26 January 2013

Carnitas - Alice Waters & A Random Recipe Story

This is a lunch or supper recipe that can really satisfy your urge for a hit of authentic Mexican cooking, but I will warn you that it takes time to make it right. The recipe comes from Alice Waters' book The Art of Simple Food , a book that sits on Sprout Sara's cookbook shelf. My on-line friend, Dom chose to have us mix up the concept of random recipes a bit this month and call a fellow foodie to ask them to provide the randomness. Clever boy, that Dom!

So! I have three pieces of pork that I am cubing up, braising and then browning in a pan with some salt and pepper, lime juice, and water. Alice says this pork carnitas recipe is accompanied with pickled onions, a good salsa, cheese, and corn tortillas ... another good lunch awaits! All I need is a couple cold Coronas with limes ...

But wait ... I started making this pork and realized that pickled onions are their own recipe ... especially if you want traditional Mexican pickled onions. Then, there's the issue of salsas. I looked around and found that a chile de árbol salsa is what is recommended for carnitas tacos ... another recipe. Where did I go for these additional recipes ? I went to my favorite Mexican chefs, Feniger and Milliken and their cook book, Mesa Mexicana.

I am quickly losing faith that I can pull this one off ... but, off I go to the local market for the tomatillos, chili peppers, more limes, purple onions and beet ( ... beet ???), some fresh cilantro, avocados, and wine (screw the beer!). Home again, I peel and wash tomatillos and broil them with tomatoes to make the base for the salsa, chop avocados and squeeze lime juice, salt and pepper over top, make the pickled onion brine and simmer the thinly sliced onions, warm the tortillas, and plate everything in their respective bowls.

Three hours later, four chapters in the audio book, three glasses of wine nipped, and two repeats of The Gypsy Kings in the background ... taco time! SB and I sat down to Carnitas tacos. The pickled onions have not aged as recommended, but taste fantastic! The salsa is hotter than hell and we're lovin' it. The pork is not quite fatty/slippery enough for our taste; we agree that slow-cooked baby back ribs would be perfect stripped and tossed with some salsa. The citrus-coated avocados are a perfect foil to the crunchy onion pickles. We ditched the idea of cheese ... totally uncalled for! We think we'd prefer flour tortillas over the traditional corn tortillas ... BUT ... this is the newest and most interesting Mexican flavour fest that we've experienced since we discovered really good chiles rellenos! Hot damn ... hot damn!

Afterward: Pictures? Wintertime and a late dinner are not an auspicious combination for food photography. Never mind the wine! Maybe I'll take photos with the leftovers. Overall, the dish needs work, as I am particular about my Mexican, but I WILL work on this one. It is soooo interesting and is such a departure from the usual American version of what's considered a 'taco dinner'. In fact, it blows the supermarket aisle taco dinner out of the water and has forever changed how I will look at a those little taco tortillas.



  1. Never mind the photos, you describe these well enough to get my mouth watering.

  2. Wow, this recipe sounds like an all afternoon affair if you want to do it right! There's no substitue for fresh, homemade and authentic! I'd be happy to share this with you! LOL!!!

    1. Ha! Mary, I was making a chicken pot pie while I was making the pork part of the final dish ... then had to go to market after I delivered the chicken pot pie to the lady that won that pie-a-month auction at the church. It WAS a busy day in the kitchen! Still have the pickled onions and arbol chile salsa, so it's chip and salsa for snacking and I think some pickled onions with a steak tonight!

  3. Oh Susan - I've been cooking all day to Gypsy Kings too - making posole & albondigas de camarones. Carnitas this week for sure! :) We've got to get together in the kitchen at the same place, at the same time, one day :)

    chow! DEVAKI @ weavethousandflavors

  4. Wow, your a better person than me. Although it sounds delicious, there are too many steps for me. I'm a get it done quick kind of cook. That's why you always have wonderful posts. You really put the time in at the stove.

  5. I have trouble taking photos in winters low light as well, but this dish seems worth the time and effort Susan.

  6. I agree with Sue...your discription was "image" enough! Gotta watch out for those multiple recipe recipes!

  7. I have a craving for a carnitas taco now!


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