Fiesta – 106-108

Cinco de Mayo seems like a good excuse to make a complete Mexican meal. We took this outside last year (chips and salsa, chicken burritos, black beans, margaritas, and fresh air), and I loved it! I decided that we’d take our folding table and chairs outside this year too and have a private fiesta in the back yard.

The menu for this year (all from Eating Well magazine):

#106: Mexican Rice
#107: Beer & Tequila Carnitas
#108: Simple Fire-Roasted Salsa

I made almost all of this the night before. I was actually cooking at about 10pm so that it would be easy to finish everything up and take it outside to eat in the fresh air while we still had plenty of sunlight.

The salsa was the easiest, and actually the last thing I made. It said I could use 28 ounces of fire-roasted canned tomatoes, but the ones I found all had seasonings added, and I wasn’t sure that would be appropriate for the salsa. So, I drained a 28oz can of tomatoes, put them in a broiler pan with the jalapeno, and broiled them for about 10 minutes. After this cooled, I seeded the jalapeno, put it on top of the tomatoes in a blender cup, added the garlic and salt, and blended until I thought the jalapeno was minced small enough. Salsa was ready.

I used brown rice instead of white rice in this recipe. First I cooked the rice in a little oil. Next went in onion, then garlic and salt, and then an 8oz can of tomato sauce. After that, I added the broth and turned down the heat to let the rice simmer. Once it was cooked, I put it in a container, topped it with frozen vegetables, and put it in the fridge so I could reheat it the next day. When I reheated it, I stirred it gently so that I wouldn’t make the rice mushy. This worked out pretty well.

Carnitas: I was pretty excited about this recipe. You start by rendering a small amount of pork fat that you trim from the pork shoulder as you cut it into one inch pieces. You then saute 2 cups of onion, 4 diced poblano peppers, and some garlic, salt, and pepper. After the onion is soft, you add the pork and continue to cook until liquid covers the meat. You reduce the heat for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then you increase the heat to reduce the liquid.

As you can tell, this is a labor-intensive recipe. As I’m reviewing it, I’m getting frustrated with the different temperature changes and additions that you have to do to follow the recipe. I’m also remembering how late it was as I was cooking it.

This is where I (purposefully) departed from recipe procedure a little bit. I knew I wanted to eat this around 6pm the next day, but it was already late and the recipe would need to cook another hour. I’d already thought about putting it in the slow cooker, so I turned off the heat and transferred the mixture to the crockpot. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, and the next morning I added the large can of tomatoes, 1 cup tequila, and 2 bottles of dark beer, and set the machine to low.

There was lots of liquid left when I got home, so I transferred the pork and juices to a large pot on the stove. I cooked and stirred it until the liquid had thickened up, reaching the consistency necessary to put the meat on tortillas.

a Cinco de Mayo feast

The salsa was a little spicy, but was fine otherwise. I prefer my salsa with cilantro, but I’d probably make something like this recipe again.

The Mexican rice was pretty much just like what comes with my entrees at Mexican restaurants. If you enjoy that, this is the recipe for you. I generally prefer rice to either stand out on its own, or to be unseasoned so that I can eat other flavorful foods with it. I’m not a huge fan of rice like this -with just enough flavor that it distracts me from what I pair it with, yet not so much that I want to eat it by itself – so I will choose a different recipe to make next time.

Alex thought the carnitas were okay. He didn’t like the beer flavor in them. I originally thought that 4 poblano peppers in the carnitas would be excessive, but it cooked long enough that it wasn’t particularly spicy, even though the peppers were spicy when I cut them. I wonder if the length of time that I cooked it changed the flavor. I enjoyed the recipe, but I wonder if it would have been spicier if I had cooked it all on the stove as the recipe had called for.

I liked the carnitas, but after having leftovers, I’m not a big enough fan of the recipe to eat it too much. I might try the recipe again, without slow-cooking, and without the beer, but it’s just as likely that I’d find a different carnitas recipe to try.

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