Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Kinds of Tacos: Carnitas and Braised Greens

Both of these taco fillings are delicious, both separately and together. The carnitas is one of my absolute favorite taco fillings--crispy yet moist, flavorful, and spicy. The braised greens are also terrific, and provide a great option if you have vegetarians in the, they're tasty enough for everyone to enjoy. Although they seem like an unusual taco filling (to me, at least), Rick Bayless writes that they're actually traditional! Be sure to have plenty of fixings to go around--tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, rice, guacamole, and anything else you like for topping tacos.

For a truly tasty taco, save the liquid from making the carnitas--we used it to make rice, and it resulted in rice that was quite spicy and totally delicious. It's a great use for a flavorful liquid that you might otherwise toss, and it really adds something great to the tacos.

Finally, I think these tacos are great for a picnics and outdoor eating--but only if the location is close by. We had these for our 4th of July picnic in Ohio, but that was just in our backyard. People were able to load up their plates with tacos and sides inside, and then eat out back. These probably have too many components to be worth it for packing up and taking to another location (plus it would be hard to keep everything hot). But, I definitely recommend these tacos for backyard picnics!

Carnitas (from Hot Sauce Blog, recipe here, easily halved)

7 pounds pork butt or boneless pork country ribs
1 very large onion, quartered
5 chipotles in adobo, seeded and chopped
3 T adobo sauce from the chipotles
1 T cumin
1 T coriander
1 T oregano
1 T salt
2 bay leaves
2-3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
2 T vegetable oil

1. Cut the pork into 10 large chunks and place in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the vegetable oil. Add more stock as needed to cover the pork. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 3 hours, until the meat easily pulls apart with a fork. Remove pork to a platter, let cool slightly, and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Don't remove any pieces of fat--they will render in the next step and make everything more delicious.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large baking dish with the vegetable oil and then add the pork. Toss gently, and then roast in the oven uncovered for about 30 minutes, until sizzling and crispy.

Braised Greens (from Rick Bayless's Everyday Mexican)

1 12 ounce bunch Swiss chard, washed (or collard greens, kale, etc.), sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
Salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large pan. Cook onion until brown but not completely soft, 4-5 minutes.

2. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to the onions and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, a generous pinch of salt, and the greens. Reduce heat to low and braise, covered, for about 5 minutes, until greens are barely tender but not quite done.

3. Remove cover from greens and cook until the moisture is mostly evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

And here are the awesome patriotic star cookies we made for dessert...yum! They're just this Christmas cookie recipe for rolled sugar cookies with 4th of July shapes and colors.

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