Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Braised Carnitas

Helllloooooo my long lost friends!  I am so sorry for abandoning you all for such a long time.  The end of the year was filled with lots of travel, family,  holidays, food and fun.  Well, not all fun because I was sick, like very sick, for the last two weeks of December.  No bueno, but I'm finally feeling better and more like myself.  

Now that Heather's got her groove back, I'm ready to rock and roll and share more recipes and travel with you all this year.  In addition to lots of travel for work, I also have two very dear friends who will be getting hitched!  So thrilled to be part of the upcoming celebrations and nuptials. 

 So to kick of 2015, I'd like to share with you this kick a$$ recipe for carnitas at home!  These take a little bit of time and effort, but all the steps are super easy.  Once you make the rub and find all of the ingredients, it is quite simple to throw together.  Most of the time, the pork is just slow cooking in the oven. 

Let's just talk about slow cooking meat in the oven.  Low and slow (in my Isaac Hayes voice) is the answer to all of your dry meat prayers, as is braising in a aromatic filled liquid.  When I pulled this pork out of the oven, it was basically falling apart.  So good.

We have been eating this pork for the past few days and we're not even close to being sick of it.  The flavor is out of this world and it tastes just as good as any Mexican carnitas dish out there.  A Mexican fiesta at home, count me in!  

Well, it feels so good to be back.   Stay tuned my friends, for there will be more to come!    

Braised Carnitas

Dry Rub
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1 tablespoon  paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon corriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix together in a small bowl.  If you use a 4 pound pork shoulder, you will use all of this rub. If you are using smaller cut of meat, save some for another time or piece of meat.  This would go great on ribs or brisket.  

4-5 pound boneless pork shoulder, skin on
dry rub
1 onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic
6 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
4 dried red chilies
1 cup lard (or butter or shorting)
2 cups chicken stock

Cut pork shoulder into large chunks, about the size of a baseball or Rubik's cube {patting myself on the back with that random visualization analogy}.  Toss pork with the dry rub and let sit ofr at least an hour.  The more time, the better with overnight being best.

Chop onion and peel garlic.  In a large dutch oven, heat lard (or some type of fat/oil) over low heat.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and chilies and cook in oil for 5-10 minutes, until onions are slightly softened and the aromatics are fragrant.

Add pork chunks and stir to coat in the fat and onions.  Cook for another 5 minutes, continually stirring to coat pork in onion mixture.  Add chicken stock to slightly cover the meat.  Put lid on pan and cook in a 250 degree oven for 4-5 hours.

Take pot out of the oven and remove the pork from the liquid so it can cool.  I like to get two cookie sheets out.  One for the pork chunks and one for the pork once it has been shredded.

Pot the pot of liquid back on a burner and bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced by over half.  Strain liquid and then pour the fat off of the top.  What remains should be a very concentrated form of the cooking liquid, full of FLAVOR.

Pull the pork and remove any large pieces of fat or grizzle.  Evenly distribute shredded pork on a cookie sheet.  Spoon reserved liquid over the pork, not all of it but just enough to coat the pork, not soak it.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw the pork in an oven with the broiler on high.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, just until pork is brown and crispy on the top.

Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the toppings.

cotija cheese (or queso blanco)
pico de gallo (tomatoes, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, lime juice salt and pepper)
lime wedges
{more} cilantro
crushed chicharones (fried pork skin...mmm)
hot sauce
sour cream

After that carnitas labor-of-love, it's time to build some tacos.  You know what to do,  Here are some of my favorite toppings!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crab Bisque

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but life and work just tends to get in the way.  A few weeks back, we took a little day trip to Annapolis, Maryland to explore a bit.  We loved it there.  One of the best things about living int he DC area is all of the destinations that are within an hour drive from us. 

While there, we found our way to Cantler's Riverside Inn for a good old Maryland crab-fest.  It was a very primal experience.  Butcher paper covered our picnic table and we just went to town on the crabs with a mallet and a side of melted butter.

Well, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  We ordered a dozen crabs and only ate six, so I decided to whip up a crab bisque with the leftovers. 

I simply adore crab bisque.  In my extensive history or ordering this soup, I have had some duds. Lack of flavor.  Too thin..  Not enough crab, I have also had some gems.  Perfectly crabby.  Thick enough and creamy.  Large chunks of lump crab.  And this recipe is one of those gems.  All of the aromatics create a complex yet delicious flavor in this bisque.  

