Monday, August 23, 2010

Pork...a love affair

It is no secret that I am obsessed with food. No, not in the 'pry the cookie dough out of my hand' obsession, but the kind of obsession that does not allow me to live a day without reading about, preparing or watching about food in some context. That being said, I can't eat with reckless abandon like I did 20 years ago. And the food that I grew up on would not be considered health conscious by any means. If it wasn't for the lettuce, iceberg no less, that we stuffed into our tacos, fresh produce wasn't in the culinary arsenal of the Mexican food that my mother prepared.

To prepare authentic carnitas....they MUST be fried; fried in lard. What did you actually think? Carnitas are amazing because they are fried in lard. But I had to ask the question; do they really need to be fried to be orgasmic? I decided that they did not. Although the piece of pork that I use is not the leanest piece, the preparation can lay waste to some of that food guilt. So, here is my take on a healthier version....


4-5 pound bone-in pork shoulder. (Yes, you can remove SOME of the fat, but please leave some on, it is necessary)

6-7 garlic cloves cut into slices

5-6 medium onions sliced lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 inch slices

olive oil

1/2 cup of dark beer

1/4-1/3 cup of fresh squeezed citrus juice with pulp (I used a combo of ruby grapefruit and orange juices)

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

With a pairing knife, make slits all over the roast and stuff the garlic slices in the holes. Pat the roast dry and season all over with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan in moderately hot heat, but not smoking. Brown the roast on all sides. When the roast is browned, remove and place on plate.

Lower the heat to medium and add all of the onions. Saute for 5 minutes until the onions start to soften and brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and continue to saute for 10/15 minutes until the onions are caramelized.

Add the liquid to the pan and stir to remove the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pork onto the top of the onions and cover the dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. Place in oven.

Roast for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until the meat is tender and falls away from the bone. Shred meat with fingers when cool enough.

You can prepare a day ahead. My secret to reheating without drying the meat out is to place the meat in foil and put into a steamer basket over hot water. This not only retains the moisture but places a small amount back that is lost when refrigerated.

To finish the carnitas tacos, I prefer the following:

Small "taquito" corn tortillas toasted over open gas flame or in a dry non stick pan
Fresh topped cilantro and onion
Fresh sliced radish
Crumbled Queso Fresco (if you are lucky enough to find a Mexican deli that sells so!)
Cubed avocado
Salsa (your preference)
Fresh limes

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pesto, pesto, pesto

This is one of my favorite times of year....tomatoes and basil are in season, at their peak of beauty and flavor. So, I picked up three large bunches of basil and organic heirloom cherry tomatoes. Pesto was on the menu last night....delicious. Scroll down for the recipe.


1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted walnuts

1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted pinenuts

9 cloves of garlic

5 cups of fresh basil leaves packed

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups of high quality extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably grana padano

Agave nectar to taste

Place the walnuts, pinenuts and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steele blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feeding tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the parmesan and puree for a minute. Add 1/2 tsp (more or less to taste) of the Agave Nectar and puree for 10 seconds. The nectar takes the bite off the raw garlic and balances the flavors.

Serve, or store pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin layer of olive oil on top to retain the color of the basil.