Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pulled Pork vs. Carnitas: Pulled makes a comeback

Previously I touted the superiority of carnitas when it comes to preparing a pork shoulder. I stand by the assertion, but I just made some pulled pork that closes the gap.

This technique is not how most people make pulled pork. Its more like an indian dish at the beginning, make a masala to build intense flavor, then braise the meat with this masala. But there are more European elements. The meat is seared first and braised in a liquid more common to a tuscan stew. The braising liquid becomes a bbq sauce then it is mixed together at the end like a southern pulled pork.

The flavor in this is interesting. It isn't exactly a tomato base, but there is tomato in it. The vegetables, particularly the parsnips, make a potent base. Then the cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika combine to make a sweet and intense sauce.

Dutch oven, sized appropriately for the hunk of pork. I used an enameled cast iron pot.

4-5 pound pork roast. Shoulder or boston butt, bone in is probably better but not necessary.
.25 cups canola oil
.5 cups finely diced onion
.5 cups finely diced carrot
.5 cups finely diced parsnip (thats right, parsnips)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups diced tomato. I used 5 plum.

1 T cumin seeds
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 T coriander
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 T salt
.5 tsp ground mustard

Braising liquid:
2 cups stock, chicken and/or lamb. I used a homemade combination of both.
1 cup red wine
.25 cups balsamic vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
bay leaf

Preheat over to 300 F.
Liberally salt the pork on all sides. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to bring it close to room temperature.

Put the canola oil in the dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds.

When the seeds sizzle, add the onion, carrot, parsnips, and cinnamon stick. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic for about 2 minutes.

Once all the vegetables are soft but not browned, stir in the rest of the spices, let it cook for about 1 minute.

Remove the masala from the pot to a separate dish.

Braised Pork
Sear the pork on all sides. It should get a nice browning.

Add the masala and the tomato. Pour in the braising liquid until the meat is 2/3 covered. This is important. 2/3 of the meat should be covered. This leads to proper braising.

Scrape up anything on the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on, put in the oven for 3-4 hours (3 for a 4 pound roast, 4 for a 5).

When its done, remove from oven, take the lid off and let it cool for an hour or 2. It is important to cool the meat in the liquid or will get dry.

When the meat is cooled off (it doesn't have to be room temperature, just cool enough to handle) move it to a big bowl. Shred it by taking two forks, simply pulling it apart.

BBQ Sauce:
Return the pot of braising liquid to the stove, (remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf) simmer until reduced by about half. You are looking for an intensely flavored liquid because when you mix it with the pork, the pork has a calming effect on the spices. Taste the reduction, add salt or sugar is needed.

Now we have a decision to make. This pot is chock full of pork fat. Highly saturated, cholesterol laden, delicious, delicious pork fat. So you can use that pork fat or remove a good deal of it. If you choose to remove the fat, let the pot cool for a bit, then put it in the fridge over night. The fat will congeal on top then you can easily take it off.

This is just the braising liquid pureed. Dump it in a food processor or use a hand blender to smooth it out. I used a hand blender to puree it while still warm in the pot. If you cooled it off in the fridge, you might have to warm it up again, but maybe not.

Pulled Pork:
Mix some of the bbq sauce with the shredded pork. Amount is up to you, depends how wet you like it. Serve on a roll or with some cole slaw.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mushroom and Figs

I made an interesting accompaniment with baby bella mushrooms and dried mission figs. Went well with some breaded baked chicken, but pork chops would be good also.

Quart of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Onion finally diced, about half cup
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
Chopped parsley
Balsamic vinegar

Dozen dried mission figs, quartered
Cup of white win, half oz butter

Sauce pan
Frying pan

Toss the figs, wine, and butter into the suace pan. Simmer until reduced by half.

In the fry pan, saute the onion and garlic with olive oil. Add the mushrooms and some more oil if needed.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Strain the wine and fig mixture into the mushrooms. Add the parsley and splash of balsamic.

Season, stir, and reduce.

Good stuff.

Moving, Packing, and Tools

I'm moving back to Maryland! And soon, should be back in early August. So I've been packing. As I go through my kitchen stuff I thought it a good time to communicate some of my favorite tools.

In general, I like to follow the Alton Brown maxim: No single use tools. Except for the fire extinguisher.

I like silicon spatulas. They can do nearly everything, won't melt, dishwasher safe, and they aren't expensive.

I have some other ones as well, but you get the idea.

But they don't fully replace a good wooden spoon. Gotta have a good flat edge wooden spoon for scraping stuff on pans.

These are the ones Ruhlman is trying to sell, but I would just buy a similar item at Marshalls or something.

Sheet pans are essential. Nice heavy ones. Not coated. Restaurant supply stores are the place to get them. Those flimsy ones that warp at 450 F are pointless.

I do have a coated pan, but I use parchment paper or foil to line the pan when needed; thus, coated isn't very useful.

To go with the sheet pans, I like to use a rack. Its nice for things that need air on both sides like bacon or breaded chicken.

I love my All-Clad 10" fry pan.

I have a part of a set of a Calphalon One Infused Anondized (not coated). They are good pans, but they warp on the flat top electric. Thankfully, I'll have gas back in Maryland.

I use a coated cast iron pot for all kinds of stuff. It's a dutch oven, a stock pot, a rice cooker, and on and on. It's like a Le Crueset, but cheaper because its made in China.

One of the most versatile little tools I have is a dough cutter. I rarely cut dough. But it makes a great garlic smasher, its safer then a knife for moving dices onions from board to pan, and its even good for scraping counter tops.