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Posts Tagged ‘chili’

Carnitas…the mere thought of that word brings tingles to my tongue. Bits of juicy, yet crisp little pork pieces topped with cilantro, onion, and salsa, then wrapped up in a warm blanket of corn tortilla. I, myself enjoy being wrapped in a warm blanket of corn tortilla. However, as much as I enjoy that, I far prefer to stuff my face with carnitas. When my buddy Nick invited us, as a few others, over for some homemade, backyard carnitas there was absolutely no way to turn down an offer like that. To say I jumped at the chance wouldn’t be quite accurate, but it was something along those lines.

To do carnitas the kind of justice they deserve, you have to use lard. Pure, creamy white, rendered pork fat. What better way to bring out the flavor of pork than with the flavor of pork? No double-negative here, just heart-stopping bliss. Nick picked up, I think 6 lbs of lard? Maybe it was 5. Whatever it was, he wasn’t screwing around.

He brought the big pot from his turkey fryer in to his kitchen and scooped all of that lard right in. I didn’t look like much while it was solid, but looks can sometimes be deceiving.

He rigged the fryer up to the propane tank on the concrete section of his backyard, lit that sucker up, and let that lard melt down into a 275 degrees pork hot tub. As he told me, the trick is not to deep-fry, but to keep it at 275 and let it simmer in the lard for about an hour or so. That’s how you get the nice golden crust with the juicy center. If the oil’s too hot, the outside will burn before the middle is cooked.

Look at that! Approximately 5 lbs of pink, fat-strewn hog heaven. How can you not want to maul that down with some cilantro? Nick sliced the chunks about half way through to give more surface area to brown in hot lard. That means more flavor!

One by one he carefully lowered each piece into the hot lard. (Hot Lard, that’d be a great band name)

No stranger to greasy knuckles (that’d be another great band name), he constantly checked the temperature with his handy frying glove. Like I said before, he wasn’t screwing around. He takes his lard simmering seriously, as he should.

You’re eyes are not playing tricks on you, this does look delicious!

After about an hour he took the pork out. He tented it in foil while getting the tortillas steamed. This allowed all of the juices to re-distribute throughout the meat.

Once the onions and cilantro were chopped, salsa (his was home-made, I think chipotle, not sure but definatley some sort of roasted and dryed chili) poured into serving dish, and tortillas nice and warm, he shredded the pork and we proceeded to carnitas like we’ve never carnitas’d before.

I wish I had a turkey fryer now. These were so tasty all I can do is wait until he decides to buy more lard. Until then, fond memories will have to suffice.

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Friday night Yuki and I took advantage of another Groupon we had purchased a while back. Gotta love Groupon, great opportunities to try new places at a discount. This one was for an Ethiopian restaurant we haven’t tried yet, Demera. We love Ethiopian food and had read good things about Demera, so it was one of those things that had to be done.

Apparently we weren’t alone in our love for Ethiopian food. We didn’t have a reservation and when we got there, about 6:30 or so, we were told there was a 15-20 minute wait. No worries, we had just driven all the way up to Lawrence and Broadway, no way were we going to turn back. A few minutes of waiting and the manager came by and said there would be a 35-45 minute wait. Eh? How’d it get longer? It ended up only being about 15 minutes, so I’m glad we stuck it out.

Typically a beer drinker with Ethiopian food I saw that they have house made honey wine. Had to give that a try. Not so sure I’m glad I did. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. Honey fermented with hops. It was like a honeyweiss without the bubbles. Not a big fan of honeyweiss. Oh well, it was tolerable. Next time I’m sticking with beer though.

We started off with the Sambussa Sampler. Basically it’s one each of their sambussas…beef, chicken, tuna, lentils, and spinach. Served with a spicy little chili sauce they were all very good. Simple, but delicious and homemade.

For the main course we had to go with the Messob, traditional communal dining. That way we could sample a bunch of different items instead of each of us ordering 1 dish. Plus, it’s the Ethiopian way to eat. Why eat American-style at an ethnic restaurant? Starting at the top and going clockwise we got the quosta (spinach), ye-shimbra assa (ground chickpeas), michetabish (ground beef), ye-salmon dulet (salmon with homemade cottage cheese), doro wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish), lega tibs (lamb with rosemary), and a salad in the center. Of course, everything was served on top of a piece of injera with plenty of injera on the side to grip and scoop our food. We couldn’t finish everything, but we expected that. Gotta love Ethiopian leftovers the next day, yet another similarity between Ethiopian food and Indian food (simmered food, communal dining, similar spices, same upset stomach, etc.).

In all honesty, we probably could have finished our dinner, but not only would we have missed out on leftovers, we would have missed out on dessert! We decided to split the hibist volcano. I’ve never had hibist bread before. It’s very much like a thick sweet roll. If it weren’t for the refreshingly cold ice cream on top I don’t know that we could have eaten it all. The spiced lemon sauce was really good as well.

Overall, everything we ate was delicious! Would I call Demera the best Ethiopian food in Chicago? I don’t know about that. Ras Dashen and Abyssinia are right up there as well, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three. I think it all depends on what you are looking for. If I were in the mood for doro wat I would go to either Ras Dashen or Abyssinia. If I wanted seafood I’d come to Demera (the salmon was fantastic with the jalapeno and cheese). It’s really a toss-up. I’m sure I’ll be back at all three at some point in my life, and my digestive system will be all the better for it.

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Armed with a full slab of ribs left from Honey 1 BBQ I threw together a chili-like stew. After sitting in the fridge for a day they did get a little dry. That deep smoky meat was perfect to use.

