Carnitas Salad with Buttermilk Cilantro-Lime Dressing

Carnitas Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

    Carnitas
  • 2 lbs pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut in large chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • Salad
  • 8 cups green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 avocado, cut into slices
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn, browned in a dry pan
  • Dressing
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 mayonnaise
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, diced fined
  • 1 Tbsp green onion, cut fine
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Directions

The carnitas can be made in an instant pot or slow cooker. Either way, place the shoulder in the pot, rub down with the spices, covering as much of the surface as possible, letting the rest fall to the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and garlic, then pour in the juice. If cooking in the slow cooker, cook on low for 8 hours. If cooking in the instant pot, cook on the “meat” setting for 55 minutes, ensuring the pot is sealed for pressure cooking. Once the meat is cooked, let it cool for a bit, then tear it roughly into chunks. Reserve the liquid and add the meat to a frying pan at medium to high heat to crisp up the meat. Once the meat is starting to brown, slowly add the liquid, then allow it to cook down until the liquid has cooked into the meat and the sugars from the liquid have caramelized the meat. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Assemble your salad, top with the crisped carnitas and drizzle with the dressing.

And now for the details…

A bit “healthier” then the first few posts, my husband and I are resetting our eating a bit after the rich foods we had taken in over the several months. We are reducing our simple carbohydrate intake (which, to be honest, was not too hard once we started cutting out treats throughout the day, afternoon snacks, and bread with every meal), and have been focusing on dinners that are filling, fresh and flavourful.

This meal is one of my favourites because it’s got the freshness from the greens and the cilantro dressing, while also bringing in the heartiness and umami-rich carnitas.

I might be a little loose in calling this recipe “carnitas”. Traditionally carnitas is pork cooked low and slow in lard, similar to a confit. Probably a better title for what I am making here would be “pan-fried, slow-cooked pork shoulder”, but that’s just not nearly as fun to say.

We start everything off preparing our pork shoulder, since it needs the longest time to prepare and cook. I have done this recipe before in two different ways: in our slow cooker and our instant pot. Both work, but to be honest, it turns out better in the slow cooker. For the photos today, I have done the recipe in the instant pot.

Start by mixing the carnitas spices together in a small bowl. Place your shoulder in the pot, and rub the spice mix all over the meat, trying to coat the entire surface area. Place the shallots and garlic in the pot with the shoulder, then pour the juice into the bottom of the pot.

When you place the lid on the instant pot, ensure the vent is set to “sealing”, since we are going to be pressure cooking our meat. Set the pot to the “meat” setting, and cook the shoulder for 55 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, we can prepare our salad toppings and dressing. Set a dry pan on the stove at medium- to high-heat. Place the frozen corn into the pan, and stir regularly, allowing the corn to char slightly. Be cautious! Even though it’s not popcorn, some of the kernels may actually “pop” out of the pan under the high heat.

Next, let’s make our dressing. I love buttermilk dressings. They’re creamy and tangy, offering a nice balance of flavours. I also feel they necessitate a decent amount of garlic, because what goes better with richness than a nice garlicky punch to the tastebuds? To really allow the garlic to suffuse the entire dressing, I use my garlic grate plate, which basically destroys the garlic and breaks it down into a fine mash, which then lends to tiny bits of garlic spreading throughout the entire dressing. My mom got me this garlic plate over a decade ago, and it is a staple in my kitchen.

Those little ridges are what break down the garlic. Using the plate is easy; just peel the garlic, hold it in your fingers and then grind it into the plate.

Start by mixing together your buttermilk and mayo. I used the full fat buttermilk, as well as Japanese mayo for my recipe. I wanted that added richness to the dressing, to help balance the acidity of the lime juice and the freshness of the cilantro. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix together.

By about now, your pork is likely ready to come out of the pot. Take out the shoulder, reserve the liquid, and tear the meat into chunks. Place a large pan on medium-high heat and transfer the pork into the pan. Once the meat has browned a bit, add the juices and let them cook down until the liquid has boiled off and the meat is starting to caramelize.

Finally, assemble your salad with your toppings, leaving a little nest in the middle of the salad for your pork. Pile the pork in the middle, drizzle with the dressing, and enjoy!

Until next time, happy eating!

A Prairies attempt at cuisine Québécoise in three parts… Part II: Ragoût de Boulettes

Ragoût de Boulettes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Original recipe courtesy of Chef Cuisto, link available below

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 onion, diced fine
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup toasted flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a bowl, mix the pork, onion and spices. Form the mixture into small balls, about 4cm/1.5″ in diameter, then lightly flour.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot, then sauté the balls, turning gently, to brown on all sides. Once all sides have browned, add the boiling water, cover the pot and simmer on low for one hour. Remove the balls, then thicken the broth by slowly adding the toasted flour until desired consistency. Add the gravy to the meatballs and serve.


