Monday, June 6, 2016

Carnitas & Guajillo Chili Salsa

These carnitas and this salsa are part of a bigger picture. I made these as a filling for some tamales and as a topping for arepas; both recipes are forthcoming.

While I was online shopping for corn husks for the tamales, I needed to add some items to my cart so that I could get free shipping. One of the suggested items was guajillo peppers so I just went for it, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them. The reviews were raving and positive so I was pretty excited and I started brainstorming what I should do.

Once the package arrived, I was happy to find that the reviews were true and that the peppers weren't dried out to the point of being brittle crackers but instead were somewhat pliable and soft. I had figured that if they were brittle, I would just grind them up in the spice grinder into a chili powder. Instead, I ended up making a delicious red sauce.

And I decided pork would be a delicious protein, as carnitas are one of my favorite taco fillings and I kind of just threw some ingredients together and it ended up being incredible. I couldn't help but snack indulgently as I was shredding the meat.
Ingredients:
carnitas
3 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
½ orange
1 lime
½ onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

guajillo chili salsa
10 guajillo chili peppers
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 habanero, pierced
3 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

The secret to this pork is to pick a good shoulder. I like bone-in because it's more flavorful and I look for one with a good slab of fat on top, because again, it's more flavorful.
Grab a roasting pan and tuck the pork in. Squeeze over some orange juice and lime juice just to moisten the surface. Add all of the aromatics to the bottom of the roasting pan - including the leftover orange and lime rind - and then tuck the pork right on top. Season liberally with salt and pepper and then wrap up the whole thing with aluminum foil.

Roast the pork in a 275F oven for about 3 hours and then flip the meat over, cover with foil again, and roast for an additional 3 hours. Check to see if the pork is tender; it should be falling off the bone. If not, then roast for another hour or two until tender. Turn the oven off and then leave the pork in there for another 4 hours.
When the pork is done, remove the aromatics and discard. Pour off the juices (strain them to avoid leaving any peppercorns behind) and set aside. The juices will be used to re-moisten the shredded meat and also in the tamales.
Use two forks or your hands to shred the pork. The pork basically fell apart as I was shredding it, which is exactly what you want. I left behind some of the fat but discarded the tougher pieces.
Once the pork is shredded, drizzle on some of the juices. At this point, if you were making tacos, I would suggest covering the pan with foil and warming the pork in a 300F oven for a few minutes. If you're making tamales, the cooled pork is perfectly fine.
Now let's talk sauce.
Start by removing the stems and seeds from the peppers.
Grab a pot and place it over a medium heat. Toss in the peppers and cumin and just gently toast until fragrant. Do not let the cumin or the peppers burn, unless you like a bitter sauce.
While the peppers are toasting, chop up the onions and bell peppers, pierce the habanero, and peel some garlic.
Add chicken stock to the toasted chiles and then toss in the onion, bell pepper, and habanero. Cook until the peppers are rehydrated, which will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard the habanero and then let the pot cool a bit. Add the peppers and onions to a blender along with the raw garlic. Add about half of the stock and blend. Add more stock as necessary until you get a consistency you like. The sauce gets cooked and thickened a bit more so I go aim for something slightly runnier than I want.
Strain the sauce to get rid of any lumps and the skins and any left-behind seeds.
Grab a pan and place over a medium heat with a little olive oil. Once the oil is hot, pour the sauce into the pot and stir. Cook gently for 10 to 12 minutes until the sauce is rich and thick.
The sauce can be used immediately or cooled and stored in an air tight container in the fridge for future use. This sauce will keep for about 2 weeks. It can also be frozen if you want it to last longer.
I can't wait to show you the two awesome dishes I made with these really yummy ingredients. Please come back! Or, if you don't care about tamales and arepas, might I suggest whipping up some tortillas and making tacos? Please?
Here are the recipe pages:

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