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Carnitas


snowangel
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Jaymes -

Do you have some good Mexican cookbook suggestions?

Well, I really hesitate saying this...

However -- rather than publically announcing it to this sometimes quite critical crowd (as I'm sure some of you have noticed, this place can be a pretty 'tough room' :biggrin: ) -- to a few eGulleteers who've asked what is my favorite Mexican cookbook, I've mailed a copy of my "favorite Mexican cookbook." It's small, cheap - but still - it's starting to affect my pocketbook, so I'm going to have to just bite the nopal and openly recommend it.

But before I do, I want to say that I probably own twenty Mexican cookbooks. I've got the large and flashy and comprehensive tomes by all the "biggies": Bayless, Kennedy, Martinez, Corbett, Trilling, etc. I also have several Mexican cookbooks in Spanish, that I've purchased while traveling in Mexico. And further, I have at least seven or eight of the "Jr. League-type" cookbooks from U.S. cities and border towns like Tucson, El Paso, Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Antonio, etc., that are heavily influenced by Mexico and Mexican cooking.

But, of all these, my favorite is probably (and I say probably because really selecting a true "favorite" would be difficult) "Mexican Family Favorites Cook Book" by Maria Teresa Bermudez. It's a very small, humble, modest recipe collection. The author is from Tucson, and I just happened to be living there when it came out. It was available at all the Mexican restaurants in Southern Arizona, and when you paid your bill, there it was, propped up by the cash register. It cost five bucks. So, I picked one up.

I really would never have thought I'd see it anywhere again, after we moved away from Tucson. But to my surprise, I see it often. It's gone up in price (to $6.95 :rolleyes: ) and it's no one's idea of a comprehensive, covers-all-bases, book. Nothing in it is complicated at all. You won't find any big impressive "celebrity chef" types of meals. Maria Teresa has not scoured the countryside for new and unusual preparations. But of all of the Mexican cookbooks I have ever seen, the recipes in this one come closest to the type of family home cooking that Mexican moms are unglamorously churning out for their families day in and day out.

Also, she uses ingredients that are readily available pretty much anywhere (including Alaska, where I cooked from her book at least twice a month).

For example, I now live fairly close to the Mexico border and have no trouble buying Mexican cheeses in the grocery stores here in Texas. And I love them. But I have certainly lived places where they were not available. So, Maria's book tells you what commonplace ordinary cheeses to use.

The only thing I really do differently from Maria is that her salsas call for fresh peppers (jalepanos, serranos, etc.) and I prefer to blister mine. Other than that, this little book is a gem. The recipes are stunningly simple, and easy to put together, but delicious.

And I must not be the only one that thinks so. From that humble beginning over twenty years ago, it now says on the inside cover that Mexican Family Favorites Cook Book is in its twenty-third printing!

Amazing.

:rolleyes:

Edit - should add that although the last four copies I've bought were from Barnes & Noble, if you're interested you can also call Golden West Publishers at 800-658-5830 or access their website at goldenwestpublishers.com.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 1 month later...

Today I made Pork Carnitas, Charro Pinto Beans and fresh Pico de Gallo w/tortillas for a late lunch. It was a great success! Of course I owe this success to Jaymes, who not only inspired me to make all 3 of these, but gave me add'l assistance by way of PM. Thanks Jaymes.

I did my Carnitas a little different though, than how it was detailed out earlier in the thread. To save time & work, I cut my pork shoulder in 4 pieces, seasoned it, put it in a Dutch Oven, added a can of beer, chopped garlic, onion, tomatoes, and green chilies and baked it at 325-350 for a few hours, until it fell off the bone and I could shred it. This method turned out so tasty and flavorful! I like the shredded pork very much. I also tasted some of the pork in the cubed form, but like Stone, I think I prefer the shredded flavor and texture better.

The from scratch Charro beans turned out great, too, and made a good accompaniment to the Carnitas. And the fresh Pico de Gallo had the best flavor of any I have tried to make before. And served w/ extra cilantro and jalapenos for me (hubby likes his mild) and w/the lightly fried/warmed tortillas... it was a match made in heaven.

