Pork Carnitas

Pork carnitas have long been on my "gotta blog" list and this past weekend I was given the perfect excuse to finally do it. Our church welcomed our new senior pastor and his lovely family to town and I had the privilege of serving them a meal as they started to move in.

Now, before I get some reasonably predictable replies, I know that these aren't authentic carnitas, which are typically braised in boiling fat or lard. These are indeed braised long and slow, but in a rich liquid of chicken stock and enchilada sauce. I wanted to skirt the line between ease of preparation and authenticity. I was very happy with the results.

Ingredients
5 lbs Boneless pork shoulder (or country-style ribs)
32 oz Chicken stock (I used boxed from Costco)
2 cans (15 oz) Mild enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas)
2 large Yellow sweet onions, peeled and quartered
6 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped rough
1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Mexican Fiesta marinade mix
1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Baja Citrus marinade mix
1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Backyard Brew marinade mix
1 cup Cilantro, chopped rough (optional)
3/4 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup Apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Smoked paprika

Method
Cut the pork into 2-inch cubes, removing any heavy fat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the marinade mixes, oil, vinegar, and paprika, and whisk to combine. Add the pork, toss to coat well, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a large heavy pot (preferably an enameled cast iron dutch oven), combine the chicken stock, one can of the enchilada sauce, onion, garlic, and cilantro if you want it (I left it out because we're cilantro-senstive). Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Gently add the pork and the marinade to the simmering liquid, cover, and bring back to a light simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the pork is fork-tender, about three hours.

Heat your oven to broil.

Using a Chinese wire strainer or slotted spoon, remove the pork and onions to a large roasting pan. Spread the meat evenly throughout the pan, breaking the pieces of meat in half into smaller one-inch chunks.

Drizzle the pork with the second can of enchilada sauce, and put it in your oven so that the the pork is about six inches from the broiler.

Note: I used a disposable foil pan so for ease of clean-up for the family I was serving.

Pork Carnitas

Paying close attention, cook the pork under the broiler until the outside just starts to brown and crisp, about five minutes.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, and your favorite refried beans. I served my Funky Refried Beans.

Pork Carnitas

Enjoy!

(Makes about 10 servings)

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Dormet: Spicy Chicken Noodles

I'm starting a new class of "dormet" (dorm gourmet) recipes that cater to college kids and military dorm rats (of which I was one for several years). These recipes will use common simple ingredients, brain-dead easy preparation, and microwave cooking. The goal is to produce near-restaurant-quality dishes with minimal expense and effort. It may be shocking, but dorm rats are generally poor and lazy.

I can't believe that it has taken me this long to start posting recipes like this. When I lived in the Air Force barracks I used to recreate all kinds of home-style dishes in a microwave. I even had a microwave pressure cooker that was invaluable. People thought I was nuts, but the results spoke for themselves. Hey guys, it's also a great way to impress the ladies *wink*. I'll have to scour the house to see if I can find some of those old-school recipes.

Enough yakking, let's get dormet with these crazy simple spicy chicken noodles.

Dormet: Spicy Chicken Noodles

Ingredients
1 package (12 oz) Chicken ramen noodles (chuck the seasoning packet)
1 Deli rotisserie chicken thigh
1 1/4 cup Chicken stock (low-sodium boxed)
1/3 cup Frozen pepper and onion blend
2 Tbsp Sweet chili sauce (or sweet & sour sauce)
1 packet (about 1 Tbsp) Soy sauce (from a previous take-out)
1 packet Red pepper flakes (from a previous pizza delivery)

Method
Break the brick of noodles into four pieces and put them in a medium bowl.

Add the stock, soy sauce and red pepper to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke a small hole in the center. Microwave for three minutes.

Remove the skin from the chicken, pull the meat from the bone and cut into small pieces using a spoon. Discard the skin and bone.

Uncover the bowl, stir the noodles to help break them up, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Microwave, uncovered, for two minutes.

Stir well and let stand five minutes.

Dive in and enjoy!

