Saturday, August 10, 2013

Braised Carnitas (Easily Adapted for a Crowd)

I've made "Pulled Pork" for sandwiches a few times. The spices that I use in that recipe are great for roasts and sandwiches, but not so much for Tex-Mex applications.  I love the pork served at Chipotle and wondered if I could even come close. I did some research on carnitas and narrowed my sights on three recipes in particular. One version from Serious Eats and the another two versions from Rick Bayless one for Slow Roasted Pork Carnitas and the other for Michoacan-Style Pork Carnitas. Taking the insights from these recipes I decided how I was going to best create a copy of Chipotle's braised carnitas. I should mention that I needed to feed a large crowd of 50 to 60 people, so I basically quadrupled the recipe below and made four pork shoulders. I filled two large crock pots with the pulled pork of 4 shoulders (two in each). This pork is the best pork I ever made, the most flavorful, tender and moist. I have no clue how Chipotle makes their braised pork but I will definitely be making this version again, and again, and again. (Use this pork in a salad and it's perfect for phase 1 (induction) of The New Atkins).

Braised Carnitas
6 - 8 lb bone-in pork shoulder
24 (or so) oz. of olive oil - about 1 large bottle
1 bay leaf
1/4 of orange or 1 heaping tablespoon of orange juice concentrate
1 small onion quartered

For the Dry Rub
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced finely
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1. Press the garlic into the olive oil in a small bowl.

2.  Add  and mix all the rest of the dry rub spices into garlic and olive oil mixture.

3.  Rub evenly over pork, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12 - 24 hours.

4. Arrange the roast or roasts in the most tightest fitting roasting pan which will reduce the amount of oil you'll need. Add onion quarters, orange pieces and bay leaves in the nooks and cranies (between the meat and the roasting pan, or between the roasts if there is more than one). Pour in olive oil so that it reaches 1/2 to 3/4 to the top of the pork. According to Serious Eats this helps keep the moisture in the pork rather than letting it excrete. It makes sense when you think about oil and water not mixing. The oil creates a barrier to the moisture that might want to come out of the roast. The moisture stays inside the pork instead. The low oven temperature does not fry the pork. Rather the pork slowly braises in the oil (think duck confit).

5. I put 4 roasts in the oven at midnight and took them out of the oven at 9:00 a.m. Keep in mind that I made 4 roasts so to only cook one or two could cut the time significantly. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and place the roasting pan in the oven for 8 - 9 hours.

6. After the desired cooking time (when the pork is literally falling off the bone) remove the roasting pan from the oven and leave it on top of the stove for an hour. Place the pork roast on a cutting board and start separating the meat from the fat when it is cool enough to handle. I was able to place the meat from two roasts into one crock pot. I ended up with two large crockpots full of "Braised Carnitas."

7. Make a taco with "Braised Carnitas," cilantro and onions, and top with homemade crema.

8. For the cilantro and onions chop equal parts onions and cilantro.

9. For the crema mix 8 oz of sour cream with 1 teaspoon of cumin and the juice of one lime. Mix and spoon into a plastic squeeze bottle.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cilantro-Lime Rice

In a quest to bring a Chipotle restaurant experience to a very large dinner party, I included "Cilantro-Lime Rice" on the menu.  I have a Chipotle restaurant near by from which my husband and I periodically enjoy tacos and salads. Someone at my party said that this was the best "Cilantro-Lime Rice" she had ever had and wondered if she could have the recipe. What a great compliment. I love when that happens. The secret weapon in this recipe is lime infused olive oil which can be found at gourmet olive oil stores like Old World Olive Press or Rocky Mountain Olive Oil.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
1 (2 lb) bag of white rice
4 tablespoons of lime infused olive oil found at gourmet olive oil stores
1 cup of cilantro, chopped fine
juice of 1 - 2 limes

1. I continue to practice soaking grains in an acidic medium for 8 to 12 hours which helps to neutralize phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors making nutrients more readily available to our bodies and more easily absorbed. For more information on the value of soaking grains visit these two blog posts: "The Value of Soaking Your Grains" and "What's the Fuss About Soaking Grains? Explanation and Research Shared." Place rice in a large pot of water. The water should top the rice by 1 to 2 inches. Add the juice of one or two limes and soak the beans for 8 - 12 hours. This time I only soaked the rice for 4 hours because I forgot to prep it earlier.

2. Drain the rice in a strainer and add the soaked rice back into the pot. Follow the instructions on the package adding the appropriate amount of water.    Instead of adding butter or olive oil substitute the lime infused olive oil. Cook according to the package instructions.

3. When the rice is done, fluff it with a fork and gently stir in the chopped cilantro.


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