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We don't really think about "frying" a liquid, but that is exactly what they do for several of their preparations. They get the fat (lard or whatever) hot, and then pour the liquid into it, and literally fry it, stirring rapidly. Unique to us, I know, but once you see it done one time, it makes superb sense.

Jaymes, could you tell a little bit more about frying salsa? I have never heard of this before and I am intrigued by it. When you saw it done, and it made sense, why? I'm sure it tastes fantastic.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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We don't really think about "frying" a liquid, but that is exactly what they do for several of their preparations. They get the fat (lard or whatever) hot, and then pour the liquid into it, and literally fry it, stirring rapidly. Unique to us, I know, but once you see it done one time, it makes superb sense.

Jaymes, could you tell a little bit more about frying salsa? I have never heard of this before and I am intrigued by it. When you saw it done, and it made sense, why? I'm sure it tastes fantastic.

I'm not a food chemist - so can't explain exactly why - but it's kind of like what the Indians say about how frying spices a little brings out the flavor... Not very scientific explanation I know, but - "it just does."

So, the Mexicans get the fat hot in the skillet, or bottom of large pan like a Dutch oven (which is much better because it does sizzle and splatter). They often use 'manteca' which is lard, but also just plain vegetable oil or Crisco or other shortening. They get it pretty hot, so I don't know that it would work with olive oil (which would defeat the purpose of the olive oil anyway), and then they pour the liquid into the hot fat and literally fry it, scraping the edges/sides up. It kind of looks like when you're scrambling eggs and you first pour the eggs in, especially if you've allowed the pan to get too hot. And, of course, the salsa (or whatever liquid you're frying) doesn't ever solidify like the eggs do. And it incorporates the fat into it. But you can smell and see the change in the salsa. And they ARE "frying" it - which fries the ingredients IN the salsa, as well as reduces it.

It just makes it really good. It is often a beginning for another dish - kind of a Mexican equivalent of, "First you make a roux..."

So, like I said, even though I don't know enough about food chemistry to know "why," I do know that when you see it done, or do it yourself, it does somehow make perfect sense.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Lordy, that sounds excellent! I wish I could make it up right now but roommates are sleeping and we have had the frying-food-at-night fight a few too many times. :sad: Wish I would've known about this for "taco night" last week. I will try it out tomorrow! Thanks!

Noise is music. All else is food.

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Today I made Pork Carnitas, Charro Pinto Beans and fresh Pico de Gallo w/tortillas for a late lunch.  It was a great success! 

The from scratch Charro Beans turned out great, too, and made a good accompaniment to the Carnitas.  And

the fresh Pico de Gallo had the best flavor of any I have tried to make before.  And served w/ extra cilantro and jalapenos for me (hubby likes his mild) and w/the lightly fried/warmed tortillas... it was a match made in heaven.

I am thrilled that you tried this, and that it turned out so good for you.

GKNL - I know that the Mexicans use citus fruits a LOT in their cooking, so it's quite likely.

Sounds good, I think. Orange and pork - kinda go together, don't they? I believe I'll try it next time. Thanks for the link.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I really think my very favorite thing about eGullet is when I find out that someone has tried something I've suggested and enjoyed it.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that way.  It's a real kick to know somebody has gotten pleasure from a preparation that you recommend.  Everything else pales by comparison.

Although when I fix something that someone here has suggested to me, and it's absolutely delicious, that comes in a close second!  :rolleyes:

I'll try for both in one post: So did the corn pudding work? :raz::laugh:

Anyway, now that I've got carnitas on the brain and am desperately procrastinating on the market basket challenge :wink: I see both shoulder and country style spare ribs used in this thread. The spare ribs seem easier to process, does it really matter which you use? I've never dealt with pork shoulder before so maybe I should give that a try. Decisions, decisions. . . . Maybe I should just go to the Taqueria and get a burrito instead. :wink:

You're welcome about the link. :smile:

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I went to Costco today and they had country style loin ribs and country style shoulder ribs and whole shoulders. Am I correct in thinking the shoulder ribs would give me the same kind of meat as the whole shoulder but be easier to deal with because they're partially cut up already? And the loin ribs would be drier and thus not as tasty? Both of the ribs looked to have a good amount of fat on them though.