And now for the details…

Ragoût de Boulettes or Meatball…euh…. Ragout.

Okay, so I have no idea of the traduction for ragout… I’ve always just heard folks refer to it as, well, ragout. Whoops… right. “Traduction.” French for “translation”. Certainly Franglais would need to make its way into one of these posts!

I can’t take really any credit for how this recipe turned out… like at all. As I said in the previous blog, this Quebequoise cuisine night was a joint effort, and Krystal did all the heavy lifting for the Ragoût. And it turned out AMAZEBALLS. Seriously. So good. Our credit for this recipe goes to Chef Cuisto, as we had never made these before and needed some help. The recipe turned out really, really well.

Krystal mixing the onions with spices before adding the pork to form the meatballs.

I feel as though I need to take this time to mention the fact that Krystal is a dietician. Now, her and I have had a number of conversations regarding food, diets, nutrition, and the like (fun fact: Krystal supported me while I was training for my first half Ironman. She helped me with everything from hydration to timing of nutrition to ensure I maximized my recovery). And in all of this, we have talked a lot about “healthy” food choices. When Krystal and I get together, often the meal choices we have made are for fairly rich foods (our first ever cooking adventure included molten chocolate lava cake). And the lucky recipients of our efforts often tease Krystal about her being a dietician and the food choices we make. But one of the things that I have learned through all these experiences is that all food is healthy. Preparing food socially with friends is healthy. Rich foods are healthy. “Healthy” foods are healthy. What I have learned most is that a balanced diet is key and having a healthy relationship with food is extremely important. Which I do my best to focus on, because I love food. I like it a lot. Alot alot…

So with that, lets start talking about the food!

Before we get into the cooking, a quick blurb on “farine grillée”, or toasted flour: When Krystal’s boyfriend had been telling us about ragoût de boulettes, he had mentioned making it with “farine grillée” to which Krystal responded with “eh?” And then later when she was telling me about what I translated in my brain incorrectly as “grilled flour”, I also responded with “eh??” And then we found out… it’s actually very simple. Toast the flour in the bottom of a dry pot on medium heat until it turns light brown and toasty… therefore: farine grillée. The toasted flour adds a nice flavour and reduces that “raw” taste you may get when you add flour to a recipe to thicken it up. Note: the more you toast, the less the thickening power… of the flour. (hee hee, I rhymed)

Alrighty, let’s get to cooking. Start out by combining pork, onions and spices, and forming into balls, and lightly cover them in flour. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot to get ready to brown the meatballs.

Place the meatballs in a single layer of the pot and brown the meatballs at medium high heat, turning them gently to get all the sides.

A gentle hand is needed while flipping the meatballs to avoid breakage.

Once the meatballs have been browned on all sides, pour the boiling water into the pot, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot and let the meatballs simmer for 1 hour.

You can use some of this time to toast your flour. In our search, Krystal and I found a few methods. You can bake the flour spread thinly across a cookie sheet until the desired level of doneness. You can actually purchase your farine grillée pre-toasted, at a several levels of toastiness. No seriously, it comes in a flour bag same as all-purpose. See an example here. The method we chose to use was to toast the flour on medium high heat in a dry pot until the flour released a slightly nutty smell and was a nice golden brown.

Once your meatballs have cooked for an hour, remove the balls to a serving dish, then slowly add the farine grillée, whisking as you add to avoid clumping, and cook at medium to medium high heat, allowing the gravy to thicken. Pour the gravy over the meatballs, and serve with patates pilées (mashed potatoes)

Enjoy!

Up next… haricots verts with crispy shallots and caramelized nuts.

A Prairies attempt at cuisine Québécoise in three parts… Part I: Tourtière

Tourtière Pastry

  • Servings: 1 deep double pie crust
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt (cut to 1 Tbsp if using salted butter)
  • 4 Tbsp cold water, then to add by 1 Tbsp as necessary

Directions

Mix together flour and salt. Cut the butter into the flour until the butter is about pea-sized. Add the water and mix, adding additional water as required until the dough starts to form up. Press the dough together into a ball and let sit in a fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, up to overnight.

When ready to use, take the dough out of the fridge and divide into two halves. Form each half into disks, and then roll them out to desired thickness. Fold each dough into quarters, score one of the halves to prepare for top section. Place bottom section, poke with fork, fill with filling from recipe below, then place top section. Pinch around edges, then trim off the excess sections. Bake at 375ºF for 45-60 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.


Tourtière Filling

  • Servings: 1 pie
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Original recipe courtesy of Recettes du Québec (link in text below), with modifications to suit the needs of this recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium sized shallots, diced small
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions


Brown the meat with the garlic and shallots. Once all the meat is cooked through, add the potatoes, water and spices. Cover and simmer for approximately 1 hour. Fill pie shells as indicated in recipe above.

