Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Slightly pithed off

Long ago but not far at all away, we had carnitas for a combined Mother's Day/ChefSon Birthday dinner. When I had waxed rhapsodic in a phone call about this to LawSchoolGirl, I assured her I'd saved half the pork in the freezer to rerun the dish while she was home for the summer.

She got here about a week later. That would have been the third week in May. I took the pork out of the freezer three days ago. That was July 27th.

I'm not sure what took me so frickin' long to get around to carnitas again. Have you ever done that? "Meant to" make something that required defrosting an ingredient and somehow managed to let some inability to plan ahead enough to get that ingredient out of the freezer stall off the dish for way too long?

As is typical for me, I stuck close to the recipes I'd found the first go-round but after having one batch of carnitas deliciously under my belt (literally) I was emboldened to treat the various recipes more as guidelines for preparation than a "must-do-it-this-way".For instance, I only had a teensy onion on hand to start with but did have a leek I needed to use up. I had limes as it turned out, but no oranges. I had grapefruit and wanted to get that two or more hour simmering in the oven part of the process started before it got any later in the day. I had other things I wanted and needed to do, so a compromise was in the cards.

All by way of explaining why I used an organic grapefruit, peels and juice, rather than an orange and a lime when I made this second batch of carnitas. When I chopped the grapefruit in quarters prior to putting it into the pot I did entertain the question briefly as to whether or not the results of all that grapefruit rind in the braise liquid would get too tart after a couple of hours simmering in the oven.After waiting so long to fix carnitas however, and after the run-up I had given LSG about how Marvelous! Wonderful! Amazing! it was going to taste, I was in something of a self-imposed rush. I pushed that nagging doubt aside, dumped everything into the pot, and didn't give it another thought.

Note to self: In future, do not let a sense of rush keep you from paying attention to your instincts. Take time to think about what you know to be true about grapefruits and oranges and the relative tartness of their respective rinds.

Long story longer, the carnita meat cooked up to just the right "falling apart" stage as expected, only the cooking liquid was a leetle bit on the tart side compared to results with an orange and a lime. Interweb, I will admit it. I was pithed!I was sure it wasn't ruined. I took steps to adjust the seasonings in the basting liquid to overcome the slight bitterness from the grapefruit overdose, doused the pork as usual and ran it up under the broiler. Catastrophe averted. Rave reviews. Happy ending. Yay!

As a worldly two time carnita eater I have naturally developed my own version of THE "perfecto" carnita taco. While I offered crumbled Cotija at both carnita dinners I like mine "con crema" best. My idea of the universe's best carnita goes like so: Grilled flour tortilla, schmear of Mexican crema (or sour cream), sprinkle of arugula sprouts, second sprinkle of diced Purple Cherokee, layer of porky wondrousness, all topped with a liberal layer of caramelized onion slivers.

Roll into a firm delivery system and move from plate to mouth. Repeat as needed. Other diners greatly enjoyed Cotija on their tacos if I interpreted their mumbled responses correctly. That is the advantage of a "build your own" approach, everybody gets a customized experience. I don't have photos of the finished products because frankly, once you have seen anything wrapped in a tortilla you've seen everything wrapped in a tortilla.

This readily correctable near miss has me more sold than ever on carnitas as my go-to pork preparation. The additional step of dousing the shredded cooked pork with the reduced braising liquid then running it up under the broiler to crisp and cook on the coating, elevates it from "good" all the way to "ungodly delicious". I am dead certain this would make just as mean a sandwich filling or be equally delightful in a pita preparation. As long as the end of the story has that promise of porcine perfection traveling from outside to inside your happy, happy mouth.

In other words, you simply must not hesitate to make this dish for yourself, and if you are feeling generous, sure, involve a couple other people you want to treat. My only stipulation is that you use non-CAFO sourced pork because pigs are smart and I do not want it said I ever encouraged anybody to spend their money supporting a system that is cruel to animals, much less smart critters like pigs.

Other than paying attention to who raised and slaughtered your protein and how, which you should be doing as a matter of course now, right, (RIGHT??) do not let anything else, not hot weather-no-cooking-willies, defrost delay debilitation, or the lack of a proper citrus fruit get in between you and your own plate of carnitas. I won't!


Flapjacks said...


TexasDeb said...

You got that right. These would go great with a Michelada!