I decided to focus on Mexican flavors this week because I believe that Mexican cuisine is one of the hardest to master. The complex flavors are usually produced by numerous spices cooked together during hours of simmering creating layers of taste. In an attempt to save myself from spending the whole weekend standing over the stove, I have created a recipe that will save you some time! The main component for this week is carnitas, shredded pork simmered long and slow in citrus, spices, beer and its own juices. I am not sure that there is anything more delicious than that! You can use this carnitas recipe to make the chile verde enchiladas, or tacos and burritos. I usually make a large batch of it so that it will last for a few days of leftovers.
Let’s start with the carnitas! I like to prep all of my ingredients and cook the meat the night before I plan to make enchiladas. This gives the meat time to cook and in the morning I throw it in the fridge to cool. When I get home it’s cold enough to shred and is ready to go.
2 lb. Pork roast, seasoned with salt and pepper
½ medium white onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ bottle of beer (I usually use Corona)
Juice of 1 orange (squeeze the juice and throw in the rest of the fruit for flavor)
2 bay leaves
The easiest cooking you will ever do. Throw all of the ingredients in your slow cooker, in no particular order, turn to low and walk away. Cook the meat overnight for about 10-12 hours (8 hours would definitely be enough time also). In the morning, when the meat is ready (and so soft it is falling apart), drain the liquid and place the whole pot in the fridge. Let cool for at least 3 hours, or until cool enough to shred.
If you want to make authentic carnitas, you will need to fry the shredded meat in a small amount of oil to achieve crispiness and maximum flavor! Over medium-high heat, place an even layer of meat in a saucepan with hot oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Don’t stir the meat! Leave it in place for a minute or two to reach maximum crispiness. Then mix, crisp again and you’re ready for anything.
If you would rather wrap the carnitas in corn tortillas filled with cheese and topped with chile verde sauce, you should definitely try these enchiladas. Now, I know how easy it is to run to the store and pickup a can of enchilada sauce. But, you know that authentic flavor you get at a great Mexican restaurant? You can create that at home and it’s actually very simple. Only a few ingredients are needed to make my chile verde sauce.
Chile Verde Sauce
1 lb. tomatillos
2 green bell peppers
1 jalapeno, membrane and seeds removed
3 Anaheim chiles, membrane and seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
1 handful cilantro, no stems
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry masa (for tortillas or tamales)
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Coarsely chop vegetables and blend in a food processor until smooth. Strain the puree through a sieve, squeezing all of the liquid into a medium bowl. Add ½ cup of pureed vegetables left on the top of the sieve (this will give your sauce a little bit of body) back to the liquid and return to a medium pot on medium heat. Cook until simmering.
Combine chicken stock, masa, sugar and vinegar in a cup until homogenous. If you do not dissolve the masa in these room temperature liquids, they will clump up when they touch hot liquid. Whisk masa mixture and pour into vegetable puree while stirring. Return sauce to a simmer again and cook 15-20 minutes. The simmering will allow water to evaporate from your sauce, making it thicker and concentrating the flavors. The sauce will be ready when you achieve the consistency you are looking for- you know, like enchilada sauce! Once your sauce is ready, set aside and begin assembling your enchiladas.
In a medium saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of corn oil (it is important to use corn, canola or vegetable oil here. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than other oils and may cause a smoky mess in your kitchen before you are finished preparing your tortillas). Heat your oil over medium/high heat and when hot, dip your tortillas in the oil using tongs. About one minute on each side should soften the tortillas so you can roll them (if not, they will definitely crack). Place the tortillas on a large cutting board after each is done and don’t be afraid to overlap them…they will stay warm and soft.
Chile verde sauce
12 ea. corn tortillas (I prefer yellow corn: J)
3 cups Monterey jack cheese (1 ½ cup sliced in batons 3”x1”, 1 ½ cups shredded)
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ while onion, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Using a 9×12” baking dish, spread ½ cup chile verde sauce over bottom of dish. Creating one enchilada at a time, fill each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of carnitas and two batons of cheese. Roll tortilla into log and place into baking dish. Continue until all tortillas are filled. Pour 1 cup chile verde sauce over top of enchiladas and spread evenly. Cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
When ready to serve, place enchiladas on plate and spoon extra chile verde sauce over the top along with cilantro, onion, tomato and sour cream. Enjoy with an ice-cold beer!