Category Archives: Wine & Food

Crazy Cuisine — Carefully Crock Cooking Carnitas


A plate of tempting carnitas

A plate of tempting carnitas

We have here in El Paso an absolutely marvelous local restaurant chain called Carnitas Queretaro, which oddly enough specializes in carnitas.  And we do love our carnitas, or “little meats” as that translates.  Traditionally this is done with chunks of fatty pork deep fried, but today I’m going to present a delicious and hopefully healthier alternative that I think comes out even better.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One large Boston Butt (pork shoulder) cut in half.  It’s okay to work the knife around the bone and leave it in, or you can go boneless.
  • Chipotle powder. Lots of it.  I get mine, as well as all my other chile powders, from El Potrero Trading Post in Chimayo, New Mexico.  Well worth the expense, believe me.
  • Salt.  Lots of it.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.  Lots of it.
Boston butt, chipotle powder, salt, freshly ground black pepper

Boston butt, chipotle powder, salt, freshly ground black pepper

Season the pork liberally with the chipotle, salt, and black pepper.

Halve the pork shoulder and season well

Halve the pork shoulder and season well

Place each half onto a generous amount of plastic wrap.

Ready to wrap

Ready to wrap

Tightly wrap each half and refrigerate overnight.

Tightly wrapped and ready for the refrigerator

Tightly wrapped and ready for the refrigerator

The next morning start heating a cast iron skillet while you retrieve the pork from the refrigerator and unwrap them.  Get that skillet very, very hot, but not “blackening” hot.  Now place the halves into the skillet, initially fat side down to render out some of the fat and to “grease” the skillet.

Place halves into a very hot skillet fat side down

Place halves into a very hot skillet fat side down

Once the fat side is darkly browned start rotating the halves to sear the remaining sides.

Turn and brown on all sides

Turn and brown on all sides

That step should result in your pork looking like this:

Ready for the next step

Ready for the next step

Place the halves into your slow cooker.  Just the pork, nothing else.  Do not add any liquid.  You’ll see why later.

Into the slow cooker — don't add any liquid!  You won't need it.

Into the slow cooker — don’t add any liquid! You won’t need it.

Cover the slow cooker (I do this to get the crockery up to temperature), turn it on high for an hour, then back off to low for an additional six to seven hours.

High for an hour, then go to low for seven more

High for an hour, then go to low for seven more

Later that afternoon you’ll find out why adding liquid wasn’t necessary when you open up the lid.  By the way, don’t throw out that liquid.  De-fat and save it for something else, like perhaps stock for posolé or menudo.

See?  Told you no additional liquid was necessary.

See? Told you no additional liquid was necessary.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker and allow it to cool enough to cut, shred, and remove excess fat by hand.

Shredding the meat and removing the fat

Shredding the meat and removing the fat

After this step here’s what you should have on hand:

Shredded pork ready for crisping

Shredded pork ready for crisping

Now heat up again that cast iron skillet.  Once it’s searing hot lightly spray it with cooking oil and add one layer of the meat.

Into the hot skillet

Into the hot skillet

Crisp one side, then flip and crisp the other.  Remove and continue with additional layers of meat one layer at a time.

Toasting nicely

Toasting nicely

Now serve with fresh corn tortillas and your favorite sides.  I recommend guacamole, red sauce or salsa, and my world-famous jalapeño “pesto” dip.

Guacamole, red sauce, and my famous jalapeño "pest" sauce

Guacamole, red sauce, and my famous jalapeño “pest” sauce

And what would one of my recipe blogs be without a wine selection?  If you go with spicy accompaniments then a slightly sweet white or rosé suggests itself.  Think along the lines of a Riesling, Viognier, or Gewürztraminer for white; a white zinfandel or perhaps a Spanish rosado for a blush pairing.

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Fun Food Friday — The Hawaiian Shrimp Truck in Your Kitchen


Fresh off the Hawai'ian Shrimp Truck?  You would think so!

Fresh off the Hawai’ian Shrimp Truck? You would think so!

Instead of Fun Photo Friday I’m going with this week’s Hawaiian food theme and presenting a Fun Food Friday. Today I’m going to show you how to make at home that divine Hawaiian Food Truck staple, Hawaiian Garlic Butter Shrimp. You won’t believe how quick, easy, and tasty this dish is.

Ever wish you could get that true, fresh, off-the-truck Hawaiian garlic shrimp taste in the comfort of your own home? Here’s my attempt at doing just that, and it came out tasting very authentic indeed.

Ingredients

Ingredients

What you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds of shrimp
  • 1 ½ heads of garlic
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ heaping tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ stick (4 tbsp.) of butter
  • 1 lemon (optional)

Peel, rinse, and pat dry the shrimp.

Prepped shrimp and peeled garlic

Prepped shrimp and peeled garlic

Peel and chop the garlic.

Chopping garlic

Chopping garlic

Mix together the flour, cayenne pepper, and salt.

