Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gold Medal Carnitas

I’ve been humming the theme song from the movie Rocky all night. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s mostly an instrumental song, and starts with trumpets sounding out as Rocky starts running up the proverbial stairs of triumph. I’m sure this song is stuck in my head because of the Olympics and the fact that this song played during some part of the Opening Ceremonies.

Do you like to watch the Olympics? As a kid, my sisters and I loved to cheer on the athletes. One of my sisters had a huge crush on Mark Spitz, and hung the poster of him with all his gold medals adorning his neck on the wall of the bedroom we shared. I still remember my nervous excitement when Olga Korbut successfully completed the first ever blind backwards flip off the top bar of the uneven bars. As she swung around and reached for that bar, the crowd went wild! Even though she wasn't from my country, I remember being so excited for her ... someone I never met, someone from a different country, and someone with different customs.

Even as a little kid, I have always been fascinated with other cultures. Their customs, their languages, their cultures, their foods … everything! Perhaps it’s because I’m the daughter of an immigrant; perhaps I’m just a curious cat. Whatever the reason, my interest in other cultures remains at a high level even today. Never is this more apparent to me than in this blogsphere. Through the wonders of the internet, my world has expanded by keystrokes, and I’m able to see images and “talk” with people that I never would have met otherwise. I’m able to “visit” other communities and cultures, and learn how to prepare their foods, enjoy their stories, and ultimately spread a little bit of peace and harmony across the globe. Yeah, it sounds hokey but I stand by my belief. The internet makes my world a little bit smaller, a bit more friendly, and a whole lot more interesting!

In honor of the Olympic games, my menu for the next several meals will tap into the cuisines of nations other than my own. Tonights culinary adventure celebrated the flavors of Mexico. I’ve never been to Mexico, but boy oh boy I’d sure love to go someday. Mexico boasts several different types of cuisine, and I love them all. For our meal this evening, we enjoyed taco’s filled with scrumptious carnitas. Oh my friends, let me tell you, this was soooo good. Served with a bright, festive Pico de Gallo, some freshly shredded snowy Cotija cheese, and some creamy guacamole, we gobbled every bit. As usual, my little carnivors ate theirs plain, but hubby man and I piled on the works. How do you like your tacos?

I used the Carnitas recipe posted by Homesick Texan. I’ve made carnitas many times over the years, and her recipe was intriguing in that it was so simple to do. My old recipe, which is also very good, requires both on the stove and baking time. This recipe, was done on the stove and finished in less than two hours. The results were … well let’s put it this way, there was absolutely zero left. None. Nada. Not even a teeny weeny speck left. As I was dishing it out, my daughter kept saying to me, "Pile it on, Mom. Just keep piling it on!"

4 lbs pork shoulder/butt, cut into large chunks
2 cups water
1 cup orange juice (I used Orange Tangerine)
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle Garlic Powder

Isn't this a lovely hunk of meat? Check out that marbling. This is what a pork butt/shoulder looks like. So, start out with a gorgeous hunk of pork. Then get out your best knife, and slice it into large chunks ... approx. 4 x 2. In a large dutch oven, place all of the above ingredients. Turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil, uncovered.

Eweuuu! Doesn’t this look like it should contain eye of newt or something? Trust me it gets better. Once it boils, turn the heat down to a decent simmer, and simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours, uncovered. I didn’t skim the “foam” that forms.The liquid will boil off, and the rendered fat will be left in the pan (lots of it). Once the liquid has boiled off, brown the meat in its own fat until all sides are browned. Once browned, remove from the pot. Shred or cut into bite sized pieces.

See? I told you it gets better. Here’s the end result after shredding. We're talking Gold Medal Carnitas. Mmmm .... the aroma is fantastic.

Look at that! No, no, no … don’t look at my finger print pattern. Check out that lovely little morsel held in my fingers. See all that browned goodness on the outside, and soft, tender heaven on the inside? That, my friends, spells flavor. Oh yeah, this is gold medal stuff for sure. 'Scuse me for a second while I devour this bite ... uh, I touched it ... it can't go back in the serving dish after I touched it. Oops, touched another piece. Oh man, Yuuummm!

