Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Carnitas Tacos

Natalya Nesterova - "Sand Castles"When I was growing up, I would bug my parents to take me to the beach every weekend. I just always wanted to be in the water. Whenever I was successful in convincing them to make the trip, my stepmother would braise pork the night before for lunch the next day. She'd stuff shredded meat, refried beans and salsa into heated flour tortillas and wrap them tighter than any machine could ever hope to achieve. On the big day, I would body surf for hours, duck diving the bigger waves, while my dad would float on his back just beyond the swell, the only things visible being his face, belly and toes. He reminded me of a big log in the water, perfectly horizontal. When Anita could convince me to get out of the water for lunch, saltwater dripping from my sinuses, burritos warmed by the sun would be waiting. Nothing tasted better than her pork. I find myself thinking of her excellent cooking and wishing I had paid just a little more attention while she was still alive.
So this weekend, with picnic baskets on every square inch of beach sand and park grass, I took a stab an replicating my stepmother's kitchen. You've all seem me braise. This time I pulled out all the stops. I didn't stop with slow cooked pork roast though. I shredded the meat and crisped it through on a skillet before wrapping in a soft warm corn tortilla with a dollop of sour cream and a roasted spring onion. Anita, I think, would have been proud.
Searing pork roastSweating onions and dried chilies
Spices added to softened onionsPork roast nestled in braising liquid, onions and tomatoes
Braising 101: Sear meat on all sides, then remove from pot. Reduce heat and sweat onions, garlic and dried chilies until just starting to caramelize. Add  spices: chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Return meat to the Dutch oven and add enough cooking liquid to come half way up the sides of the roast. For a rich full flavor I added red wine, chicken broth and a can of whole tomatoes in their juice. Cover and simmer away until meat separates easily.
Quick fry shredded pork for a crispy textureHeat corn tortillas on a grill
Develop sear marks onto whole green onionsCarnitas tacos
I braised my pork until there was almost no liquid left in the pot. I then strained the meat and reserved what remained of the reduced sauce. I let the sauce cool and skimmed off the layer of oil that rose to the top. The remaining reduction I used in a sauté pan when I crisped up my shredded pork. As the pork got crispy, I heated tortillas and seared whole spring onions. The tacos were simplicity themselves: meat, onion, a little sour cream. The crust on the tender pork lent a crunchy texture. The sauce reduction was rich, complex and delicious. The only thing better than getting to eat these tacos is sharing them with friends. So come on over!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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