The whole ones were $0.89 a pound, the shoulder ribs $1.29 a pound, and the loin ribs were $1.49 a pound. I think one of the ribs had bone attached, probably the loin ribs. It seems worth the extra money for the easier processing, but are the results going to be the same? And since the meat is cooked for so long, is there a significant difference between fresh and frozen meat in the end results?

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gknl, country-style ribs should work just as well as whole shoulder, and you're right--loin won't be as good. I doubt frozen will be a problem. Country-style ribs are sometimes sold boneless and sometimes bone-in, but it's never a lot of bone.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I really think my very favorite thing about eGullet is when I find out that someone has tried something I've suggested and enjoyed it.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels that way.  It's a real kick to know somebody has gotten pleasure from a preparation that you recommend.  Everything else pales by comparison.

Although when I fix something that someone here has suggested to me, and it's absolutely delicious, that comes in a close second!  :rolleyes:

I'll try for both in one post: So did the corn pudding work? :raz::laugh:

I haven't tried it yet. You see, I have a problem. Actually, a great many problems, but the one that is germane here is that because I live alone, I have discovered that I cannot prepare a dish that is both one of my favorite things, AND fattening (which sadly is inevitably the case), because if I do, I wind up eating the WHOLE THING by myself. :wacko: As you can see, that perpetuates the likelihood that I will remain "by myself," devouring such delicacies as an entire pan of corn pudding.

So, I must wait until someone else whom I can feed wanders unsuspectingly into my web.

And, that hasn't happened since I got your corn pudding recipe.

However, corn pudding is my daughter's very favorite thing, so perhaps I'll take the "Mohammed and the mountain" approach and stop by her place sometime soon and prepare it there.

That would be good.

That way, I could eat some and then get in my car and come home -- leaving temptation behind, in her refrigerator, securely ensconced within a plastic, burpable container.

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I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I cannot prepare a dish that is both one of my favorite things, AND fattening (which sadly is inevitably the case), because if I do, I wind up eating the WHOLE THING by myself.    :wacko:

I understand completely! All the stuff I like best is like that too. And baked goods, forget it. I don't make it as often as I'd like to eat it for much the same reason. I was curious because I let my father make it this year. He definitely tested the recipe's resiliency! But despite his best efforts, it came out edible, tasty even. Much better than his penultimate effort which resulted in corn kernals mixed in with eggs curds and a thick layer of oil floating on top. But I'm still making it from now on.

So when I try carnitas, I think I'm gonna wimp out :wink: and go with the shoulder ribs. If there's bone, is it important to remove them or does cooking the bone in the liquid add flavor? Plus they'd be something to gnaw on?

Do the leftovers (ha ha as if there will be any leftovers, but in case there are) freeze well? I work from 2-9:30 and buying dinner at the expensive gourmet market is defeating the purpose of having a job so I'm looking for stuff I can cook at home and nuke later on.

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Alas, I cannot contribute regarding the whole "rib" question. I usually use a shoulder roast (bone in) for my pork carnitas.

But, whichever meat you chose, may I suggest a nice, fresh, crunchy Pico de Gallo as your garnish/relish? (Or, if you'd like, I'll give you my salsa recipe.)

Pico de Gallo con Aguacate

1 large fresh flavorful tomato (or two or three Romas or a handful of Nature Sweet), water removed (but I don't do that with the Nature Sweets) and chopped

1 medium to small yellow onion, chopped

3-4 (or whatever) fresh jalapeños, seeded, minced

1 avocado, not too ripe, coarsely chopped

cilantro to taste, chopped

1 lemon, rolled a time or two or zapped in microwave to release juices

Olive oil

Celery salt

Couple good shakes garlic powder or garlic salt

1 t vinegar

In bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, avocados, cilantro. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon over, and add a pretty-good splash of olive oil. Season to taste with celery salt. Toss to blend.

