Our friend the pig triumphs again
August 31, 2015
The next time you’re in the grocery and they have pork shoulder roasts/Boston butts on sale, get you a couple of them to stash in the fridge. Then, the next time you want to feed a herd, get one of them out and do this.
Then email me and thank me, as well as my friend Kris, who sent along this recipe, and to whom I will forever be indebted.
Because, people? This stuff? Is GOOD. Sweet Baby Jesus good. It makes a gracious plenty, depending on how big a piece of pork shoulder you started with; it gets done in advance and just finishes in the oven, making it ideal for big group meals.
Plus, the Mexican rice marks the first time I have ever succeeded in making Mexican rice that vaguely resembled the stuff you get at the restaurant, tinged orange, not sticky, and fluffy, with a faint but very good “Mexican-ish” taste, as opposed to a glutinous glop.
The arepas, albeit not what I wanted, which were the soft, foldable pancakes like I got at the Venezuelan restaurant, were quite tasty in their own right. And the beans weren’t bad, either. All in all, I’ll take it.
First, the carnitas. I’m not sure how big this baby was; I know I cooked it in a dry rub with no added water in the slow cooker, ditched very nearly a quart of juice/fat after that. Four of us ate heartily on it, and I still put three one-pound packages of pulled pork in the freezer. It must have been a good 8 pounds to start with. That had been in the freezer for a month; I pulled it out, thawed it in the fridge, and patted it down with a dry rub containing:
- 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp. coriander
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 medium white onion, finely minced, for which I substituted 1 tbsp onion powder
That made enough rub to thoroughly coat the roast, which I had whacked into about half a dozen manageable sized chunks. It went into a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and into the fridge to repose for the evening.
Next morning, I got it out, packed it into the slow cooker, turned it on low and went away, about 9:30 a.m. About 6:30 or 7, I took it out, pulled it, picking out the chunks of fat that were left, as well as pulling the bone, and roughy shredded the meat. It filled a 7 x 11 baking dish to the brim; I covered it with foil and stashed it back in the fridge.
I did have plans to fry it, to get the crispy carnita-ish finish on the meat, but lack of stovetop space convinced me to just reheat in the oven. I loosened the foil so it would get some air circulation, and I got some crispy bits on top.
Kris — consummate cook, gardener and dog-trainer — cooks hers in the pressure cooker. I don’t have such a creature, though I’ve contemplated getting one. I can report the slow cooker works Just Fine, and I am going to make up a pint of this rub and use it on doggoned near everything that wants even a vaguely Mexican flavor profile. It was magnificent. And the slow-cooker process meant the flavor was cooked all through the meat. The final flavor would have been enhanced with a few wedges of lime to squeeze over and cut the richness, but it was doggoned good as it was.
Now. This rice. I am so tickled with this rice. And it’s dead easy, too.
Take two cups of rice, dump it in a strainer, and rinse it under running water for at least a couple of minutes to get the starchy layer off it. Shake off the excess water, and set the strainer on something so it can continue to drain. Meanwhile, combine about 12 ounces of tomato — either fresh or canned — and a half a medium onion, cut in chunks, in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add tomato juice, or bottled salsa, or whatever tomato-ey thing you have, to make two cups. Set aside.
Put the drained rice into about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil heated over medium high heat in a Dutch oven or oven-safe skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Stir until rice beings to look translucent. Add half a dozen cloves of minced garlic (I used, as is my wont, garlic confit, and used more because it’s milder, but that’s how I roll). Continue to saute until the garlic is fragrant, another 90 seconds or so, and then add the pureed tomato and two cups of chicken broth. Add, as well, about 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp smoked paprika or other mild chile pepper powder of your choice. Stir well, put the lid on, and move it to the 350-degree oven where your pork is reheating.
Then you can make your arepas. I am not done with attempting arepas like the Venezuelan restaurant makes, but these are no slouch.
Puree a pint of fresh or thawed corn kernels with a cup of water and a cup of whole milk. Transfer to a bowl and add 2 1/2 cups of masa precocida, also sometimes called masarepa, which is a precooked corn flour. You can do these with masa harina, and I have, but they are not nearly as good. Add a sprinkle of Lawry’s seasoned salt. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes to thicken. Pat out arepas of your chosen size — I like burger sized, about a half-inch thick. Cook in about 1/8 inch vegetable oil over medium heat until browned and crispy; use a lid during half the cooking to ensure they get done all the way through.
Allegedly one can cut these partially in half, a la a pita, and fill them. I did not try this, though I’m thinking of doing one with avocado, tomato and queso fresco for lunch today. I saved the extra — this makes a dozen — because it seemed to me they would reheat well in the oven.
The beans were pretty simple — I soaked a pound of cranberry beans overnight, and cooked them with ham, some ancho chile powder, some oregano and a couple of bay leaves, just to give them a Latino flavor profile to go with the rest of the meal. Worked. Doggoned good beans.
I had avocados and tomatoes I was going to cut up to go with this, but y’know, I forgot. Sue me.
So, the next time you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are cooking for a crowd, think about serving them this. It’s different, it’s good, it’s not that complicated and can be mostly done in advance. I highly recommend it.