Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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There are certain important, iconic historic events that when they happen, you’ll always remember exactly where you were.

I was very young both times around, but I remember where I was when President Bill Clinton was elected. Both times in 1992, and in 1996: my grandparent’s living room, watching TV with my grandpa.

Strangely enough, I remember where I was the day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his wife: again, my grandparents living room watching the verdict unfold on Geraldo Rivera.

I remember where I was on December 31st/January 1st, 1999 when everyone was holding their breath, thinking the world was going to end in the year 2000. I was at my other grandmother’s house in Detroit with my Dad and sisters and we all were laughing about it.

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001; my 7th grade English class. My teacher had left in the middle of class for a few minutes, then come back into the room and without saying a word to us, just turned on the TV and switched to CNN. I still remember that first image I saw of the smoke billowing out from the World Trade Center, and not fully realizing what it was I was really seeing.

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I remember where I was when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005; I was visiting my Aunt in Atlanta and was horrified at the images and video footage the news was reporting, not just from the hurricane itself, but also from the aftermath. The first few weeks when I got back to high school, several of the student organizations I was apart of were collecting food, toiletries and clothe donations to send down there to help out.

I remember where I was when President Barack Obama was first elected; in 2008 me and Jas were in our dorm room, watching the election results on our tv through tears of joy and near disbelief. To date, that night is one of the best nights I’ve ever had in my life. (I remember where I was the night of his re-election in 2012 too, but that night in 2008 will always and forever be particularly special to me)

I remember where I was when I found out that Michael Jackson died in 2009. I was in the kitchen cooking and my Mom came in and told me that the story was trending on the internet. I refused to believe it for a really long time. When it finally was confirmed as true, I felt an unexpected sadness and depression that lingered with me for a few days.

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Right up there with all those super duper important, iconic historical events I’ve lived to see, I’m gonna go ahead and add another to that list.

I’ll always remember where I was the day that I first made pork carnitas. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, while my mom and sister Ashley were watching the tv show The Blacklist in the living room.

Yep. This recipe is that important and life-changing to me.

You have to understand, I’ve never done this before. I didn’t even really know what I was doing, I just knew that carnitas was something I’d always wanted to make for myself.

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So when my grocery store finally put their pork butt (shoulder)on sale, I just went out and bought one of those bad boys, along with some basic ingredients that I knew were traditionally used in making carnitas.

The first good sign was the smell coming out of my slow cooker when I woke up on Sunday morning after letting the shoulder do it’s thing overnight. It was friggin glorious, people. I went in the kitchen and pressed my face up against the glass lid like a kid looking through the glass of a candy store, trying to see what ind of magic was going on in that crockpot that smelled so delicious. The steam and heat had created too many bubbles for me to see unfortunately, so I had to exercise an INCREDIBLE amount of self-restraint from yanking off the lid and let it keep cooking for another few hours. I wasn’t taking any chances. I wanted to make sure I had that type of pork that’s been cooked to low and slow perfection. It needed to practically melt off the bone with little to no force or resistance.

Kinda like the way I get after watching “The Avengers” and seeing Chris Hemsworth’s arms and Chris Evans work a punching bag.

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Good things come to those who wait. I found that out when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and lifted my crockpot lid. The steam from the pork hit me in the face. It was like, the best kiss I ever had

Okay, maybe not the best kiss I ever had. But pretty darn close. I wanted to break out in Snoopy dances when I took a fork and pierced the meat. I didn’t even have to pull, guys. I just touched it. And it FELL off the bone. Fell, I tell you. If I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was wrong. Because a few minutes underneath the broiler elevates these carnitas from mere mortal (albeit delicious) viddles, to the Food of the Gods.

Moist, fork-tender pork that literally melts in your mouth. A hint of crusty caramelization. This is living.

Something this simple to make really shouldn’t taste this good. It just shouldn’t. It almost feels like I’m cheating. Life’s not a fairy tale like that, am I right?!

So why did this dish turn out SO GOOOOOOOOD?!

I’m going to the Fiesta Friday #43, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook. I’ll also be bringing these carnitas. See you there…

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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Recipe by Jessica@Cooking Is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs. pork shoulder, slightly trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 oranges, sliced in half
  • 1 lime, sliced in half

Directions

1. Combine garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika.

2. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker (minimum of 6 quarts)*

3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes over the pork. Place rinds pulp side down in slow cooker over the meat.

4. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until pork is tender and falling off the bone. Use a fork to pull away from bone and discard it.

5. Preheat oven broiler. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange pork in a single layer. Place underneath broiler until tips of pork are browned and slightly crisp, about 3-5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it. Keep an eye on meat to make sure it doesn’t burn or become overly browned).

6. Serve finished pork in corn/flour tortillas, or over rice.

*I had to use 2 slow cookers too cook a 6lb. pork shoulder that I ended up cutting in half, so keep that in mind when buying your meat.