Everything ready to go

Everything ready to go

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the butter.

Heat the oil and add the butter

Heat the oil and add the butter

Toss the shrimp into the flour mixture and lightly coat them. If you didn’t pat the shrimp dry beforehand then too much flour will stick to them now. Add the shrimp to the hot oil and butter, but don’t crowd the pan as much as I did here. If you need to cook the shrimp in batches then reserve some of the chopped garlic and add more olive oil and butter to the skillet.

Too many shrimp in the pan!

Too many shrimp in the pan!

Brown the shrimp on one side and then flip them over. Add the chopped garlic.

Brown the shrimp, add garlic

Brown the shrimp, add garlic

When the shrimp are lightly browned on the other side carefully flip the shrimp and garlic several time to coat the shrimp, cook the garlic, and flavor the butter and oil.

Toss in the garlic

Toss in the garlic

At this point you may want to squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, but I prefer this dish without. The garlic and cayenne are flavor enough for me. Serve the shrimps and garlic-butter sauce (pan drippings, in other words) over rice. Ursula made a Swiss-style cucumber salad with this, and the coolness of the cucumber salad was a great counter to the garlic and cayenne pepper.

Served over rice

Served over rice

Variation: I suspect that this garlic shrimp dish would be equally at home over pasta, perhaps topped with some freshly diced Roma tomato and grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese. You might even choose to substitute crushed red pepper for the cayenne to give it a more “Italian” flavor.

Wine pairing: Have to go with a white wine here. And the spices indicate to me that a Pinot Grigio may be the perfect accompaniment. This is especially true if you do the “Italian” variation suggested above. Or perhaps you might try a crisp, semisweet Johannesburg Reisling to offset the spiciness if you decide to increase the cayenne for a fierier version of the traditional Hawaiian style.

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Dim Sum in Shanghai — Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant


Approaching Old Town Shanghai

Approaching Old Town Shanghai

Our last day in Shanghai was a busy one indeed.  In fact, our China Spree guide Mr. Jim Mao positively ran us ragged beginning in the early morning until well into the night.  The day began with a hurried breakfast followed by the Jade Buddhist Temple.

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

We then visited the Old Town and with it the City God Temple of Shanghai to view by daylight the decorations that would be in full, brightly illuminated display during our scheduled return much later that evening.  That afternoon we hit the Shanghai Museum, had dinner, took a night lights river cruise (later blog), and then returned to the Old Town for the Lantern Festival at night (another upcoming blog topic).

Old Town and the City God Temple area

Old Town and the City God Temple area

But for now let’s talk about lunch.  In the City God Temple area of Old Town is the Yuyuan Garden., and alongside the Yuyuan Garden is a very interesting restaurant indeed.

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

But first a little background on how we came upon this delightful hidden gem.  Ursula and I discovered the wonders of Cantonese dim sum some twenty-six years ago on a trip to Hong Kong, and we’ve been craving it ever since.  Indeed we have a brunch date coming up in June at our favorite Boston dim sum restaurant The Empire Garden, but that trip is for another blog series.

Dim Sum Chefs at Work

Dim Sum Chefs at Work

So, what is dim sum?  Think of it as a meal consisting of a dizzying array of appetizers Cantonese-style — a Chinese version of Spanish tapas, as it were.  It’s a fun and tasty way of grazing through myriad delectable treats one small bite at a time.  That brings us to the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, a government-owned eatery so unique that it even has its own Wikipedia entry.  And how popular is this place?  Be prepared for a wait.  A very long wait, as this young patron discovered:

Dim Sum Enthusiasm in the Waiting Area

Dim Sum Enthusiasm in the Waiting Area

When our little group broke up for lunch and a little “me” time in Old Town, Ursula and I asked Jim Mao if we could treat him to lunch.  The stipulation was that he had to take us to the best dim sum restaurant in the area.  Instead, he took us to what is probably the best dim sum restaurant in all of Shanghai, and it was within easy walking distance.  But Nanxiang it turns out is not your usual dim sum restaurant.  Unlike most dim sum restaurants — in which wait staff wheel carts about the one large dining room until flagged down by a hungry patron who then points to what has piqued their curiosity or awakened their taste buds — Nanxiang has several rooms that are stratified by price structure.  Each room serves customers who pledge to spend a specified minimum amount per person.  As such the wait lines are longer for the cheaper rooms, less so as you go up the economic food chain (sorry — just had to say that).

Preparing Dim Sum

Preparing Dim Sum

In Nanxiang you also order off a menu rather than await a traveling cart.  Here’s just a small sampling of what’s available on the menu:

Nanxiang MenuWould you like to drool over what Jim, Ursula, and I decided upon for our leisurely and very tasty lunch once we were finally seated?  Here is a sampling:

Nontraditional Dim Sum

Nontraditional Dim Sum

Traditional Dim Sum

Traditional Dim Sum

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