And now for the details…

While I was home over the holidays (yes, it took me until now to post… *le sigh*), I got the opportunity to cook with one of my really good friends, Krystal. Both of us live in different cities, and we rarely get to see each other, but have been able to visit the last few times we both have come home for Christmas.

When we get together to cook, we have a habit of turning it into our very own faux cooking show, full of cheesy smiles, exaggerated cheery banter, and any food facts we may have about what we are cooking. “Emily, why don’t you tell me more about shallots.” “Well Krystal, shallots are a type of onion, but are milder in flavour and sometimes carry the flavour of garlic…” *overly melodramatic fake laughter*

Every time we do this, we choose a theme for the meal and take great joy in trying to figure out what the theme will be. We ended up zoning in on French Canadian fare as the theme for this cooking adventure, and lucky for us, since Krystal had started dating a gent from Québec, we were regaled with all kinds of ideas for the menu. The suggestions included a whole lotta meat and carbs which we narrowed down to tourtière, ragoût de boulettes, and mashed potatoes. The only suggestions for veggies were pickles and a shredded carrot salad. So we went online to find out more about French Canadian food to see what we could find for vegetables. Fun fact that we discovered: French Canadian food was heavily influenced by French and Irish food. Another fun fact: there are not a lot of vegetable options when you do a Google search for Irish cuisine. So we decided to go French-ish and added haricot verts to the menu. Krystal remembered having a dish of beans with caramelized walnuts and onions at a restaurant in Québec, and so: enter haricot verts with caramelized walnuts and crispy shallots.

The results of our efforts!

For this post, we are going to make tourtière. I started the night before to give the dough enough time to rest in the fridge. The crust we are making is a butter crust, which means there is no lard. It would be great for vegetarians if it wasn’t for… well… the meat filling 😉

I would suggest cutting the butter into the flour while it is still cold. Then the butter breaks apart instead of smooshing (yes, smooshing), which I find lends to me overworking the flour to cut the butter down to size. I am suggesting Kosher salt here, but any salt will do. I am just a bit of a saltaholic and I like that “bite” of salt you get when it doesn’t break down completely in the dough. If you are sodium adverse, cut the sodium down in any and all of my recipes 😛

The original recipe I was following for the dough had a terrible ratio of flour to butter to water. After I had cut the butter into the flour and salt, I added the suggested amount of water and you can see the liquid mess I ended up with in the following photo. I ended up cutting way more butter into way more flour, and mixing it into the liquid mess to try and get something that would work. This meant I was working the flour way more than I was hoping to, and I feel as though my crust was “tougher” than I would have liked.

I made significant changes to the recipe that will hopefully help you improve your experience! Start with the first small amount of water, and lightly mix everything together. I am suggesting to start with this, and only add more water as needed, by the tablespoon. There will be a few extra dry bits, but as long as the dough is mostly forming up, try and pull those dry bits in and let the dough rest together instead of adding way more liquid and ending up with too much. I made round two tourtière with the new recipe, and as you can see it turned out much better!!

After you pull the dough all together, wrap it in parchment or waxed paper and let it rest in the fridge in an air proof container. Either a ziplock bag or a Tupperware container would work great for this. By resting, it will allow the moisture to hit up those dry bits, as well as lets the gluten relax. Maybe even play it a little Frankie Goes to Hollywood if you think it will help 😉

The next bit is to get your filling ready. The original recipe we used to help us through the filling was courtesy of the site Recettes du Québec, and I have made some modifications to meet the tastes I was trying to get to. Start by dicing your garlic and shallots. Add them to a dry pot on medium-high heat until they have just begun to brown.

Next, add the pork and sauté the meat with the shallots and garlic until the meat has browned, breaking up the meat if it forms into larger chunks. While the meat is cooking, peel your potatoes and shred them using a grater.

Add the potatoes, spices and boiling water to the pot, cover, and lower the heat WAY down to a simmer. Allow this to simmer for approximately an hour.

About 15 minutes prior to the filling being ready, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Take your dough out of the fridge and separate into two halves, rolling each half into a ball. On a clean, floured surface, flatten one of the halves and roll out until desired thickness. To help transfer to you pie pan, fold the dough into quarters, transfer, then unfold in the pan. Perforate the bottom crust with a fork to avoid bubbling of the crust during cooking.

When rolling out the top half, add your choice design into the pastry before topping off your pie. The pattern allows steam to release during cooking, and makes sure you don’t end up with a blow out of your dough!

Once you have topped off your pie, pinch the edges to seal them up, then trim the ends to get a nice clean pie. Now it’s off to the oven for your tourtière to bake! I put my pie on a baking sheet to catch any unwanted messes in case there was overflow.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Let it chill at room temperature for about 15 minutes before digging in. Then, slice that sucker up and enjoy!!

Coming up next time… Ragoût de boullettes!