These lovely veggies and fruits, transform into a bright Pico De Gallo – Veracruz style. This is the first time I made this, and the results were very good. The inclusion of both cucumber and radishes added a “crunchy” component to the Pico party, and actually complimented the carnitas quite nicely. In fact, this type of veggie salsa is designed to compliment meat. Don’t you just love these colors?

Here’s the recipe, adapted from the cookbook titled Mexican Cookery, by Barbara Hansen. It’s an old book, but I reference it often.

2 red tomatoes (I used heirloom varieties)
1 yellow tomato
1 small cucumber – diced
1-1/2 Tablespoons onion – diced
2 radishes - sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
Juice from ½ lime
1/4 Jalepeno pepper

Combine all the ingredients. Season with sea salt to taste. Notice there is no garlic in this? The flavors stand up just fine without it. Try not to eat it by the spoonful.

How do you like your guacamole? Chunky? Creamy? A little of both, perhaps? This is just a basic recipe that I got from a lovely gal I used to work with. Her husband was from Mexico City, and this is how he likes his guac. My hubby likes to have bits of avocado in his guacamole, so I prepare this both creamy style with some chunks left.


2-3 ripe Haas avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed
1 Tablespoon of chopped tomatoes
Dash of garlic powder
1 teaspoon diced onion
Juice from ½ lime

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork. I also added about a 1/4 teaspoon of minced jalepeno. Mash with a fork to your desired “chunkiness”.

For another awesome pork taco recipe, check out For The Love Of Cooking's blog entry dated 08/08/08. (Don't you just love number anomalies? I'm into that kind of thing. Yeah, I like math.) Be prepared to drool on your screen because her recipe is killer.

So what “country” or “culture” should be represented next at my table? Tune in next time to see what gold medal performance will be making its way onto the blog!


Olympic Heart of Gold

Speaking of Gold Medal performances, my girl has a heart of gold. As gorgeous on the outside as she is on the inside, for the second time in two years, my daughter donated some of her stunningly beautiful long hair to “Locks of Love”. Locks of Love is a great organization that makes and donates wigs to children who’ve lost their hair due to illness.

Today my girl had 15” cut off her hair, and is now sporting a darling, sassy hairstyle. She told the stylist that her only criteria was that she still be able to put her hair up for when she plays sports. I think the stylist did a great job, and my girl did a good thing. She’s a true champ all the way.



you daughter's hair will grow again of course!
that carnita looks so good - in fact the whole wrap idea is similar to a good greek souvlaki - the avocado dip is of course yoghurt, the vegetables in it are always tomato and onion and this meat oculd stay as is, all wrapped up in a delicious pita pocket.
i love watching the olympics opening ceremony - yesterday's (by our time was most enjoyable - but usually only that; i'm not sporty enough (sad to say).

OhioMom said...

Great post! Hugs to the daughter with a 'heart of gold'.

Yummy meal there mom, I love wraps.

Jan said...

A great post.
That's lovely hair your daughter has - she's very lucky!
I love those recipes!
PS: You've been given an award! Pop over to my blog to get it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the great recipes. Those Carnitas look lovely and with all that great fresh produce! Yum-yum. How sweet is your daughter to donate her gorgeous hair to such a great cause. Wonderful post!

Linda said...

Hmm hmm good! ..and I like it chunky too.

noble pig said...

Oh my, what color in those appetizing. I love it!

I'm also excited the Olympics are on, I really enjoy watching them.

Bridgett said...

What a heartwarming thing your daughter did by donating her hair. I bet you are a proud mom! The carnitas look mouthwatering and anything with avocado added is even better. I just loved the opening ceremonies last night, didn't you? They did a brilliant job. Onto watching the swimming...

Aggie said...

I just got the chills, your daughter being so young really does have a heart of gold! Her hair is beautiful and it will be such a gift to someone less fortunate.

