve had bad carnitas and, well, not only do I not love bad carnitas, when I’ve had bad carnitas, the experience was traumatic. But good carnitas? Well, good carnitas are downright irresistible. It’s definitely one of my favorite meat dishes.

    easy and delicious homemade carnitas with the crock pot from @janemaynard

    I live in Southern California where Mexican food is as common as a hamburger, so we’ve been eating carnitas for years, even pre-Chipotle. I think most people probably know about carnitas nowadays, but in case you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, carnitas (which translates as “little meats”) is a Mexican pork dish where the pork is cooked for a long time and comes out all tender and delicious like.

    easy and delicious homemade carnitas with the crock pot from @janemaynard

    As you now know, I love these ‘little meats’ a lot, but for some reason I never thought of making carnitas myself. But last week I was like, “Self, why don’t you make your own carnitas already?” And I was like, “Self, you are totally right.” And then I did. And it was awesome.

    easy and delicious homemade carnitas with the crock pot from @janemaynard

    Here’s the thing. The carnitas came out perfectly. So so so so good. And it was crazy easy to make. Also, pork shoulder is my new favorite cut of meat. I am for sure going to use it next time we do Korean BBQ beef tacos. Why was I so clueless about pork shoulder and the fact that homemade carnitas is basically the best thing EVER? And I call myself a food blogger!

    I had googled carnitas recipes and read through a whole bunch of them and was leaning towards Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe. Then Sara commented on my menu a few weeks ago specifically saying to try that recipe, even though I hadn’t mentioned it, so I figured it was meant to be. The recipe was fabulous and is definitely the one I will use from here on out. Maybe I should do some experimenting but, honestly, when something is this good why mess with it?

    Pork Carnitas
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    From Melissa D'Arabian, but I re-wrote the directions to incorporate my notes and changes.
    Author:
    Serves: 6-8 people
    Ingredients
    • 2½ pounds bone-in pork shoulder (2 pounds boneless)
    • Salt (I like kosher, especially for the final step, but it's not necessary)
    • Black pepper (freshly ground if you have it, regular if you don't)
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 4 cloves of garlic, pushed through a garlic press or minced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 onion, cut into quarters
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
    • 1 orange
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    Instructions
    1. Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Salt and pepper liberally. Place pork shoulder in a slow cooker.
    2. Mix together the oregano, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Spread half of the oil mixture on one side of the pork shoulder, flip over and then rub the rest of the oil mixture on the other side of the pork shoulder.
    3. Place the onion and jalapeno in the slow cooker with the meat. I put some of the veggies on top and some around the edges.
    4. Cut the orange in half and then squeeze the juice into the slow cooker. Place the two orange halves in the slow cooker.
    5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours (I cooked it on low for 8 hours). Flip the meat over halfway through cooking.
    6. Once the meat is super tender, turn off the slow cooker and remove the meat. Pull the meat apart with a fork, discarding bone if using bone-in shoulder.
    7. Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Sprinkle pan liberally with more salt. Evenly layer the carnitas in the pan once the pan is hot and cook just one side until you get a nice crispy edge on the meat touching the pan.
    8. Remove from heat, stir together, do a little taste test and add a bit of salt if needed (probably not needed, but check anyway).
    9. Serve with fresh cilantro, salsa, hot sauce and tortillas. You could also add other items to your taco (rice, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, guac, etc), but Nate and I found that the carnitas were just so good it was better to have a simply-dressed taco.

     


  2. Friday, March 15

    Pork Chop Experiment

    Today’s post is fraught with diversions and side notes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Pork chops. There is such a fine line between good pork chops and terrible pork chops that I just usually avoid cooking them altogether. (On a related note, this recipe for pork loin is the best pork I’ve ever cooked or eaten. The recipe is super reliable and beyond delicious. Side note #1 is now complete.) The other day I was thinking about pork chops and thought to myself that the AMAZING technique I discovered from America’s Test Kitchen for cooking steak could perhaps be applied to pork chops. (Side note #2: If you haven’t yet made the perfect steak, what are you waiting for? Seriously, you’ll never cook a steak on the grill again.) The technique involves baking the meat before searing and using a thermoeter.  When you follow this technique, the steak cooks very evenly and comes out perfectly every time.

    Okay, so back to pork chops. When I toured America’s Test Kitchen in Boston last summer, I got to meet a few of the chefs. As I was ruminating over pork chops this week, I pestered emailed Chef Dan to ask his opinion. He said he thought it would work and gave me some advice, including target temperatures for the pork chops when cooking.

    SOOOOO…I tried it last night and…it worked! I used the garden variety 3/4″ – 1″ thick boneless pork chops at the grocery store because that’s all they had that day. The pork chops came out not dry (woohoo!) and had great flavor. It’s still pork, so, you know, it’s no filet mignon. But the pork chops were simple and yummy and Anna and Owen could not stop eating them!

    I am going to try the technique again another time with a different kind of chop and see what happens. But for now, here’s what I did if you want to give it a try yourself! The recipe is nice and simple!

    Thanks for the advice, Dan of the Test Kitchens! For the record, if anyone cooks this and something goes wrong, blame me and not Dan! Unlike ATK, where they test recipes literally hundreds of times, the recipe below has been tested ONCE by yours truly. That’s what I call thorough recipe development.