My Grandma’s Collard Greens

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Happy Fiesta Friday #31, all! I’m super glad to be headed to today’s party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener. I wanted to save this recipe for a Fiesta Friday because it’s not only one of the best things I’ve ever made, but also because it is very, VERY special to me and my family heritage. A few weeks back, I made a full-blown Southern Meal for my family with Triple Dipped Fried Chicken and Hushpuppies on the side- but as delicious as both the chicken and hushpuppies were, they just wouldn’t have been complete as a meal without this dish.My Grandma’s parents were farmers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. I was too young to be able too be there in their hey-day and see the farm as it was when they weren’t older and infirm, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from my Grandma, Mom and Aunts.

Even though they all lived in Michigan, every summer my Grandpa would take my Grandma and their three daughters down to Mississippi for the summer to visit my Great-Grandparents on their farm. My mom didn’t really like it, for a number of reasons:

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First, she was a self-described “city girl”. My great-grandparents’ farm was literally a on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Because it was the summertime in the Deep South in the mid 70’s, there was (of course) no air conditioning, and the majority of the windows were left open at all hours of the day and night in order to allow the breeze to cool down the house. My mom (having just read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) was convinced that a serial killer was going to break into the house and murder everyone and tells me that she used to walk around the house, checking and re-checking doors and windows for intruders.

Second, my mom couldn’t get into the whole ‘ farm experience’. My great-grandpa’s enormous hunting dogs on the porch frightened her by running up to the car and surrounding it every time they drove up to the house. Apparently the chickens were demon possessed and chased her around everywhere. Plus, a lot of the food that got served on the table at my great-grandparents’ house came from the farm itself- including the meat. My mom had a hard time eating the chicken that she saw get shot, decapitated, plucked, and butchered just a few hours ago.

One thing she consistently talks about, are the big ‘Meetins’ that they all used to attend. For those who aren’t Southern or aren’t familiar with the Baptist tradition, the big ‘Meetins’ (you have to say it just like that, no ‘g’s allowed) consisted of large gatherings of the local Churches where they would all hold one, long service that LITERALLY lasted all day long, then conclude with a pot-luck style feast composed of all the dishes that each of the women would make before hand and bring to share.

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At any true Southern church meetin, you’re guaranteed to find a pot of greens. They’re almost like a symbol of the South itself. When you eat them, you can practically taste all the history and soul that they come from with every bite.

My Grandma’s greens are the thing of legend. Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, and (my personal favorite) Cabbage Greens. She does them all, and she does them all perfectly. I’ve said it before on the blog, and I’m gonna say it again: her greens would be on the menu of foods I would have to eat if I was on Death Row and given a last meal to eat. Give me a big bowl of greens and two hunks of her cornbread, and I don’t even need meat. They’re really that good.

The greens that she makes for the family come straight out of her backyard garden, but I’ve also made this recipe with greens that I’ve bought at grocery stores and farmer’s markets- however, if you know someone who grows greens or can get to a farmer’s market, then I do strongly recommend that you get them that way. The quality of homegrown greens is so much better than the ones you get in the stores.

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My grandma usually uses whole ham hocks to flavor her greens, but because I know that not everyone can get their hands on those (and because depending on where you live, they can get pretty pricey), I adapted this recipe so that it’s do-able for just about anywhere using regular bacon (note: you CAN also use turkey bacon, or even smoked turkey instead of the pork). This recipe is also one where you’re going to have to use your personal taste-testing skills to judge how much or how little seasoning you add. I judge what to add or not add by tasting the liquid given off by the greens after they’ve been cooking half-way through or so (we call that stuff the Pot Likker in the South, and it’s friggin awesome). When they’re done, i do have to emphasize that cornbread with greens is a must- one hunk for dipping in the pot likker, and another hunk for crumbling over the greens themselves.Oh, and if you have access to some zesty, jarred Southern Cha Cha (some people call it Chow Chow), then you need to sprinkle some of that on top too. It’ll send your bowl of greens and cornbread over the edge and into the galaxies of awesomeness.

 I’ve got this down to a science, can’t you tell?

Try this dish, guys. I don’t care if you have so-called ‘picky eaters’ in your house- I was one of those people growing up too. And I STILL couldn’t get enough of these greens.

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My Grandma’s Collard Greens

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 bunches of collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into about 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. thick cut bacon
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • About 1 1/2—2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange bacon on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. (The bacon is not supposed to be crispy– it’s okay if it’s still a little floppy or limp.)

2. Remove bacon from tray and roughly chop into lardons, or large chunks. Set aside.

3. Drain the remaining drippings and grease from the sheet pan into a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the greens in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, onion and bacon and mix together. Season the greens with onion powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover and allow to cook until greens are tender and wilted, about 35-45minutres, depending on how tender or firm you like them. Make sure the liquid doesn’t get absorbed, or they’ll scorch!

