Sundays in the kitchen

Most Sundays I spend the bulk of the day in the kitchen.  Sunday is my day to make a complex dinner, cook ahead for the week or try something I’ve been meaning to try.    Yesterday I made Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) for the first time, and turkey stock from the bones of Thanksgiving’s turkey breast (we did a breast rather than a whole turkey since there were only 7 of us and none of us likes dark meat).

I used the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Carnitas.  I have a subscription to their website and I highly recommend it.  I used to subscribe to the magazine, but the online subscription is so much better– you can search the recipes and equipment reviews and everything has been perfected and tried over and over again, which takes the guess work out of cooking.  (They don’t pay me to say this, it’s just true.)

I was a little grossed out cutting up the pork shoulder– I’m not used to using such fatty cuts of meat for one thing, and for another I was feeling guilty because I bought regular grocery store pork and not pasture raised, organic etc because that would have involved an extra half hour of driving.

Simmering the meat

I’m not going to post the recipe since I have to pay for access to it, but the gist of it was that I cut off the biggest fatty bits, cut the rest of the pork into approximately 2 inch cubes (not that round meat really makes cubes, but I tried) and then simmered it in a broth made of lime juice, oregano, cumin, orange juice, salt and pepper and then put it in the oven for 2 hours at low heat to simmer, then took it back out, reduced the sauce, added it in, and then broiled the meat to make it a bit crispy.  I have a new oven (which I will address in an upcoming post) which made it a bit challenging because I don’t know how hot to make things compared to the old one.

The stock was easy.  First of all, for my birthday my mom got me this stockpot. It’s absolutely genius!  There is a collander that fits into the pan so if you make pasta or stock, the solids are super easy to separate from the liquid with no mess! (Plus it has a handy-dandy vegetable steamer insert for the top, so if you are like me and put veggies in your pasta you can make them all at once!)

Observe the fantastic-ness:

meaty side

stock side

Stock in pot, bones etc. in collander, easy as pie!

Glorious, as my brother would say.

I make stock once a month or so, and my trick is to divide it into 2 and 4 cup ziplock bags, label it with my beloved label maker, and put them in the freezer.  Most recipes seem to call for 2 or 4 cups of chicken broth so this way I have an already portioned amount at the ready!  (The first couple times I made stock I put all of it in one big gallon container and froze it– I never used it.  I just threw a bag away that was probably a couple years old– you have to have a plan for using that much and it takes forever to defrost).

Yes, I do have OCD

As for the carnitas, I topped them with salsa and guacamole.  I had never in my life made salsa before– I’m not sure why.  I had intended to do that this year with tomatoes from my garden, but it was a cold summer and they never got ripe.  Instead I made salsa with this fancy can:

 

Muir Glen Organic Yolo Red Tomatoes

These are apparently special edition, costs $6 a can at Williams Sonoma tomatoes, which I got free this summer because I used to work for Muir Glen doing food demos.    Since I have never made salsa before from canned tomatoes, I can not attest to whether they are worth $6 a can.  I tested a bite of tomato fresh from the can and it tasted like tomato soup to me, but yummy, fresh tomato soup.  Anyway, here is the salsa recipe that I invented, inspired by one in Cook’s Illustrated I didn’t have the ingredients for:

Chipotle Salsa:

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or about 1 1/2 cups fresh)

2 tablespoons diced Italian parsley (cilantro would work too, I just really don’t like it).

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder (I learned of this from Ali’s blog, as she is a fan and it took me forever to find it– the brand I have is McCormick’s)

1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

1/4 white onion minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Chop all of the above finely together on a large cutting board and then transfer to bowl.   (If you like less chunky salsa you could put it in a food processor or blender).

I am a little bit well known amongst my friends for the following guacamole recipe, although it was originally taught to me by my friend Laura, and I think it was taught to her by someone else, though we modified and perfected it together.   It always makes me think of her.

*I will note that I would probably not use this guac, or use less with this recipe, because it is very strong and it overpowered the other flavors in the dish.

Brie’s Famous Guacamole:

2 avocados, mashed

1/4 white onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2-1 tsp salt (I always add a pinch of salt, taste with a chip if I’m eating it with chips as they are salty too) then adjust salt as needed.

This is all I put in my base recipe– it’s incredibly simple, but so amazing.   Last night I also added a squeeze of lime and a little more parsley.

I topped the carnitas with shredded cabbage, served them on corn tortillas and they were fab:

Mr. Brie's plate-- I couldn't eat quite this many, though I wanted to!

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