    Pork Chop Experiment
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
    Ingredients
    • - ¾″ – 1″ thick pork chops
    • - Rock salt (or a nice coarse salt if you don’t have the rock salt)
    • - Pepper
    • - A bit of olive oil
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
    2. Let pork chops sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Pat dry then sprinkle with rock salt and pepper on both sides, pushing the salt into the surface of the meat with your fingers.
    3. Line a baking sheet with foil then place a wire rack on the lined cookie sheet (I also put a bit of foil over the wire rack for easier clean-up). Place the pork chops on the rack and insert an instant read, oven-proof thermometer into the center of one of the chops. Place in oven and cook until temperature reaches 115 degrees F (this took about 30 minutes).
    4. When the temperature hits 110 degrees, begin preheating a skillet at medium heat. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of oil on the pan while heating and spread it around by tipping the pan. Sear the pork chops (that have reached 115 degrees), about 5 minutes per side, until they reach 135 degrees. Don’t cook them longer than that! Quickly sear the edges just to brown them up and make them look prettier.
    5. Let meat sit for 5 minutes then serve.

     


  3. Friday, June 11

    Pork Tenderloin with Heirloom Tomato Salad

    pork tenderloin with heirloom tomato salad web

    Pork Tenderloin with Heirloom Tomato Salad
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
    Serves: 12-18
    Ingredients
    • Marinade:
    • 3 teaspoon coriander seed (I just tossed in some ground coriander)
    • ¾ teaspoon cumin seed, toasted (I just tossed in some ground cumin)
    • Zest and juice of 6 limes
    • 9 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 teaspoons salt
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 shallots, minced
    • 1½ cups chicken stock (which I forgot when I made this – still came out, but I recommend using it!)
    • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
    • 2 teaspoon honey
    • 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
    • Heirloom Tomato Salad:
    • 9 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (whoah – I didn’t use that many…would taste good, but now that I’m typing this out I realize I TOTALLY didn’t read the recipe carefully when I made it!)
    • 6 cups watercress
    • ¾ cup mint leaves
    • ¾ cup toasted almonds
    Instructions
    1. Cut pork int 1½ – 2 inch thick medallions. Whisk together coriander, cumin, lime zest and juice, olive oil, salt, garlic and shallot. Pour over pork and marinate for 2 hours (no longer).
    2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Preheat a Calphalon Unison Grill pan with Sear Nonstick over medium heat, remove pork from marinad, reserving marinade. Sear pork for 3 minutes per side. When pork is seared, transfer pan to preheated oven for 3 minutes.
    3. Remove pan from the oven and place the pork on a platter. Add marinade, stock, vinegar and honey to pan and bring to a simmer, reducing by ⅓. Whisk in 1½ C olive oil. Mix tomatoes and watercress, mint and almonds. Toss warm dressing over tomato salad and serve with the pork.
    Notes
    If you don’t have a grill pan, feel free to sear in a regular griddle. And if your griddle can’t go in the oven, just transfer to a cookie sheet to bake the meat for 3 minutes. I actually used the regular griddle so that when I reduced my sauce later it would be easy to whisk. You don’t get those grill marks, but it tastes the same.

     


  4. Wednesday, January 31

    Texas Pulled Pork

    Texas Pulled Pork
     
    From Emily Stratford
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
    Ingredients
    • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
    • 1 cup bottled bbq sauce
    • 1 medium onion finely chopped
    • 1 can (4.5 ounce) diced green chiles
    • ¼ cup chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 can black beans, drained
    • 1 2-1/2 pound well-trimmed boneless pork loin roast
    • ½ cup chopped cilantro
    Instructions
    1. Mix sauce ingredients in a slow cooker. Add pork then spoon sauce over pork just to cover.
    2. Cover cooker and cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 8-10 hours until pork is fork tender. Remove pork to a cutting board and using 2 forks pull meat into shreds
    3. Pour sauce into serving bowl; stir in the cilantro and shredded pork.

     


  5. Jane’s Pulled Pork

    Jane's Pulled Pork
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
    • 1 C bottled bbq sauce (I look for ones that are “sweet” – like “sweet & tangy”, etc)
    • ½ medium onion finely chopped
    • 1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
    • 1 T chili powder
    • 1 t ground cumin
    • 1 t dried oregano
    • ¼ t ground cinnamon
    • 3 T brown sugar
    • 2 shakes of cayenne pepper
    • 2-1/2 lb well-trimmed boneless pork loin roast
    • Coleslaw
    Instructions
    1. Mix sauce ingredients in a slow cooker. Add pork then spoon sauce over pork just to cover the meat.
    2. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 8-10 hours until pork is fork tender. Shred pork in the sauce with two forks.
    3. Note: The last time I made this I removed the pork from the crock pot when it was done cooking and shredded it in a separate bowl. I then seasoned it with salt, to taste. I then added in several scoops of the sauce, making sure to catch the onion and chili pieces. I reserved about 1 cup of the sauce, straining out the larger chunks with my spoon. I cooked that sauce on the stove at a simmer for a few minutes, adding a bit of a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch whisked with cold water) to thicken the sauce a bit. This resulted in a less saucy pork with a bit more flavor, and we topped the sandwiches with sauce to taste. I am going to do it this way from now on - even more scrumptious than how I did it before!
    4. Serve topped with coleslaw on sandwich roll of your choice (kaiser is always a sure bet).
    5. If you're running short on time, Costco sells a pre-cooked smoked pulled pork (sans sauce) that is very good. Just sauté the onions in a large pot over medium heat until soft, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Heat the meat as indicated on the package, then add to the sauce and simmer 10-15 minutes.

     


  6. Pork Chops

    Pork Chops
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
    Notes
    Lately I’ve been buying these thin pork chops at, you guessed it, Trader Joe’s – I marinate them all day in soy sauce, olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, minced onion, cumin, basil, oregano (I think that’s it), then we grill them on the BBQ. They cook fast, are moist and SO flavorful.