Homemade Chili and Beer Carnitas

24 Nov

When I moved to San Diego about five years ago, I took with me a love of carnitas burritos from Anna’s Tacqueria. Anna’s?!, you’re probably thinking. Little did I know that Anna’s is far from the gold standard I thought it was. When I tasted real carnitas on that little Mexican border city, my understanding of carnitas leveled up, and my craving for carnitas increased. Since then I’ve evaluated the quality of mexican restaurants everywhere based on their carnitas burritos.

Yet one thing eluded me – the ability to eat homemade pork as tender and flavorful as the carnitas from San Diego. At the local Costco they actually sold a large packet of ready-to-eat carnitas, which was simply an indulgence. Bulk, inexpensive carnitas, local avocados, and beer was the best thing I could ask for on any Sunday afternoon. So now, back in Boston, I’ve occasionally satisfied that need with a lowly Ana’s burrito, but I yearned for large quantities of overindulgence.

So thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I finally found a way to carnitas heaven. I basically used their recipe, just adding a bit more seasoning I had sitting around, and a can of beer. And having learned to cook it for myself, I learned to understand pork even better. I used to only buy the flat porkchops or pork ribs. Now, give me a huge hunk of fatty pork butt or pork shoulder and I will turn it into the juiciest east coast carnitas burrito. Would you like a horchata with that?

Homemade Carnitas with chili peppers basted in beer

Ingredients
3 lbs of pork shoulder or butt, fat on
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
1 beer
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 small chili peppers

Cut the pork into 2 inch chunks. In a large steel pot, marinade the pork in orange juice, jemon juice, and beer. Add the dry seasoning and mix. Add water until the meat is just covered. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Cut onions into 2 inch chunks, and peel and crush the garlic. Add the garlic, onions, and chili peppers. Let simmer uncovered for two hours.

After two hours, turn the heat up to medium high and continue to cook, now turning and stirring the meat occasionally.

Keep this up for about 45 minutes, until all the liquid is gone and meat is starting to brown on the edges. When the chunks of pork are slightly browned and will fall apart easily with any poke of a spoon, the carnitas is ready.

Total time of procrastination: 3 hours
Ways to prolong procrastination: Make homemade guac and salsa.

Nutella Swirl Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 Nov

My sister is studying abroad in Denmark this semester, so I mailed her these cookies for her birthday. They haven’t gotten there yet, but hopefully she’ll receive a box of cookies, not crumbs…

I modified the recipe from justJENN recipes. Since I really wanted the Nutella flavor to come through, I used four WHOPPING tablespoons of Nutella and just 1 cup of chocolate chips. Well, the second part was just because I ran out of chocolate chips. But anyway.

I was pretty impressed by how pretty the swirls and crackly tops were on these cookies. Add the Nutella at the absolute last minute, and mix until just swirled. The one downside to having large globs of Nutella was that if they happened to be on the bit of the cookie that’s touching the baking sheet (with no dough in between), they’ll stay on the sheet and leave a big hole in the bottom of the cookie.

This recipe makes 42 generously-sized cookies, which was perfect for my purposes. 21 cookies for my sister on her 21st birthday, and 21 for my friends and me to consume in gluttonous fashion.

Length of procrastination: ~1 hour from raw ingredients to mouth.

Cooking for Mom

1 Nov

My mom’s birthday was a little over a week ago, and my dad and I decided to cook her dinner. She had just returned from a long trip overseas, so we thought a nice meal at home would be much more enjoyable than a noisy restaurant.

It took the two of us two hours to make a meal that would’ve taken my mom less than an hour to make on her own. It was quite the intimidating task. My mom is quite literally the best cook in the world. This is the woman who taught me the concept of mise en place (in Chinese) and the fragrance of scallions in hot oil. She also doesn’t like eating food made by people who can’t cook. So.

 

Not bad, right? I did accidentally mistake the sugar for salt in one of the dishes and put a little too much wood ear mushroom in another, but my mom usually puts a little sugar in her napa anyway and wood ear mushrooms are good for you.

Happy birthday again, mom!

Garden harvest salad

24 Oct

I say garden harvest a little loosely because I stopped maintaining my backyard garden, and since the summer it’s just been growing a little wildly. However, that didn’t stop the cherry tomatoes to ripen into a nice orange hue, and the overseeded beds of lettuce to thin themselves out until I had tall bunches of mixed greens.

So the recipe is simple, but I decided to post about it because it felt good to finally harvest (for the first and probably only time) my own produce and use it. Also, I am trying to use up some of the vinegar that I got from Nathan when he moved out. Turns out it’s really high quality.

