No more boring Mexican food! I brought the Southwest to the Southeast! 

Includes Main Course Recipe / October 28, 2014

There’s very few things I dislike about Charlotte. The people, the weather, the energy; all are incomparable. However, I’m sad to say, being from the western US, I have been unable to locate a superbly authentic Southwest Mexican restaurant. I’m taking about the kind that make you certain you’re sitting in Scottsdale, AZ, or Old Town San Diego. It’s that certain taste of the corn in the tortillas, the way the lard underscores the tanginess of a good chile or cheeses that carry you away on a yellow, Mariachi studded cloud. Hmmm. That’s a bit overly romantic…maybe its just the cactus growing outside the restaurant window that has me grinning underneath my sombrero? So…as a side bar, I welcome your suggestions to direct me to a place where I can find the southwest here in Charlotte. In the meantime, I enjoy making my own.

Now I don’t just cook. I think of the entire meal, the plate even, as a story. I see it as a stage where the players move about in costume, dazzling us with movement, color and choreography. So when planning a Mexican burrito bar last weekend — a “serve it yourself” carnival of Spanish cuisine –I went WILD!

The first item on my list was of course to make the BEST pork carnitas. CHIPOTLE MUSTARD SLOW COOKED PORK CARNITAS to be exact. Nothing like a slow cooker and the right spices to create the bed on which all other delectable flavors will be built upon. After that, the perfect SPANISH RICE, which must roll around in your mouth and not mush into the other flavors is key. The rice kernels must still be visible, separate, and therefore imperative to the finished dish. You have to have salsa. And since the mangoes were ripe I sliced them and tossed them with the requisite ingredients, substituting red chili flakes instead of the jalapeno for color and an interesting bite. The topping I chose was like the twirling petticoats of the Flamenco dancer as I plopped a helping of my QUICK PICKLED CORIANDER RED CABBAGE SLAW. Oh, it was so good! (Sidenote, this pickled slaw will go great with other meals such as fish, on a sandwich, tossed with other green cabbage, pineapple and cilantro…the choices are endless!)

The meal was acidic, spicy, sweet, meaty yet fresh, southwest in the southeast! Maybe I don’t need to look any further than my own kitchen for any further tortilla wanderlust?


Chipotle Mustard Pork Carnitas

Ingredients:

4# pork butt roast (can mix equally with pork loin*) cut into 2” chunks
1/8 C chipotle mustard (or hot mustard)
1/8 C olive oil
¼ t poultry seasoning
¼ t dried thyme
Chipotle sauce (to taste – I used 2-3 teaspoons)
Liter chicken stock (your choice. Homemade the best!)
1/8 C red wine vinegar
½ medium green pepper cut into large chunks
¼ white onion large dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper generously


Direction:

  • In a large Dutch oven or deep iron clad pan, add pork,garlic,and onions and peppers.Add the mustard,olive oil, salt and pepper, spices, and rub/toss all together.
  • Then add the vinegar, and chipotle sauce,and then fill with stock until about 1 inch below the top of the meat. Cover and cook in a 350 degree Foven for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Check at 2 ½ hour mark to make sure there’s still moisture. (Actually what I did is use the slow cooker on high for 2 hours and then 350 oven for 2 hours because I was running out of time. The results were really spectacular!)
  • Remove chunks, reserve liquid in pan,and shred meat with fork. Return meat to pan to be mixed with drippings and add more stock to keep moist. Keep in fridge until next day and then add more stock and warm in crock pot/slow cooker to use for a self-serve taco bar or burrito bar!
  • I found a combination of lean and fatty pork worked nicely. Trim the pork butt of all the large pieces of fat and anysinews, so that the chunks are mostly meat. The marbling will make a better tasting finished product

Hearty Mexican Rice

Makes 6 Cups


Ingredients:

2 C jasmine rice
3 2/3 C chicken stock
¾ large green pepper rough dice
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
½ C diced canned tomatoes (I used low sodium and no flavoring, but you can use flavored if you like)
1/3 C white onion rough dice
½ t cumin
½ t cayenne pepper
¼ t paprika
¼ t hot sauce of your choice (can add more!)
1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste


Directions:

  • In a large deep pan,add the 3 C stock and the rice, and add the green pepper, onion, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to very low, and let sit for 20 minutes. When done, empty rice into a bowl.Remove garlic, which will be soft, and mush into the rice. Add the seasonings, hot sauce, olive oil, vinegar,tomatoes and then moisten with the 2/3 C stock as needed. (I ended up adding more when I reheated it and served it.) Add a little more vinegar and hot sauce if it needs more acidity. Can story in fridge for 3 days.

Quick Pickled Coriander Red Cabbage Slaw

Makes 6 Cups

Ingredients:

6 C sliced/chopped red cabbage
2 t fresh coriander seeds, crushed
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
¼ C rice wine vinegar
¼ C sugar
Salt and pepper


Directions:

  • Assemble all items. Keep in an air tight container for 4 hours prior to serving, stirring at least once. Will keep for up to a week in fridge.


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