Carnitas

I made carnitas for the first time ever tonight. The best I’ve ever had, and so easy! I was going to marinate the meat over night, wrap in banana leaves, then cook slowly, but opted for the easy way out, and was rewarded. I loosely followed the methods of Diane Kennedy (http://food52.com/recipes/13098-diana-kennedy-s-carnitas) and Rick Bayless, but spiced it up a bit more than theirs, which has no seasoning other than salt.
 
I started with about a 1 kg hunk of pork that was sold for stew at the Dominican butcher. Not really sure what cut it is, nothing fancy, maybe shoulder? It had a strip of the skin still on it, which I left intact. I left the piece whole, although it was practically in 3 pieces where they had cut it off the bone. But its really not critical.

Melt about 1/4 cup schmaltz (or lard) in a large heavy bottom 8-quart pot (the tall sides will help reduce the splattering). Sprinkle Goya adobo (or salt) on both sides of the meat, and sear in the fat over medium-high heat.

 
Meanwhile, bring 1.5-2 liters of water to a boil. When meat is lightly browned on both sides (don’t worry, it will crisp up later), add boiling water to just barely cover. 
 
Season with a dry ancho chili, a bay leaf, 2 tsp red recado, a packet of Goya sazon con achiote e culantro (optional), and some epazote.
 
Cook over high heat until water boils out, turning occasionally to cook evenly. 
 
When water is gone, the fat from the meat should have partially rendered out, joining the original fat used to sear the meat. At this point, remove the chili and leaves/spices, reduce heat to medium, cut up the meat into chunks (or strips), and brown evenly until crisp on all sides. 
The one thing to look out for at this stage is burning the spices, which will tend to stick to the bottom of the pot. Try to scrape them up as much as possible. 
You may want to cut off the skin and cook a bit extra to get nice crisp chicharons and render out the extra fat layer hiding between the skin and the meat. But its also good to leave it on the meat and get that luscious combination of crisp skin, soft fat, and sweet meat (just like a duck breast). Obviously this depends in part on what type of meat you started with. 
 
When done, drain meat on paper towels.
 
The meat will probably not be fork tender, so slice against the grain into bite sized pieces. Keeping the chunks larger while cooking ensures that the meat won’t dry out, so you get the moist meat with the crispy outside. If its soft enough you can shred it like pulled pork. 
 
Tomorrow I’ll use the leftovers to make tacos with some chopped onion and cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice, but straight from the pan they are good on their own, caveman style. Or dipped in the leftover birria sauce from yesterday or other salsa.
 
For non pig eaters, this would probably be just as good if not better with a chunk of veal. And I may even try it with beef too.
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Goat Ribs

loosely followed Rick Bayless “Birria de Chivo” (slow-steamed goat with mild chile seasoning) recipe from his “Authentic Mexican” cookbook [p. 256], see  http://www.greencitymarket.org/recipes/recipedetail.asp?id=45

 
Ingredients
  • 1 kg goat ribs
  • 6 dried red chillis (eg guajillo, with 1 chipotle for a bit of smokiness)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 tsp red recado 
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 TB dark agave syrup
  • 2 TB cider vinegar
  • oregano, hoja santa, epazote (and/or a bay leaf and half stick of cinnamon)
Directions
  1. Trim goat of excess fat and remove skin from backsides of bones.
  2. cut open the chilies, remove seeds, cut into smallish pieces. Soak in warm water for 10-30 minutes to soften.
  3. Blend with garlic, the spice mix, vinegar, agave syrup, enough water to make a spreadable paste.
  4. spread over goat on all sides. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, but a few hours or overnight would be better.
  5. Reserve the rest of the paste for the final sauce.
  6. Line the bottom of the crock pot with a thickly sliced onion. Season with oregano, hoja santa, epazote. 
  7. Sprinkle Goya adobo seasoning (or salt and pepper) over the goat, and place on top of onion. Add a bit of water to moisten onion, but not enough to reach the meat, which should steam not boil.
  8. Cook on high for 3 hours. Make sure seal is tight.
  9. Remove meat and set aside to rest. If desired, brush on a bit of the sauce as a glaze and run under broiler to set.
  10. Finish the sauce by skimming off excess fat from pan drippings, remove stems or other inedibles, and add to blender with the cooked onion and the reserved marinade paste. Pass through mesh strainer, and adjust seasonings. Should be mildly hot, creamy from the onion, and rich from the meat juices.  Serve as dipping sauce for the meat.
Notes

1. This would be good with other parts of the goat, or with lamb shanks

2. I didn’t marinate the meat in advance, just slathered on the sauce and started cooking.