Carnitas (Little Pieces of Browned Pork)

February 17, 2010 | Filed Under Mexican recipes, pork | 19 Comments 



With the exception of the occasional bacon and ham, I do not prepare or eat pork dishes.  However, the other day, I saw an enticing Mexican recipe posted by Mari of Once Upon a Plate that I just had to try it.   The food looked so mouth-watering and I liked that the recipe was SO simple.  There were three basic ingredients — pork, salt and water.  Long-time readers know that I like the simple things in life, such as simple recipes.  This one had my name written all over it, so I decided to prepare it at the next possible occasion. 

According to Mari, carnitas are a popular snack in central Mexico.  It’s served with a fresh tomato salsa and wrapped in a warm tortilla.  Mari used flour tortillas, so I did the same.  The snack is also served with cilantro, radishes, avocado, onions and sour cream.  How could I resist all these tasty ingredients?  How, I ask you?

The occasion came to prepare carnitas when I was home during last week’s snowstorm.  The only hard part of the dish preparation for me was cutting the pork into cube pieces.  Okay, okay.  I’m exaggerating a bit a lot.  Cutting the pork into pieces wasn’t really hard but it was the most energy that I had to expel making carnitas.

The intriguing thing is that you aren’t supposed to use a lot of water in preparation of the pork.   I was a little nervous that I’d used too much water.  Then because I don’t normally buy pork, although Mari mentioned what kind of pork to buy, I feared that I hadn’t bought the right kind, so that it would brown properly.   Turns out that I worried for nothing.  I’d put used the right amount of water and the pork had enough fat to brown the pieces.  Everything turned out perfectly.

Thanks to a recipe from Simply recipes, I made fresh tomato salsa.  Perfect.   It made my carnitas even more tasty.  I won’t wait for another snowstorm before I make carnitas again.






Carnitas ~ Little Pieces of Browned Pork

Once Upon a Plate



3 pounds pork shoulder, butt, or boneless country-style pork spareribs, etc.
Cold water to barely cover
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

This dish requires some fat on the meat in order to make the finished meat succulent and juicy, if you are looking for a low-fat dish you would be better off choosing something else.

Cut the meat, with the fat into strips about 2" x 3/4", or 1 1/2" to 2" cubes. Place meat in a large pot and barely cover with water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat (don’t cover the pot.)

When pot boils lower the heat a bit and allow to cook briskly until all liquid has evaporated; the meat should be cooked through but not falling apart. Lower the heat once again and continue cooking until the fat has rendered out. Continue turning the meat until it is lightly brown all over and slightly crisp. this usually takes between 45 to 70 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

-No need for an expensive cut of meat, you want cuts with a fair amount of fat so the meat browns properly later.
-The meat will cook more evenly if the pot is large (and rather shallow if possible)
-Do not add too much water at the beginning, or the meat will fall apart when frying later
-If the meat is still rather firm when water has evaporated then add a little more water and continue cooking.

Recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy’s "The Cuisines of Mexico", an excellent resource.
I highly recommend.





Fresh Tomato Salsa Recipe

Simply Recipes


  • 2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/2 lb), stems removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • 1 serano chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: oregano and or cumin to taste


1 Start with chopping up 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the chilies. Be very careful while handling these hot peppers. If you can, avoid touching them with your hands. Use a fork to cut up the chilies over a small plate, or use a paper towel to protect your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for heat.

2 Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add some ground cumin.

Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.

Makes approximately 3-4 cups.











New York Monday

February 14, 2010 | Filed Under New York Monday | 8 Comments 


Snow, snow everywhere!

The back of a snow-covered statue in Harlem.

We had a snowstorm earlier this week.  It may snow again this Monday.

Have a great week, everyone.












Zebra Cake

February 14, 2010 | Filed Under Baking, Cakes, Lululu at Home blog, Valentine's Day, Vanilla Extract, Zebra Cake | 16 Comments 

Yes, that’s supposed to be a heart-shaped cake.  However, no one could would wait for me to take a photo of my finished product and I was too tired to fight off the cake eaters.

