Monday, January 12, 2015

Slow Cooker: Carnitas Tacos and Borolotti Bean Soup

Meal 1: The best tacos ever!
Sweden has gone crazy for texmex.  The stores are filled with brightly wrapped flour tortillas and packaged taco spice mix. Friday night tacos has become a tradition all over the country, complete with crispy corn taco shells and jarred salsa.  For
Meal 2: Wonderful, warming soup!
me, this is a blast from the past as I re-live my 1970s Amerian childhood. To be honest, I am quite fond of a good crispy taco, even one with ground beef spiced out of a packet and packaged taco shells.  It is comforting and it tastes good.  It has nothing, however, to do with a taco as the Mexicans eat them, as a street food, and one of the most delectable things on earth, in my opinion.

One of my favorite tacos (although I really love them all) is carnitas...shredded crispy bits of pork, topped with a bit of onion, cilantro, and avacado, all wrapped in a freshly made soft corn tortilla.  Here in Sweden, the only way I am going to get that is to make it myself.  And really, it is not hard.  Except for the tortillas; I will have to make do with flour instead of corn tortillas.

This dish is easy to make on a weeknight, if you have the help of one of my favorite guessed it, the slow cooker!  Just pop the pork in and when you come home in the evening, the delicious scent of roasted pork will have filled your kitchen.  Then you simply shred or chop the pork, chop up some toppings, lay them out and let everyone make their own! 

To be really authentic with the pork, after you chop it up, you should get some crispy edges in.  I like to simply stick my chopped up pork under the broiler until some pieces are crispy but others are still moist and juicy.  However, if this step is too fiddly, just skip it. 

I also love this recipe because the meat can be served in so many ways.  I like to double the amount of meat I need so I can get at least two meals out of it.  With one half of the meat, I will have tacos.  The next day,  I will have bean and pork soup.  Other choices would be to serve the pork  on a bed of rice with some stir-fried veggies and soysauce.  Or, if I was even lazier, I could make a pulled pork sandwich by just mixing the meat with a bit of BBQ sauce and spreading it over a crusy baguette.  Either way, this is easy and all kinds of good!

Basic Pork Recipe
Enough for 2 meals for 4 to 6 persons

4 to 6 pound pork shoulder (about 2 kilos)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
grated zest of one orange
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

The night before you want the pork, mix together spices in a bowl.  You can choose your own spices, depending on what you like and what you have in your cupboard.  For carnitas, oregano, cumin, and orange zest are traditional.  Rub spice mixture all over pork shoulder, rubbing vigorously.  Put the pork in your slow cooker bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. Don't be tempted to cut off any outside fat on your pork shoulder. These fat bits will melt down and will add incredible flavor and moistness to your pork.

The next morning, put the slow cooker bowl with meat (nothing else, no oil or water is necessary) in the slow cooker and turn on.  Cook at the setting from 6 to 10 hours, depending on when you need your meat to be ready.  If you do not have a slow cooker, you can simply put the meat in the oven in a covered casserole dish.  Cook at 350 degrees for 3 hours, until the meat is tender and falling apart.

When the cooking is finished, take the meat out of the bowl.  Pour any accumulated juices in another bowl or jug.  Shred the meat with two forks into bite sized pieces.  Don’t discard the fatty part!  This will crisp up beautifully in the broiler. Wet the shredded meat with some of the juices that you saved.  If you would like, at this point you can put the shredded meat in the oven with the broiler on until some of the pieces go a bit crispy.  This pork is so delicious, that you have to stop yourself from eating it all right away with your fingers.  I am sure you can think of nice ways to serve this delicious meat, but here are some of my favorite ways:

Mexican Carnitas Tacos
Serves 6

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped finely
1 yellow or white onion, chopped finely
1 avocado, peeled, and chopped into small pieces
Corn tortillas, either purchased or home-made (warmed in microwave or oven)

Put out all the garnishes in bowls and allow everyone to make their own tacos by taking a warmed tortilla, place some meat along the center, garnish with the cilantro, onion, avocado and tomato, as you please.  Consume quickly.

Borlotti Bean and Pork Soup
Serves 6 to 8
This soup will be subtly flavored with the spices that were used on the pork rub, so the added flavorings are simply  onion and garlic.
About 1 pound (500 grams) dried borlotti beans or other beans of your choice.
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
2 to 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
250 grams frozen chopped kale or spinach (about half a bag)
salt and pepper to taste
Leftover pork and any juices
parsley and parmesan cheese to garnish

The night before you want to make the soup, pour the dried beans into a large bowl and cover generously with water and soak them over night.  In the morning, drain the beans and put them into the slow cooker, along with the leftover pork and juices.  Chop up the onion and the garlic cloves and add to the pot.  Add in the frozen kale.  Add water until it covers the beans by an inch or so.  Add in 2 vegetable cubes and a generous grinding of pepper.  Turn on the cooker and let cook for  6 to 8 hours.  You can also simply do this in a big pot on the stove.  Put the ingredients in the pot, bring the water to a boil, and then turn down the heat to the lowest setting and let simmer.  When the beans are tender, the soup is done.  Taste the soup and add another bouillon cube if it needs more salt.  Serve with chopped parsley and grated parmesan on top.

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