making food from anywhere, with anything

the magic that is pork

Hello everyone.

Yes, two in one day.  Can you tell I have an exam coming up later this week?

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to go for a buy one get one free sale of pork.  I also mentioned that it has become my new mission to make pork chops tender and delicious.

When I think of tender and delicious, I think braising.  Braising is one of my favorite methods of cooking because it leaves meat fall-off-the-bone tender.  I was in the mood for something spicy tonight, and I coincidentally came across this recipe for carnitas.  Although pork shoulder is traditionally used for carnitas, I don’t see myself buying THAT much (as much as I would love to, that would be leftovers for….a while…and I’ll only be living here for one month more).  I decided to take Anthony Bourdain’s advice when it comes to pork:

Love pork in all its many-faceted glory.  Respect it.  Do not waste it. Use it carefully and well.  Cook with it, at all times, as if you were dirt poor; it is imperative that you do not waste a scrap.  A highly intelligent animal died so you could have bacon.  So don’t overcook it.

And that is what I did.  I did not overcook it.  Even though I was working with these two smaller than average pork chops, I respected it and tended to it diligently while it slowly braised in a savory and spicy sauce.  Embarrassingly, I did not have all the accoutrement for proper carnitas (cilantro, lime, salsa, you know…everything you would need), so I improvised with some potatoes.  I braised them right along with the pork chops so they benefited from the sauces and juices as well.

improv carnitas


2 pork sirloin chops (mine were small. these two probably equaled the size of one normal chop)

3 cloves garlic, minced


salt and pepper

a generous pinch (or two) of chili powder

1 cinnamon stick, or about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

a generous pinch (or two) of cumin

a few shakes of tobasco sauce

2 bay leaves

olive oil


1. cut the meat into 2-3″ chunks and season all sides with salt.  preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. in a saucepan, heat the oil and cook the meat until very well browned on all sides.  once brown, remove and blot on a paper towel. after blotting, add to a small roasting pan (i used an 8 x 11 brownie pan, as it turns out).

3. once all the meat is browned and it has been removed from the pan, add about two cups of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the brown bits.  add the cinnamon stick (or powder), bay leaves, garlic, chili powder and cumin.  mix well, and then add to the meat in the roasting pan.  if the meat is not about 2/3 covered, add a little more water.

4. braise in oven, covered with foil, for about 3 hours.  check on the meat occasionally, turning it, adding more water if it seems to be too dry, etc.

5. once a fork pierces the meat like it would room temperature butter, remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a plate.  strain the liquid.  shred the pork and put it back into the pan.  add the liquid and put it into the oven.  cook until most of the liquid evaporates.  the pork should be crispy and start to caramelize.

These were the most tender pork chops I’ve ever had.  The cinnamon added a real nice warmth to the dish, while the chili powder, paprika, and tobasco added some HEAT.  It was exactly what I was looking for tonight.  I served it over lavash bread in the absence of tortillas.  This would’ve been good in a pita, too.  It was screaming for a squeeze of lime and some cilantro, but I was totally lacking.  I’ve got tons of pork left, so I’m sure I’ll be making something like this again – only less ill prepared.  This is a pretty easy recipe, and you’re left with a lot of free time to either study for an exam or watch a movie.  Not to mention it perfumes the place with the most delicious smell – I could not wait to taste it.

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