This meal is entirely inspired by my son Ian. while home for the holidays, i was having a conversation with my wife about the tamales that i was making. two different kinds, chicken and pork, lists of ingredients. all of a sudden, my son just starts laughing uncontrollably. we look at him and ask what he is laughing about. he says “daddy, you said pork butt!” and starts laughing again. his first piece of juvenile humor, very quick start for just being three years old. now, every time i talk to him, he asks me to say pork butt (also in the interest of full disclosure, i am occasionally the one who brings it up). so, because of that, this week’s meal had to be centered around a pork butt roast.
in addition to being a damned tasty piece of meat, the pork butt or boston butt is relatively inexpensive. i like it slow cooked so it develops nicely and falls apart in the crock pot. very very tasty indeed.
this week we are making three dishes, pork carnitas made from the aforementioned pork butt, spicy mashed yams and a stewed butternut squash. my wife will be disappointed, lots of browns and brilliant oranges but no greens on the plate with the exception of the tomatillo salsa for the carnitas. across the board, every thing is a bit on the spicy side which appealed to me as well. i felt the need to purge myself from the inside and there is nothing like a blazing hot dish to sort you out proper. oh, and as an added bonus, i made homemade tortillas for the carnitas. simple, effective and tasty. would have been nice to have my tortilla press here but hey, limited facilities, blah blah blah.
the carnitas: I sourced the original recipe from epicurious, as one would expect if you have ever read my blog but honestly, a recipe really isn’t needed for this. Do you have a slow cooker? do you have a large chunk of meat? do you have spices? ok, we are in business. i modified proportions of ingredients to fit my tastes of course. start with a 2 pound pork butt roast and cut it into large cubes. drop the cubes and 2 quartered yellow onions into the slow cooker. season well with salt, pepper and dried oregano. cook until meat is tender and falling apart. i think my slow cooker may be inferior, the original recipe called for 6 hours, it took close to 10 until i was happy with the consistency. bottom line, cook it until its done! because of the fat content, you don’t need any cooking liquid over the meat as we did with the brisket a while back. this will cook nicely in it’s own juices and come out wonderfully flavored. the original recipe calls for the onions to be removed after cooking down the meat but i left them in, i like onions. serve out the meat with a slotted spoon to drain it on the way out. to serve, dice up a ripe avocado, some fresh cilantro and a nice healthy dollop of the tomatillo salsa detailed below. serve on freshly made corn tortillas.
tomatillo salsa: again, i’ve made my share of salsas in the past so really didn’t need a recipe but here is a link to the original recipe. i modified this by adding 6 cloves of garlic, a bit of oregano and increasing the serrano peppers to 6. like i said, i like it a little on the spicy side. this was great with chips the day after as well. toss all your ingredients minus the cilantro in an oven-proof pan and roast in a 375 degree oven for about an hour. transfer the roasted ingredients into a large mouthed jar and stir in the cilantro. break out your handy dandy immersion blender and go to town. refrigerate until chilled.
Spicy Mashed Yams: This recipe was intended as a puree but i backed off on the liquid ingredients to give it more of a mashed potato consistency. also, i soaked the dried peppers in hot water for thirty minutes before adding to the recipe. sourced from epicurious but modified along the way. here is how i made the dish. bake four large yams at 375 for a little over an hour. they should be soft and a bit mushy by that point. carefully remove them from your baking dish and peel them. the skins came right off for me but i think i may have earned an extra layer of calluses from the heat. be careful, these puppies are hot right out of the oven. set aside. in a large pot, boil the reconstituted dried peppers (Guajillo peppers in my case) in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. watch it closely, you don’t want to scorch the cream. once it comes to a boil, carefully transfer in the yams and 2 tbsp of butter. stir well and then hit it with the immersion blender to smooth it out. salt to taste and heat on medium low heat until ready to serve.
Stewed Butternut squash: ok, this is a recipe that i just had a concept for and kinda just went at it. i knew i wanted a squash dish this week and butternut seemed the way to go. first, take a butternut squash, peel it and deseed it. cut the usable flesh into large chunks. then, boil the squash in chicken broth for about 15 minutes or until it starts to soften. strain out the majority of the chicken broth and add in 6 diced jalapenos and 2 diced tomatoes. salt and pepper to taste. stir well and cook slowly until everything else is ready to serve.
the tortillas: there are plenty of recipes out there for tortillas, such a basic food, you would think there wouldn’t be much variation. well, the addition or non-addition of lard seems to be the biggest difference. i opted this time for a basic recipe, 2 cups of masa, 1 1/3 cups water and a sprinkle of salt. bring the dough together and knead until combined well. separate into small balls and form into flat circles, as flat as you can get them. using two plastic bags and a rolling pin was an okay method but i think i would definitely prefer to have a tortilla press to take the pain away. once the tortillas are formed, fry on a dry griddle for about a minute per side, turning twice. the tortillas should puff up after the first flip if you are on the right track. mine were passable but definitely not the best tortillas i have ever eaten. i made them extra large and the were quite suitable for holding carnita ingredients.
alongside this fine meal, i made some quite decent michiladas. there is a korean beer called Black Beer Stout and although it is a far cry from a stout, it is passable as a black lager and as such, was a great starting point for a chilled glass with a salted rim, wedge of lime and sprinkling of tabasco.
another tasty meal down, 10 more to go. i feel the pressure to make sure i give these last meals my all, making sure that i get out all that i want to say. it’s strange to me, this project started with a limited shelf life but in the end i think i will miss the process of sharing my weekly exploits. i certainly won’t miss the reason i am doing it, being back with my family will probably make me forget all about it 🙂 i have been discussing a transformation into a long form project but i will have to see how that develops.