Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Mexican Getaway...

...Without Leaving Home.

I haven't been home or not hung over (or both) for several weekends now, so I've been looking forward to a clear-eyed Saturday getting reacquainted with my kitchen. I even went so far as to remove some meat from the freezer before work Friday morning enabling me to hit the ground running without impinging on my pot of coffee and morning papers.
It's been a Mexican-Free Zone for an alarming stretch of time now and something simply has to be done about it. So, since I'm purposefully and blissfully alone this weekend, why not another installment in the solo meals series. Today: spicy pork fajitas and a chili corn side.

Although the braising takes several hours, the prep work is a snap and after that, it's pretty much a hands-free work environment. In fact, I'm juggling iTunes, the Buick Invitational, the New Yorker and this blog entry while the pork is slowly breaking down into its tender goodliness.
My last pork entry was a honey & mustard-glazed roast, and I admit to being something of a student of the hot/sweet school, so this time it was a chili and brown sugar coating. Why brown sugar? Well, the molasses and trace minerals added to unrefined sugar undergo mysterious transformations in the presence of amino acids (protein) and all those wonderful pork juices. Don't ask me to elaborate, I can't. Let's just say it tastes bloody good, and leave it at that.
Shredded pork fajitas ingredientsSo I started with an inventory of the cupboards and, as usual, went with what I had on hand: onion, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, chili powder, brown sugar and some other spices. I played around with measurements that looked right (I hate measuring, but will provide estimates later in the post), tossed everything into the food processor and broke it all down into a chunky paste.
Paste ingredients in the food processorRub the past thoroughly into the pork roast
The paste got rubbed into the pork roast, and worked into the meat thoroughly. I set the roast into a Dutch oven with one cup each of chicken stock and white wine. Covered, the pot went into a 300° pre-heated oven for four hours. Every hour, I turned the meat and kept the level of the liquid from completely evaporating.
After three-and-a-half hours, I started checking the roast for tenderness. Once it began to fall completely apart at the slightest touch, I removed the roast from the oven and let it rest loosely covered for 15 minutes.
While the meat rested, I moved the Dutch oven to the stovetop and reduced the juices and residual liquid over a medium low flame. While the sauce reduced, I heated sweet corn in a Tbsp of olive oil for about ten minutes. I added some minced roasted red peppers, chili powder, cumin and some red pepper flake, since I had no cayenne in the house. After about five minutes, I tasted for salt and removed from the heat.
The pork shredded effortlessly and needed no dressing short of some of the reduced broth from the Dutch oven. It remained juicy throughout the meal. There was a perfect balance of sweet and spice. A Mexican futbol goal!
Shredded pork and Chili cornShredded pork (detail)
Heap shredded pork on a serving platter and decorate with lime wedges. Serve with warm flour tortillas and sour cream or pico de gallo, or tomatillo salsa. Whatever you have on hand.

If I had had company, I would have grilled whole scallions to serve with the pork and made fried plantain strips to serve on the side.

Pile the juicy pork in a tortilla and add your favorite topping before wrapping it up and eating with your hands.
Longboard Vineyards 2006 Sauvignon BlancOnly because I thought the label was cool, I picked up a Longboard Vineyards 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley. It was a great food wine. The spices in the meat and corn complimented subtleties in the bouquet and taste. Here were my tasting notes without and then with food:
  • Nose: floral soap, herbal tea
  • Mouth: dry, acidic, green apple and grapefruit flavors. Balanced finish.
  • With food: Herbs come through in the bouquet. Citric complexities in the finish. Tartness without the pucker.

Sorry for the shorthand, everyone has their own way of articulating the ephemeral. But it was a fine wine with spicy food. Longboard is a bit of an upstart with minor touchy-feely aspirations. Their website is good for a chuckle or two, especially if you've grown up around surfing. I wonder if sometimes I sound as big a tool!

As promised:
Brown sugar and chili paste: (for a 3-4 lb pork roast)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼-cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 medium yellow onion

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until the onion is broken down and a thick paste forms. Rub all over your pork roast.

Chili corn:
  • 16 oz sweet corn kernels
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼-cup roasted red pepper, finely minced.

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add corn and heat through for about 10 minutes. Add the spices and peppers and cook through for five minutes. Season to taste and remove from heat.

Any guesses on Sunday's menu? Shredded pork tostadas with black beans and queso fresco!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food


Karlos said...

Sounds good Miguel!!

I cooked a Beef stew tonight with a little whisky and our homegrown taters.

Have you got any good wild game recipes? I have a freezer full of elk, deer and buffalo, not to mentioned home grown beef.



Blog O. Food said...

Karlos! Gracias por leyeras mi blog.

Treat game like any other red meat: buffalo burgers, roasted elk tenderloin, deer shanks, etc. If the meat is gamey, mellow it out with slow cooking in a good red wine with lots of garlic, onion and herbs. When grinding game, invite a little ground lamb, pork or even turkey to the party. Slow cooking is probably best with game as it tends to be a lot leaner and meaner than its domesticated cousins. Give it a go, and let me know how things turn out!