On to the food : )...
those carnitas are making me hungry!! I love carnitas but have never made them at home, what a great dinner! Love all the veggies!

Jason said...

I love pork carnitas, and this recipe is so simple! I will have to bookmark this and try it out!
I also love the olympics and still remeber being mesmorized as a little kid watching them, thanks for sharing your story, it was really sweet.

Grace said...

great, now i have "eye of the tiger" in my head. :)
i'm really smitten with this post--this is one of my favorite meals, all the way from the pig to the guac. your pictures are enough to make me weak in the knees. stellar work, milady. :)

Kevin said...

Those look so good!

Bren@Flanboyant Eats said...

carnitas are great, especially in tacos like this... i'll be in mexico in just 6 days and i'll make sure to think of you!!

can i share my Cuban guac with you??

If you try it let me know how u like it!? :)

kudos to ur daughter for being so kind and unselfish. i think that's beautiful.

EAT! said...

We are Olympic fanatics here at our house. One of my daughter's is a huge "Phelp's Phan!" I am glad it is now on every 2 years instead of every 4 years.

Lo said...

Mmm. I'm drooling at the thought of the carnitas... haven't made that in a LONG while. Might be time to do it again.

We celebrated the opening ceremonies with carry out Kung Pao Chicken... but that's no comparison to your celebration :)

Helene said...

This is so nice of your daughter. Mine just donated her hair for cancer. I'm a proud mom. This is a good idea to do meals of different countries. I'll be reading your blog and watching the Olympics.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Hay Paula, You and I are on the same wave length, sat. we ate carnitas too. I wasn't as adventurous as you by making my own, I just went to a mexican market that sells it by the pound.Yours looks so, so good!! Beautiful hair your daughter has, love the color! Her new "do" looks great!!

Mrs. L said...

That pork shoulder looks awesome, where did you get it? Love Carnitas so I'll have to try this. And kudos to your daughter!

Swati said...

Hey Paula
I have so much to tell you..
1. Ur daughetr has gorgeous hair..It dont worry!!
2. Lovely salsa pictures
3. I too have been watching the olympics..
4. Lovely food..

Katherine Aucoin said...

Your daughter has beautful hair and her donation is so admirable.
I have never heard of carnitas, but once I started reading and looking at yiour pictures, you have my undivided attention. What a yummy trat for lunch or dinner.

Pam said...

Hey Paula... thanks for the shout out on this recipe. The carnitas look amazing. I always order it in restaurants but have been afraid to make it myself - until now. Thanks for the inspiration. We too love the Olympics and watch as much as we can. Your daughters hair is beautiful - it will make someone very happy! Good for her!

Deborah said...

How awesome of your daughter!!

I had pork tacos just last night, although yours look a lot better!

gaylen said...

Locks of Love is indeed a good thing. It's nice to know we've raised our children well.

Love the carnita's can I do the same thing with beef? g

Cheryl said...

OH my gawd that looks good, I must try! Did I ever tell you how it impresses me that you always give props to where you procured your recipe, so many people dont! And that hair, wow, what a kid!

Jan said...

Great idea, Paula, cooking around the world in honor of the Olympics.
I love your carnitas recipe. A wonderful post, as always, and your daughter is a darling.

Nita said...

Those look so good, but I'm out of pork shoulder for awhile, (our pigs are still using them.) I can't wait to try this recipe.

Bravo to your daughter, her hair looks as beautiful as her!

Dawn said...

Ooooo your daughter is so lucky to have hair that grows fast. My hair takes forever to grow. And yes, she does have a heart of gold for sure.
I just ate dinner and now I'm hungry after looking at your carnitas!!!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

How nice to find this post! I'll be cutting my hair on Sunday to do the exact same thing! I'm sure your daughter looks great with the new hair style!

Jude said...

Really nice marbling on that pork. So much fun to make carnitas -- very unfussy.

Lisa said...

Oh wow! Those do look delicious. Homesick Texan has such great recipes and it looks like your carnitas turned out to be amazing.