Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos with Quick Pickled Onions

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Okay, so here we go on something that is full of meat and does not count as a soup.  I feel it is necessary to say that this meal does not photograph well, but I promise you that it is still worth trying.  As I have mentioned, I am a “recovering vegetarian”, but this is a dish of meat that I have been known to eat just over rice… that’s it, meat and rice.  That should say something.  Does it?

This recipe for Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos from Epicurious is so amazing simple, it is just perfect for busy lives.  You get the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and do not need to think about it again until dinnertime.  When you start this recipe in the morning, all you need are five ingredients (three of which you already have in the pantry).  As long as you make sure to buy an onion and some pork (plus salt, pepper, and oregano), you are ready…  (you can grab the rest of the ingredients on the way home from work, or preschool pick-up or something).  Be sure to make the pickled onions though.  They add crunch and a big flavor punch.

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Step 1:

Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos

originally published in Bon Appetit 2008, serves 4
  • 2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, pork shoulder (Boston butt), or pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1/2 large onion, cut into 4 pieces

preparation

Toss pork in bowl of slow cooker with salt, black pepper, and dried oregano to coat. Place onion pieces atop pork. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 6 hours.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork; transfer carnitas to platter.

Step 2:

Quick Pickled Onions

  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

preparation

Mix vinegar, salt and sugar until dissolved.  Add onions, stir.  Add enough water to cover onions.  Ideally the onions will sit in marinade for at least 1/2 hour, but onion’s taste will improve with time in refrigerator, lasting 5 days.

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As with any taco, add the things you like…  Our favorites are rice, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, pickled onions (recipe above), avocado slices, cilantro sprigs, cabbage, pickled jalapenos, sliced red bell peppers, hot sauce and/or lime.  We added cilantro and lime to our rice as well to add a bit of flavor…

Wrap tortillas in damp kitchen towel; microwave until warm, about 1 minute. Serve carnitas with warm tortillas.

Enjoy!

Step 3:

Taco Assembly:

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Chili Con Carne

How many of us were making chili last weekend to celebrate the changing weather and the start of football season?  There is something so natural about making a big pot of soup or chili as the weather begins to turn and we need something to warm us from the inside.  I have mentioned that soup is one of my favorite things to make and I think I will make an effort this season to post more soup recipes, because even if they are not terribly gourmet, they make for great weeknight meals in winter.  They are easy to freeze or make ahead and I find them to be nicely soul satisfying.

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Over the years we have tried many different types of chili recipes.  Chili is the kind of food where people have very strong opinions about what makes chili, chili – high heat, no heat, with beans, no beans, etc…   This is a good time to mention that I was a vegetarian for about 20 years, so the idea that I am making chili con carne at all is something that my younger self might have scoffed at.  But, now that I do eat meat, my husband loves to kid me about being a “recovering vegetarian”.  So even when we make meat dishes, whatever we make is usually loaded with vegetables too.  This is relevant because as we start talking about chili, you will see that I am in the camp that believes in incorporating lots of beans, tomatoes and vegetables to round out this hearty dish.  But do what pleases you.

The chili we love most comes from epicurious.com.  We have been making this recipe for a couple of years now and it is always gobbled up.  The original recipe is called Chili Con Carne with Chili Cheddar Shortcakes and is from Gourmet magazine.  What I like about this version is that it is very classic and a nice base for whatever you like to add.  You make the whole recipe in one pot, which certainly cuts down on clean up.  The cider vinegar adds a nice tang, that you wouldn’t know you want, but you do.  The carrots mellow things out.  I also recommend using a lean or extra lean type of ground beef since you don’t drain the meat in this recipe, but rather just add to the vegetables that are already cooking.   Lastly, the thing I love most about chili, in general, is all the interesting toppings one can add!  We usually make up a batch of cornbread and then add chopped onion, avocado, grated cheese, sour cream and hot sauce (of course)!  I made a double batch of the below this Sunday and we had plenty left over to freeze.

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Chili Con Carne

serves 6 generously

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 carrots, sliced thin
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse in batches in a food processor or by the butcher 
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried hot red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
In a large pot cook the onions in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened.  Add the garlic and the carrots, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the chuck and cook it over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, for 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink.  Add the chili powder, the cumin, the paprika, the oregano, and the red pepper flakes and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the tomato sauce, the broth, and the vinegar, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it, covered, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Add the kidney beans, the bell peppers, and salt and black pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender.
This recipe is easy to make for a crowd.  It can be made a day or two in advance, as the flavors will only get better as they have time to mingle.
Enjoy!