Even of you don't have leftover Marylend crabs, get some legs from the store and use those to pick the meat and boil the shells.  You will get the same effect and really create a beautiful soup!  

I just realized that around this time last year, I posted the recipe for the Perfect Crab Cakes.  I guess I subconsciously migrate towards crab dishes around this time of the year!  

Crab Bisque
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of cognac
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups seafood stock
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
shells from crabs (if applicable)
2 taeasoons whole peppercorns
4 bay leaves
4 small slices of orange peels
6 sprigs of thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup of lump crab meat

In a large stock pot, melt butter in with the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add the cognac to deglaze the pan.  Next, add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables.  Add the tomato paste and again, stir to coat the vegetables. 

Whisk in the seafood stock and turn heat up to medium high.  Add the cream, milk, crab shells, peppercorns, bay leaves, orange peels, thyme and salt.  Bring soup up to a low boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook the bisque over medium low heat, uncovered, for about 20-30 minutes.  This will allow all of the flavors to marry.  

Once soup has simmered, remove large chunks of veggies and shells from the pot and then pour soup through a find mesh sieve.  Return the strained broth back to the pan. Add the lump crab meat and garnish with freshly chopped chives.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Crispy Crusted Halibut with White Wine Beurre Blanc

Happy Hump Day!  Hope you are all having a lovely week.  Since the last time you heard from me, I have been all over the place.  

Last week was spent at The Highland Dallas and lucky me got to stay at this gorgeous hotel Monday through Friday.  It was a lot of hard work; long days trying to uncover new business and the nights were spent catching up on my normal duties.  Attached to the hotel is a restaurant that is renowned with the locals, The Knife.  Holy delicious!  Most of my meals were ate here and I was spoiled all week eating such amazing food!  

I was home for two days and then headed to New Jersey to be with family (my mother-in-law went through a major heart surgery and all went well!) and New York to meet with clients.  I finally made it back home today and my own bed has never been so inviting.  Plus, I am so sick of planes, trains and automobiles.  Can't wait to settle back into my normal routine.  

With all of these fine foods and dinners I've been eating, I can tell you that this Crispy Crusted Halibut with White Wine Burrre Blanc rivals any fancy restaurant out there.  I made it last weekend and the hubs told me it is the best thing I have ever made (I know, he says that a lot).  What made this different is the homemade mix of breading that I whipped up; part homemade breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and cornmeal.  I think it made all the difference.  It really was quite simple to make and the best part is, you have some leftover wine to drink with dinner!   

Crispy Crusted Halibut
2 halibut filets
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup breading (I used a mix of homemade bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and cornmeal)

Salt and pepper the halibut.  Place flour, egg and breading in three separate dishes.  Beat egg with fork.  Season flour, egg and breading with salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Dip the top of the halibut into the flour, then the egg and finally, the breading.  Place skin side down on a plate and let sit in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Right before you take the fish out of the fridge, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Let the pan get hot and then place the fish in the pan, breading side down. Cook until breading is golden brown.

If filet is thick, place in a 375 degree oven for 5-7 minutes to finish cooking.

*To make homemade breadcrumbs, remove the crust off of old bread.  Let sit out on the counter for a day, flipping a few times throughout the day.  Once bread is dry, cut into large cubes and pulse in a food processor until crumbs form. 

For this breading, I used 2 parts breadcrumbs, 1 part parmesan cheese and 1 part cornmeal.*

White Wine Beurre Blanc
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream
kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Place the shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a pan and heat over medium high heat.  Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced down to about 2-3 tablespoons, a little over half.

Cut butter into 10-12 pieces.  Once liquid has reduced, lower heat and slowly add butter one piece at a time.  Take the pan off the heat frequently so the sauce does not get too hot.  You want to keep whisking vigorously and slowly incorporate the butter, one piece at a time,  into the sauce. Once the butter is all gone, add the cream.  Keep whisking and salt and pepper to taste

Serve over the fish.

This sauce will separate if you let it sit for too long.   Cook the fish first and place it in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you are making the sauce.  Once sauce is completed, immediately serve over the fish.

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