When I first saw this cake on Lululu at Home, the stripes immediately captured my attention (It’s actually more mesmerizing on a round-shaped cake).  I was eager to find out how to get that pattern.  Turns out that it was very easy and fun to prepare.   Next time I make this cake, I’ll use the round cake pan.  Oh, I used my homemade vanilla extract.  I’m still so excited that I made my own vanilla extract.   It and the cake were made with love.  Did you know vanilla is an aphrodisiac?   😉

By the way, can any one tell me why the top of my cake cracked?

Happy Valentine’s day to all. 




Zebra Cake

Lululu’s Home Cooking

(makes 9" cake)


2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 large eggs, at room temp

1 cup white sugar

1 cup whole milk, at room temp

1 cup olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp cocoa powder



Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9" round cake pan. Line with a parchment circle and butter the parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar. On medium speed, beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Add milk, oil, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.

On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until the flour is just incorporated.

Divide batter into 2 equal portions. Keep one portion plain. Add cocoa powder into another and mix well.

Scoop 1/4 cup of plain batter into the middle of the cake pan. Then scoop 1/4 cup of cocoa batter and pour it in the center (right on top) of the plain batter. Continue to alternate between the plain and cocoa batters (always pouring it in the center right on top of the previous batter) until you use up the batters.

Bake at 350F until golden or until a cake tested comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Cool for 15 minutes in pan and then remove cake from pan to cool on a wire rack.











Turkey Wings a la Helin

February 9, 2010 | Filed Under Honduran recipes, Poultry, Sofrito, Turkey | 7 Comments 

Chopped cilantro and onions — part of the ingredients to make sofrito.


I’m not so crazy about turkey.  The only part of the turkey I like LOVE is the wings.  Yeah, I love turkey wings and that’s it.  For a long time, I’d just sprinkle salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil on the wings before putting them in the oven.  That was it for me.  Then family friend, Helin  mentioned how she usually prepares her turkey.  Intrigued, I decided to try her method on my wings.  It sounded so easy and the added enticement was that I could use the same recipe when preparing chicken, too. 

First she made her version (Honduran) of sofrito.  For those new to sofrito, it’s basically a flavorful sauce, freshly made and added to meats, poultry (in this case turkey), stews and sauces.  It’s used in different types of cuisines, such as Latin, Spanish, Mediterranean and more.  Ever since I made my first sofrito a few years ago, I’ve learned that there are different types of sofrito.  

Helin’s sofrito was simple and consisted of 5 cloves of garlic, 1/2 bunch of cilantro, 1/2 bunch of culantro, 1 onion, 1 green bell pepper, water and apple cider vinegar, which was then mixed in the blender.


Sofrito prepared in the blender


Next, she carefully cleaned and washed the turkey, making sure to remove stray feathers.  I confess that I was never that thorough when preparing any type of poultry.  Then Helin rinsed the wings with fresh lemon juice and water.  I’d never seen it done that way before but she said that’s what she does to help get rid of the bacteria.  Another confession:  I normally just wash with cold water and call it a day.   Well, I’ve learned something new now.

Next we seasoned the turkey with Adobo, Sazón with coriander and annatto and covered the wings with the freshly-made sofrito (The wings could also be marinated a few hours in the sofrito.).  Helin said that when she prepares a whole turkey, she pokes holes into it so the the sofrito seeps into the turkey and flavors it more.


Turkey wings covered with sofrito before going into the oven.


We covered the wings with foil and place them in the oven.  After 40 minutes, we removed the foil and left the wings in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.  Uncovered, we spooned the juices/gravy over the wings.

When ready, the turkey came out full of flavor and very tasty.

A few days later, I tried the same method with chicken pieces.  Again, I wasn’t disappointed.  Delicious.

Paz (very happy)



Three remaining pieces of turkey wings after everyone served themselves.











New York Monday

February 7, 2010 | Filed Under New York Monday | 7 Comments 

Part of the menu you’ll find at a Lebanese restaurant on the West side.

Have a great week, everyone.












Next Page →