I was a Mexican in another life. Of this I am entirely convinced, especially since I am prone to bouts of fluent Spanish. Sure, some say it’s the tequila talking, but when I drink Vodka I don’t start waxing poetic in Russian. Nor do I take on a Scottish brogue when I sip on scotch. I’ve always had an affinity for the language, the food, the country and the culture of Mexico. Are you running on Mexican time? No problemo, because I am too. In fact, I was born on Mexican time–about three weeks late–and I’ve never quite been able to catch up. Just ask my sister.
I’ve had many fun adventures eating, drinking (ahem) and dancing my way all around Mexico. I’ve been to the tops (and inside) of the incredible pyramids, bartered for silver jewelry, snorkeled in the crystal blue Caribbean in the Yucatan, had tequila poppers poured down my throat at Papas an Beer, and explored the Zona Rosa in Mexico City. I’ve sipped pina coladas in a restaurant deep in the steamy jungle near Puerto Vallarta, and eaten mole in the lovely mountain town of Puebla where the complex sauce was conceived. I’ve gotten sick. So sick. And once I was riding in a taxi when the driver ran over a stray dog. Ah Mexico. Such memories!
I haven’t been back for a few years, mostly because of the nasty drug issue. Perhaps I’m over-reacting. I’m quite sure there are safe enough places for Americans to travel to, but I’m erring on the side of caution for now and remembering my beloved Mexico with my cooking instead. We have Mexican food often in this house. Luckily for me, the kids all seem to like it, or at least one portion of the meal. My daughter, being a vegetarian, is a huge fan of beans. The boys prefer meat tacos, especially crispy carnitas served on warm corn tortillas.
Have you made tortillas from scratch before? I picked up a package of Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina the other day at the market. Masa, the Spanish word for dough, is the traditional dough that’s used to make corn tortillas. It’s made by soaking and cooking dried corn kernels in limewater. The kernels are then ground up into masa. Masa harina is flour that is made by drying the masa. To make tortillas, you simply need to add some warm water and salt to the masa harina, shape the dough into disks and cook them on a hot griddle for a for a couple of minutes. They are so easy to make and they are way better than store bought tortillas. I’m not one to advocate for buying lots of kitchen gadgets, however the $15 I spent on the tortilla press (which folds neatly and stores easily) was well worth it.
Anyway, with Cinco de Drinko er…Mayo just around the corner, I thought you might enjoy one of my very favorite recipes that I make at least once a month. This particular cut of pork (butt or shoulder) is cheap, and must be cooked all afternoon. But it is incredibly tender and juicy and frankly out of this world. I often buy the biggest roast I can find and then freeze half of it after it’s cooked and cooled so I have a quick and easy dinner set aside for another night.
Top these delectable tacos with some chopped cilantro and onions, some avocado slices, and some spicy salsa. And don’t forget the margaritas! ¡Salud! And have a fabulous weekend!
- 2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder or butt
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 C stock (beef or chicken is fine)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- juice from ½ an orange (about 1 ounce)
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat (I use my le creuset--you'l want something with a lid). Add a glug of olive oil to the pan. Season meat well with salt and pepper, then brown quickly on each side (about 2 minutes per side).
- Add stock, orange zest and juice, onions and garlic. Place lid on pot and put in the oven. Bake for 2 hours or until meat is almost fork tender. Remove lid (and keep it off), drain off all but ½ C juice and return to the oven for another hour, turning meat halfway through. This will help brown the pork nicely.
- Remove from oven and shred meat, discarding any fatty bits. If you like your carnitas tender and juicy, stop here. If you like them crispy (like me), place the meat on a large rimmed cookie sheet and set under the broiler for a few minutes or until all the meat is dark golden brown and crackling hot. Serve with corn tortillas, chopped cilantro and green onions, guacamole and salsa.