Allow to sit in fridge an hour or so for flavors to meld, stirring occasionally.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks for the salsa recipe. I make something similar, but it's nice to have proportions to work from instead of just throwing stuff together like I usually do. I never thought to use celery salt though. That's interesting. :smile:

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I just got a batch of SuperBowl Sunday carnitas simmering, using about 2.5 pounds of Boston Butt/shoulder roast cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks, chicken stock, fresh orange juice from a CaraCara orange, orange zest, cumin, s/p, bay leaf, crushed juniper berries [since I didn't have any gin or tequila in the house], New Mexico chili powder, garlic, and onion, sorghum molasses, and brown sugar - even had some encouragement by phone from Jaymes - so good to have eGulleteers in town. This is my first attempt at this, but I don't think one can go too far wrong. Will be serving the pico de gallo along with some fresh corn tortillas - not homemade, but from Fiesta....

The eGullet encouragement and threads also led me to try cioppino Friday after work - thanks y'all....

memesuze

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I never thought to use celery salt though.  That's interesting. :smile:

my thought exactly. i'm not even sure i have any, but it will certainly make an appearance the next time i make pico de gallo.

Well, all right, so I never thought of it either....

Until this last trip to Mexico, and the pico at this one restaurant was really good and I badgered the waiter to tell me what was in it and he said "salt" and I said "there's something else in there because I put salt in mine and I can taste the difference" and then I told him there'd be a couple extra pesos for him on the table if he'd fess up, and finally he said, "okay, it's celery salt."

:biggrin:

  • Like 1

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes -

I lived in Mexico and am married to a Mexican chef. Carnitas is without a doubt my favorite food on the face of the earth. Your recipe is just about how I learned to do it in Mexico, although we cut our pork just a wee bit larger than you suggest, being careful to trim no fat from the roast.

The only things we added to the water there, however, were garlic, a little fresh epazote, and a little CocaCola. The sugar in the coke added lovely flavor and helped with caramelization.

Although when I came back to Philadelphia from Mexico :sad: I brought a big copper cazuela for making carnitas, I find that it's easier to avoid having those lovely crunchy bits stick to the pan if I use a large nonstick pot instead. Then you can just scrape 'em up and lose none of that glorious flavor. (Quick! The drool bib!)

Great thread!!!

Barb

{edited to add} PS - Having brought dozens of cookbooks back from Mexico, and bought many more here, DH Adan and I love Patricia Quintana's best (including the ones in Spanish that, to my knowledge, haven't been released here), followed closely by those of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless.

Edited by bjcohan (log)

Barb Cohan-Saavedra

Co-owner of Paloma Mexican Haute Cuisine, lawyer, jewelry designer, glass beadmaker, dessert-maker (I'm a lawyer who bakes, not a pastry chef), bookkeeper, payroll clerk and caffeine-addict

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The only things we added to the water there, however, were garlic, a little fresh epazote, and a little CocaCola.  The sugar in the coke added lovely flavor and helped with caramelization. 

{edited to add} PS - Having brought dozens of cookbooks back from Mexico, and bought many more here, DH Adan and I love Patricia Quintana's best (including the ones in Spanish that, to my knowledge, haven't been released here), followed closely by those of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless.

CocaCola! What a great idea. Of course it'd be good, with the sugar and the caramel flavor... Thanks for that tip.

Have books by Diana Kennedy & Bayless, but am not familiar with Patricia Quintana. I think I'll look for hers, both here and on my next trip to Mexico.

So glad to have you here. Hope you post early and often. What part of Mexico did you live in???

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 1 year later...

Been doing some carnitas experiments lately after some offline discussions with Scott -- DFW. I prefer the Michoacan style carnitas that seem to always be cooked in their own fat, essentially pork confit that's caramelly on the outside. I wanted to solidify the proces a little so that Scott -- DFW could compare to the water method advocated by Jaymes and given similarly in Kennedy's Essential Cuisines. (Bayless and Zavlaskey recommend a similar method to mine.)