Vinaigrette Corn salad

Harvested ingredients
5 – 10 cherry tomatoes
4 leaves basil
1 large leaf of mesculin green
1 large leaf of lettuce

Ingredients
1/4 cup Kernel corn
1/4 small red onion
olive oil and vinegar, 3 to 1 ratio

Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Dice the red onion. Roughly tear the basil and greens into small pieces. Make the vinaigrette by beating and blending the olive oil and vinegar with a fork, and mix everything in a bowl. Voila!

Total time procrastinated:10 minutes
Ways to prolong procrastination:Make cornbread and turn it into a cornbread salad like this: Cornbread salad

蔥油大餅: Large Chinese Sesame and Scallion Pancake

4 Oct

大餅 (da bing) in Chinese literally means “large pancake.” They are really popular in Chinese restaurants. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly salted, and covered in white sesame seeds, they’re an awesome substitute for rice at any meal.

This is my mom’s recipe for da bing with scallions. It’s made very similar to scallion pancakes, but uses yeast to give it some rise. As it is a “mom” recipe, it’s made mostly of visual directions and “to taste” instructions. I’ve tried to list the ingredients as accurately as possible.

蔥油大餅
Makes 4 pancakes

1 tsp yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
1/2 tsp sugar
4 cups AP flour
4 tsp oil, divided, plus more for cooking
salt
2 large bunches of scallions, sliced into small pieces
white sesame seeds

Place the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until frothy. Combine with the rest of the warm water and flour, and knead for about 20 minutes. I’m sure you can do this with a dough hook on a stand mixer, but I’m not sure how long it will take. Divide dough into four balls of equal size and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Roll out one ball as thin as possible. Spread about 1 tsp of oil evenly across the dough, then sprinkle generously with salt. Spread 1/4 of the scallions over the dough, then roll into a spiral (see pictures). Let rest for about 10 minutes while you repeat the process with the other three balls of dough.

At this point, my mom says that you can wrap the dough tightly in saran wrap and freeze for up to a week, but I haven’t tried it.

When ready to cook, roll out the spirals into pancakes about an 3/4 inch thick. Cover both the top and bottom surfaces with white sesame seeds, pressing the seeds into the dough.

Coat a large pan with a flat bottom in a small amount of oil (or cooking spray) on medium heat. Make sure the pan doesn’t get too hot, else the sesame seeds will burn. Lay each bing individually in the pan and let cook each side until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Use the sides of the pan to cook the sides of the bing. The bing should rise slightly during cooking, and the sides should be hard-to-crunchy to the touch when it’s done cooking.

Length of procrastination: About 1 hour.

Foodhack: Salted Coffee

29 Sep

This came from my officemate at work, and is simply one of those revelations you marvel at and wonder where it’s been all your life. This post is not quite a cooking post, I guess, but it does have to do with your gastronomic experience.

Put a few grains of salt in bitter coffee to make it taste milder.

That’s it. If you have a coffee that has a deep bitterness (that is perhaps more than you’d normally enjoy), sprinkle no more than 10 grains of salt into it, stir it around, and it instantly becomes a milder roast.

Don’t believe me? I tried to combine my Trader Joe’s medium roast and Kirkland’s dark roast today (yea, blame me for not having really good coffee) and it just came out a bit darker than I’d like. But instead of adding water which dilutes the caffeine and gives you more volume to consume, I added a tiny bit of salt at my officemate’s suggestion. It was instantly a light roast, although it lost a bit of depth. In fact I think I added too much salt – I pressed my finger down to get less than half a pinch of salt and I think it was too much.

Butterbeer

16 Sep

Bobby and I are really late to the Butterbeer party, but Harry Potter is my lifeblood, so it’s something we definitely needed to do. I’ve made a non-alcoholic version in the past using cream soda and butterscotch ice cream topping, but it was really sweet.

This year, we made some for the midnight release of HP7-2 movie. Instead of butterscotch topping, we used butterscotch schnapps. The butter-y taste didn’t come through even after putting in a lot of alcohol, so we supplemented it with dulce de leche ice cream. As a bonus, ice cream and cream soda makes the wonderful foamy topping described in the book.

Take care not to drink too much of this too quickly, as you can’t taste the alcohol at all. I accidentally downed an entire mug without paying attention…probably not a good idea. Approach with caution.

Butterbeer
Makes 2 servings

1 12oz bottle of cream soda
3 oz butterscotch schnapps
1 large spoonful of dulce de leche ice cream

Mix everything together and split into two mugs. Yum. :)

Length of procrastination: 2 minutes. And then 2 more minutes to make another batch.

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