Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pork carnitas tacos with salsa fresca

Back in the fall, while Chris and I were in San Francisco, we ate possibly the most delicious burritos I ever hope to eat, at a corner taqueria in the Mission called Los Coyotes. Later in the afternoon we ran into the lady who served us while riding back downtown on the F Line, and we had a little conversation in Spanish. It was pretty nifty.

All this to say, that was the first time I had carnitas and it was very memorable. As a pork lover, I think braising and then shredding and caramelizing this succulent meat is about as yummy as it gets. It's not exactly good for you (hint: the traditional cooking process involves a lot of lard) but is it ever tasty wrapped up in a flour tortilla with veggies and beans and cheese.

Pardon me while I clean the drool from my keyboard.

All right. So, since we got back from SF, I've been idly daydreaming about making carnitas myself, but once I did some research I discovered that it's quite a lengthy process, and one I probably will get to doing eventually. However, it's not so convenient for a weeknight, so I did some looking around and ended up amalgamating a couple of recipes: one from David Lebovitz (from which I took the seasonings) and one from Cooking Light (whose technique I used, to decent effect). In retrospect, my pork could have braised about half an hour longer, but honestly, I wanted to go to bed. I left it to cool down overnight, and skimmed the fat like a good girl the next day. Then I cooked down the pork in its braising liquid and shredded it with two forks, and while it was simmering I threw together a bowl of salsa fresca and shredded some cheddar cheese.

Just for fun I bought these sort of fancy tortillas (President's Choice Blue Menu, for the Canadians), with yellow and brown flaxseeds in them, and they were really really good, so good that I will buy them again, I think. Anyway, we wrapped them around some pork, a pile of salsa fresca, a dusting of cheese and a drizzle of sour cream. I took my first bite and was thisclose to being back in the taqueria again. It wasn't a perfect copy of that pork flavour, but it was close enough to evoke the memory while still tasting new and fresh to me. I can't complain about that. They were wonderful tacos and I hope to make them again. And again. Until I get back to SF again, these will be good enough.

Revisionist Pork Carnitas

2 pounds pork shoulder, fat and skin removed, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
1 tsp regular chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup water or broth

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the pork and garlic in an ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over meat; stir to combine. Braise 1.5 to 2 hours in oven, until pork is very tender. Refrigerate overnight. Skim fat the next day; shred the meat coarsely. Pour meat and liquid into a hot skillet and cook over medium high heat until liquid reduces away and pork browns in places. Serve in warmed tortillas with salsa fresca, cheese, sour cream.

Salsa Fresca
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2-3 green onions, white parts removed, thinly sliced
coarse sea salt
juice of one lime
drizzle of olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit to meld flavours at least 30 minutes. Serve with carnitas or chips.

1 comment:

Maris said...

This sounds delicious! For some reason I love the idea of salsa fresca - it just sounds summery and refreshing!