(Sorry there are no photos because I realized something: I suck at photographing meat. It was also so delicious that it didn’t last long.)
When I was a little kid my idea of Mexican food consisted of bean and cheese burritos and chips with bean dip. I didn’t even venture into salsa until well into my teens. I know, I was the whitest little kid ever. I remember my mom would get batches of homemade tamales from her friends and I would never eat them. They looked weird. What was with the leaves they were wrapped in? No thank you.
Now that I am well into my adulthood and also dating someone who knows his way around some good Mexican food there are now several things I love, tamales among them. Every once in a while Vahid will make wonderful frijoles from scratch and they are the best thing ever. About once a month I will make a big batch of carnitas and we eat them throughout the week. Usually I would make them on the stove cooking them for a few hours. Recently I have adapted the recipe to make them in the slow cooker which is so much more convenient. I can set it to cook overnight and wake up to wonderful delicious food in the morning.
Slow Cooker Carnitas:
- 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into chunks
- 2 stips of bacon to line the bottom of the slow cooker (optional)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoon oregano
- ground black pepper or ground nigella seeds to taste
- apple cider vinegar
- (optional: ½ teaspoon ground garlic or one chopped up garlic clove; dash of onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper)
- Chop of your pork into about 2 inch chunks
- Line the slow cooker with strips of bacon if using then cover the bottom with the pork
- add your seasonings as evenly as you can. (Note: if using the optional seasonings you can omit the oregano. I try to limit my garlic and onion consumption due to the cognitive effects they can have and sometimes cayenne upsets my digestion so I sub oregano to add a delightful flavor)
- cook on low for 8-10 hours
- Pork should be soft and easily pulled apart when done
- After cooking add some apple cider vinegar to the cooked pork. It adds a delightful tartness to the meat
Now I’m sure this isn’t an authentic recipe or anything but I call it carnitas and it’s delicious in a taco or burrito or anything else you want to put it in. It has a great taste and is savory with just the right amount of flavor and is great as a base for guacamole or salsa. Sometimes I’ve even added some to my eggs to make a quick scramble in the morning.
If you try out this recipe let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Last week Vahid and I went out on a Thursday night for a date night. We got all dressed up and headed out for cocktails and a nice dinner at two places we hadn’t been before. We headed down to NW 23rd and had some amazing cocktails at The Fireside. The place has a great atmosphere and the drink menu is a great one. The food looked delicious, although we didn’t have any this time around.
We then headed to a place I seem to see all the time in Portland, Touché. I’ve been wanting to go there for the longest time but never seem to make the time to go there. Or rather whenever I see the building I think, “Oh yeah I want to go there for happy hour.” Then the thought fades away as the building fades from sight. When I saw a groupon pop up for the place I snagged it and mentally made a note for a future date night. The food was okay. I had a pasta dish with chicken in a tomato cream sauce and Vahid had a hazelnut crusted chicken breast served over rice and a cranberry dish. I really liked my food while I ate it but the next day when I was thinking back over dinner I didn’t find myself remembering it fondly the way I do a really good dish. I thought it was good but nothing too spectacular. I’d say it’s on par with The Old Spaghetti Factory which is a chain restaurant with much cheaper prices. Vahid’s chicken was a bit on the dry side and his sides were more flavorful than the main dish. We’ve made better chicken at home. It was a bit disappointing and I am glad we went there with a groupon and saved a bit of money.
What spawned our date night was actually my Christmas gift to Vahid. It’s a year of dates all pre-planned and where I could, prepaid for, and nicely sealed in an envelope. Each month is something we have never done before but have always wanted to do. It’s a way to experience more of Portland while also making sure we carve some time out for each other minus all the distractions that come from everyday life. There is only one month that is something we have done before but the locations are different and I just wanted to make time to do this summer as the season for this is incredibly short.
In February we are going on a brunch cruise down the Willamette River. Some of the envelopes contain something simple like January, a nice dinner a place we haven’t been and perhaps a show afterwards, some are adventures or day trips, some are going to places we always say we want to go but never make time to do so.
While I feel that I perhaps didn’t start the year out strong it’s hard to find something to do in the dead of winter. No one wants to go hiking when the trail is just mud and it’s raining and you’re wet and you are most definitely not having fun.
I am really looking forward to these each month, almost as much as Vahid is. I hope you’ll continue along with me as I share each new envelope and what’s in store for us this month!