I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pressure Cooked-Deconstructed Carnitas Tacos with Salsa Verde and Guacamole

I am a big fan of Mexican food and tacos rank up there as one of my all-time favorite food. Not just any tacos but carnitas tacos served with fresh salsa on a piece of fresh tortilla. The best tacos have the most balanced flavor between the meatiness of the pork and the tanginess of the salsa. 

For the basic recipe, I chose the recipe by Kenji Lopez (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/07/no-waste-tacos-de-carnitas-with-salsa-verde-recipe.html)

As usual, I had to improvise. For one, I don't have fresh tortilla here. I also don't have 3.5 hours to spend. So whenever I see a recipe that requires 3.5 hours of cooking, I turn to my trusted kitchen equipment - pressure cooker. 

This is Kenji's recipe. My note is highlighted. Kenji listed recipes for the carnitas and the salsa together. Below I separated it.

For the carnitas (the way I served it, as a main dish in a meal, it yielded 5-6 generous servings. To put it into perspective, if this is a road-side Taco truck or Taco stand, this would yield about 12 Tacos, as Kenji has correctly estimated in his recipe)

Half medium onions (I used yellow onion)
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes (I used 1kg of pork shoulder. I separated the fatty layer from the meaty layer. Everything was cooked together but the fatty layer was thrown away at the end)
Kosher salt
1 medium orange
6 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces (I substituted with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (this is crazy amount of oil. The meat itself is quite fatty so i just used a splash of oil)
2 jalapeƱo peppers, split in half lengthwise, stem removed (I didn't use this)
3 limes, cut into wedges (for the carnitas i used 2 limes)
1 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta (I don't have this)
24 corn tortillas (I don't have this)

Salsa Verde
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (I played by ear. I didn't use this much. It is all up to you)
6 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and split in half (I don't have tomatillos so i bought 3 under-ripped medium size tomatoes)

3 medium size avocados
chopped onion
chopped under-ripped medium size tomato

For the Carnitas
1. I mixed all the ingredients, according to the list above, in the pressure cooker.
2. Since I used a pressure cooker, I needed liquid so I added water until it barely covers the meat. 
3. Cooked everything on high heat until the pressure has built up then turn the heat low and cooked for 20 minutes.
4. Depressurize the pressure cooker. Stir the meat. Add salt if needed. Return to the heat.
5. Cook in the pressure cooker for another 20 minutes. 
6. Take the meat out and drain the juice. (keep all the juice)
7. Break the meat into small pieces.
8. Heat the cast iron pan until very hot then sear the meat until brown bits appeared. Don't over cook it.
9. Drizzle the meat juice and squeeze some lime juice to serve.

For the salsa verde
1.  A lot of what I did was based on feel. I like tomato so i added more tomatoes. I don't like raw onion so I added less. Add cilantro, salt and lime juice to your preferred taste. 

For the guacamole
1. I used three avocados. Could have used two
2. Also a lot of it is based on feel. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, onion, salt and lime juice to your preferred taste. 

In the end, I don't have tortilla bread so I ate it with rice. I must say, it is better with tortilla bread. It just does not feel right eating carnitas with rice. I think the sourness of the salsa does not go well with rice. 

As a whole, I think this dish is great. Kenji's recipe (at least the ingredient) works. My method is different but it is a tried and tested method that I often use. I think that's how Mexican taquerias cook their carnitas - in a big pot of juice.  

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