Hopefully others will try it, improve it, and report back.

Cut pork shoulder or country style pork ribs into approximately two inch square chunks. Put meat along with the zest of one orange and the juice of a half an orange in an oven proof dish. Heat enough lard to cover meat by at least a 1/2 inch to 190 degrees and pour onto the meat in the over proof dish.

i7077.jpg

Note the orange zest, the level of the fat, and the probe thermometer.

Put into a 200 degree oven for two hours or until the meat is tender. Alternatively, you could do this on the stove top, but it is much more difficult in small batches to maintain a low temperature.

i7078.jpg

You can see the small bubbles rising throughout the oil, but not frothing.

You do not want the oil to reach a boiling temperature. A probe thermometer helps here, but the orange juice in the oil also helps. Since it boils at 212, if the oil goes above 212 the orange juice will rapidly boil out of the oil and start to pop. At a simmer, the orange juice will only create light intermittent bubbles.

i7079.jpg

This is what the pieces look like when they're finished in the oven.

Heat more lard to a depth of at least half the thickness of the pork pieces. Don't use the lard from the oven if you put something that burns in it (like orange juice). Get the oil relatively hot, at least 350, and place the pieces in the pan.

i7080.jpg

Carnitas caramelizing on the stovetop.

i7082.jpg

A closeup.

i7083.jpg

The caramelized carnitas.

Brown the pieces of pork to your liking, remove, and squeeze the other half of the orange over the carnitas and sprinkle with salt.

i7084.jpg

i7086.jpg

The finished carnitas split open to expose the succulent flesh inside.

I'm hoping Scott -- DFW will post his results here as well. I'd like to see a head to head comparison and hear his feelings on the benefits and problems with each style and the flavor/texture differences.

btw, the best carnitas I've ever had are at Salvador's in Woodburn, OR. See pictures here:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_al...=view_photo.php

Here are some from La Esperanza in Sacramento, CA:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_al...=view_photo.php

And from Carniceria Lopez, also in Sacramento:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_al...=view_photo.php

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I made carnitas a few weeks back with Jaymes' recipe, and they turned out absolutely fabulous. The liquid evaporated and left the pork stewing in its own juices, and rendering its beautiful fat. I did mine in the oven, in a big lasagne pan, covered. After a few hours, when the pork was tender, I removed the foil and let it go another hour or was it two..... I'll post pictures when I get home.

My sweetie was rather concerned when he saw me cutting up the pork shoulder without removing any of the fat. Little did he know what a delicacy awaited him.

tender, spicy chunks of carmelized goodness. I had planned on freezing some, after all, I made 7 pounds of the stuff. We ate them for just about every meal until they were gone. I'd even sneak them out of the fridge cold. :wub:

I like that the meat got to simmer in tequila for a couple of hours, then fry in its own fat. The flavor really permeated the meat and I'm not sure that I've ever tasted anything quite so good. Thank you Jaymes, thank you, thank you, thank you!! This should fall under that category of something to make at someone elses house. Its dangerous!

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I like that the meat got to simmer in tequila for a couple of hours, then fry in its own fat. The flavor really permeated the meat and I'm not sure that I've ever tasted anything quite so good. Thank you Jaymes, thank you, thank you, thank you!! This should fall under that category of something to make at someone elses house. It's dangerous!

You are more than welcome. I'm going to be spending some considerable time in Mexico sometime during the coming year, at least several months, and will post back as I learn more.

Love that Mexian cuisine is so popular on eGullet. It deserves it.

Maybe I'll post my recipe for chicken enchiladas next. That should give EMSG another "project."

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Just posting a picture or two of my Jaymes' Carnitas . Tee hee.

Here they are, bathing in their savory glory:

i7122.jpg

And a closer yet not quite clear picture of them after their long, arduous path to being bits of carmelized porky goodness

i7121.jpg

Edited to add, I think I made them too "ita" and I'll probably make the chunks a bit larger next time. I'll also stir less so theres not as much fraying. Although those fried frayed bits were perhaps a highlight of the whole deal.

Edited by nessa (log)
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