Tips:
  • Save all leftover condiment packets. They are a great source of free ingredients. For example, two of those little plastic tubs of fast food sweet & sour sauce will suffice for this recipe.
  • The chili sauce is dirt cheap (about $4.50 for 24 ounces), tastes much better than fast food sweet & sour sauce, and keeps almost forever in the fridge.
  • You can make a shrimp variation of this recipe by substituting bay shrimp for the chicken.
  • No red pepper? Use a few dashes of hot sauce.

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Help Kingsford Save The Tailgate

As many of you know, I partner with Kingsford® as a "VIP Blogger" on their Grilling.com site. Well, they need your help in trying to help save tailgating from increasingly strict and restrictive stadium rules.

The goal of this petition is to empower fans to keep tailgating off the endangered list this football season with the Tailgater Bill of Rights. Here are the rights they're fighting for:

  1. Stadium parking lots shall be open for all tailgaters at least 24 hours before kick-off.
  2. Anyone with a passion for football or grilling shall be allowed to tailgate in the stadium parking lot, not just fans with tickets to the game.
  3. Fans can always bring their own grills to the stadium, preferably ones that use charcoal.
  4. Each tailgate spot should be allowed to have a table and tent as long as you bring enough grub to share with neighbors.
  5. Tailgating tunes can (and should!) be played.
  6. Tailgaters shall be allowed to bring a cooler of food and cold beverages to the parking lot to enjoy before heading into the stadium.
  7. Fans shall have the right to tailgate in a friendly and safe environment, hanging out with fellow fans no matter what team they’re rooting for.

Once 10,000 signatures are collected, the makers of Kingsford® charcoal will present the Tailgater Bill of Rights to the professional football commissioner as well as the management teams of pro and college football stadiums across the country in an effort to persuade them to save the all-American tradition.

You can read much more about this effort at the Kingsford® Save The Tailgate site. There you can also learn about their ongoing partnership with ESPN and some really cool giveaways in conjunction with Grilling.com. I encourage you to go take a look at all of the great recipes, information and fun stuff that's cookin' over there.

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Fire-Roasted Corn Salsa

This salsa is a perfect end to summer, as it captures and showcases a ton of classic summer flavors. You have sweet roasted corn, tomatoes, roasted peppers, onion, avocado and lime along with black beans and cilantro.

Who doesn't like sweet corn roasted on the grill? That's a serious meal, yes, meal, in our house this time of year.

I remember going on long corn-hunting expeditions with my grandfather along the country roads of central Missouri as a kid. We'd stop at almost every mom-and-pop roadside corn stand that we ran across. To this day I remember how he taught me to identify the good corn from the bad.

He'd tell me to look for smallish rounded (not square) kernels that weren't too yellow, or, better yet, a mix of yellow and white. He told me to look for medium-sized ears where the juice would easily squirt out when you pressed your thumbnail into the kernels. The harder you had to press in the raw meant that you'd have chew that much harder later.

I use that advice to this day and, while the people at the farmer's market and in the store often think I'm crazy, his advice has held true. Friends don't let friends buy bad corn.

The part that I can't believe is that grilled corn is relatively new to our family. How is is that you can grow up in a grilling family and only eat boiled corn?! It just ain't right. Let the record show that I've done my best to correct this clear travesty. I think my kids have had boiled sweet corn about three times.

OK, I'm rambling, let's make some salsa!

Ingredients
4 ears Sweet corn, fire-roasted
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced to 1/4"
3 Jalepenos, fire-roasted, seeded, and diced to 1/4"
2 medium Avocados (just shy of ripe), diced to 1/4"
1 can (15 oz) Black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Red bell pepper, fire-roasted, seeded, and diced to 1/4"
1 medium Red onion, diced to 1/4"
1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped fine
2 Limes, juiced
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp Ground chipotle
2 tsp Ground cumin
1 tsp Granulated garlic

Method
In a large mixing bowl, cut the corn off of the cob.

Tip: The corn tends to come off in sheets, so I use a pastry cutter to help break up the kernels. Just be careful not to mash the corn.

Add the remaining ingredients (avocados last) and mix well.

Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve and enjoy!

Fire-Roasted Corn Salsa

Tip: This salsa is great warmed and served over grilled fish or on fish tacos.

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