I chopped up 1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 orange bell pepper, 1 carrot, 1 onion, I minced 3 cloves of garlic, soaked 1 cup of black beans for 1 hour after boiling for 2 minutes, 1 can of white kidney beans, 4 ounces of baby spinach, shredded the meat off 1/2 slab of ribs, the bbq sauce that came with the ribs, and used 2 cups of chicken stock.

In my large stock pot I heated up some olive oil and then sweated the peppers, onion, carrot, and garlic for about 8 minutes or so.

While that was going on I realized that I had 3 yukon gold potatoes sitting around. So, I skinned them, chopped them up, and added them to the pot. I let them cook for about 3 or 4 minutes before adding the chicken stock.

While the chicken stock was being brought up to a boil I noticed I had a couple of tomatoes. So, I chopped them up.

When the stock came to a slow boil I added the tomatoes along with the meat and let that simmer for about 8 minutes before adding all of the bean and the bbq sauce. I turned the heat to med-low, covered the pot, and let it go for about 15 minutes. Right before serving I added the spinach and stirred it in until it had all slightly wilted. Then I turned off the heat and served it.

I placed some toast in the bowl before scooping the stew in. Then I topped with some habanero-jack cheese and some sour cream. It tasted fantastic! I got 4 servings out of this and still have 1/2 slab of Honey 1 BBQ ribs left.

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Mapo tofu is a Szechuan dish typically made with ground pork. However, last night being Meatless Monday, I diced up some shiitake mushrooms to take the place of the meat.

To start, I made the sauce. I used 2 heaping tablespoons of toban djan (a szechuan chili and fermented bean sauce, its spicy but this dish is supposed to be very hot), 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/8 cup of sake, and 2 teaspoons of tapioca flour to thicken it up a bit. I mixed it all together and set it aside.

I used a 3.5 oz package of shiitake, about 6 oz of haricots vert cut into thirds, a carrot cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long, 8 green onions chopped into 1 inch pieces, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons minced ginger, 1 red bell pepper cut into thin slices and then halved, and 1 package of firm tofu. I prefer silken tofu, but there wasn’t any at the store. Oh well, what can you do? I pressed the water out of the tofu for an hour in the fridge and then diced it.

In a hot pan I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and then fried the garlic and ginger for about a minute. Then I added the haricots vert. About 3 minutes later I tossed in the carrot and pepper. I let that go for about 3 more minutes and then the shiitake and green onions went in. Once the shiitake were softened a bit, about 3 or 4 minutes, I poured in the sauce (I mixed the sauce thoroughly again to make sure the tapioca didn’t form any clumps). This was the first time I’ve ever used tapioca flour as a thickening agent and it worked a little better than I expected. The sauce almost immediately thickened up on me in that hot pan. To remedy that I poured in about 1/3 cup of water and that thinned it out nicely. I needed it a little thinner so it would evenly coat the tofu which went in right after I stirred the water in. I let the tofu heat through for about 4 minutes over medium heat and then served it all up with some white rice and drank it down with a cold beer.

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I’ve long been a believer that the only way to truly understand a different culture is to head straight over to the local markets. So, our first morning in Merida, Mexico, a few weeks ago with my mom and step-dad (they live in Merida) we stopped at the San Benito Market.

What I love about the San Benito Market is that it’s not a food market, it’s not a textiles market, it’s not an appliance market….it’s all of the above! Whatever you need to buy you can get at San Benito. Need some produce? They’ve got everything from hundreds of different chilis to pineapples to freshly butchered meats. Need clothes and footwear? Take your pick! How about kitchen knives and other little chochkies? Sure. You can even buy a pet bird there. However, to me, the absolute best part of the market are the food stalls. With so much to choose from, various tacos, tamales, empanadas, sopas, etc., we decided that it’s best to just sample as many different tacos as our bellies could stomach.

The first stop was this stall that served up some outstanding carnitas.

Fresh slices of pork fried up on his hot slate to tasty perfection! Garnish with some onions, cilantro, carved up radishes, and salsa verde and you’re ready for all sorts of goodness. I really could have just ordered more of these, but there were more items on my menu to digest. So,…..

…it was off to this stand for a choice of more carnitas or…

…these achiote turkey tacos. I had to go for the turkey since I just downed a couple of carnitas. These were served with pico de gallo and lime wedges. Wow! I have never had pulled turkey so good. Screw Thanksgiving with its roasted bird, I want these little morsels instead. 

After walking around a bit more something caught my eye.

How on Earth could I walk past something like this without giving it a try? Influenced by Lebanese immigrants from three hundred years ago Tacos al Pastor are truly a thing of beauty. Juicy pieces of pork marinated in a red chili sauce, piled on top of each other, and roasted upright on a spit much like a gyro or schwarma. These are the kings of tacos.

I actually ate this guy’s pastor because the other one would have taken too long to cook. I had to have one and I had to have it quick!

Typically served with a slice of pineapple, instead, this guy served his with a creamy avocado salsa, chipotle salsa, and lime. MMMMMMM! That was it, the piece de resistance! Sorry La Pasadita, I love you, but you just don’t quite hold up to the genius of meat cooked on a spit and served in a tortilla.

Everything was washed down with some Jugo de Mango. The juice carts serve their juices with a plastic bag on top. This serves two purposed. First, the bag keeps the flies out of the sweet nectar. Second, it somehow keeps the drink cold so that the ice doesn’t melt, even though it’s 90 degrees outside. Genius!

Surprisingly, I was not met by old Montezuma himself. Either he took the day off or my stomach is stronger than it used to be. Just goes to show that street food in markets like San Benito are every bit as sanitary as a regular restaurant. Plus, you get the added bonus of auto emissions to help give the food that indefinable taste. The Japanese call it umami, I call it delicious!

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