6. Taste the juice the greens are cooking in and adjust for seasoning.

Southern Smothered Potatoes and Onions

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Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin today’s post by saying a few things that I love about the South (for my international friends, that’s the Southern USA).

First and foremost, Atlanta is in the South. Atlanta is one of my all time favorite places to go in the entire country. It’s a city full of energy, soul and entertainment. There’s nothing you can do, find or try in Atlanta (except for build a snowman, I’m pretty sure that won’t work.) Every time I visit Atlanta, I always realize how dull and unspectacular my own hometown is and I’m always sad when I have to come back up North to boring old Michigan. If I had a choice of where to live, Atlanta would be at the top of my list for sure.

Although some of us have migrated north, both of my parent’s families are from the South. So I’m a Northern girl with Southern roots. Maybe that’s why I always get sad when I leave Georgia…

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Three words, guys:

The.Waffle. House. We don’t have them in Michigan. This is simply unacceptable to me. Once you pass  over the old Mason Dixon Line, I swear there’s a Waffle House every two miles on the highway. They’re literally everywhere. True story: I didn’t used to like waffles very much. As a little kid, I had eaten more than my fair share of the cardboard-like, tasteless Eggo ‘waffles’ drowned in syrup to make them somewhat edible. I don’t know exactly why I did, maybe it was just apart of the 90’s Kid Rites of Passage. Anyway, it was traumatizing enough to put me off of waffles for years in lieu of My One True Love (pancakes). The one year, I was visiting my Aunt who lives near Atlanta, and she suggested that we go out for breakfast to a Waffle House so that we could try one of their “special recipe” waffles. I was skeptical. It was ‘just’ a waffle, right? How ‘special’ could it be, right?

That was what I thought then. Now? Well, now, I’m pretty convinced that the Waffle House “special recipe” for their waffles is injected with some kind of drugs. That’s the only way I can explain waffles being that friggin delicious and leave me always wanting more.

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Additional pluses for the South in my book: Disney World, Miami Beach, no snow storms that cause city-wide power outages over the holidays (see this post), amazing scenery, older AND younger men calling me “Ma’am” or “Darlin”, women calling me “Honey”.

Then there’s the accents. Random fact: if I spend a certain amount of time in the South, I will begin to pick up a Southern accent of my own. I  know it sounds weird, but I mean it. Before long, I’ll be dropping my ‘g’s and developing a drawl/twang and the whole she-bang. Again, that could just be my Southern roots calling me ‘home’.

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Then of course, there’s the food. Southern Cuisine has to be my favorite regional food to both eat and cook. There’s a reason why it’s called Soul Food, guys: you can literally taste the heart, soul and love that goes into it.

And in case you all didn’t know, in the South heart, soul and love usually translates into the 3 B’s: Bacon, Butter and Booze- not necessarily in that order. Personally, I don’t really consume much of these 3 ingredients on their own. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, I don’t like the taste of it, and it gives me a stomach ache- but will I still marinate a pork roast in whiskey? Oh yeah. Usually I try to sub out butter for healthier options when trying to sautee or flavor a dish, but there are some instances where nothing but butter will do, like when making pound cake and pie crust. Then I’m the Butter Queen.

Please don’t slaughter me when I say this: but I can really live without eating bacon on it’s own. Don’t get wrong: the smell is fantastic, but I can do without actually eating the finished product, regardless of whether it’s chewy or crisp. On the other hand; to me, bacon grease (the liquid stuff that gets leftover in the pan or skillet) may as well be the Nectar of the Gods. It’s everything. Everything that matters when cooking.

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One of the oldest, most priceless cooking tips that I learned from my true blue, Deep South, Mississippi born and bred grandma was this: save.your.grease.

Bacon grease. Chicken grease. Fish grease. After you’re finished cooking the proteins, don’t just throw it out. That’s bad. Strain it through a fine sieve to get out the bits, then pour it into mason jars and give them their own label. I’m serious. I know, it may sound weird (and maybe even a little nasty), but  trust and believe: you will thank me for this later. I watched my grandma do this for years without fully understanding why it was so valuable- then I started cooking for myself, and found out that she was a genius.

Drained grease (especially pork grease) does something for food that no ordinary, ground seasoning can even come close to. It’s…it’s almost like pure magic, guys. This dish completely proves my point. It originally started as a dish that we made up in my house for when my church was doing a fast that was kinda similar to the month of Catholic Lent, except we did ours during the month of January and the beginning of February. Usually, we just did things like give up eating solid meat, bread or sweets- nothing too serious, it’s more of the idea that counts in these cases. Anyway, my mom and my grandma made this dish quite a few times during the fast, as it’s a meal that’s delicious and satisfying enough to where you don’t even miss the meat at all.

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Now, I’ll be honest with you all: I was very light handed when it came to putting together this recipe because it’s just one of those things that I put together and season to personal taste. I’m very liberal when it comes to my seasonings, but I can admit that not everyone is like me, and as such, may have a completely different palate. So when it came to seasoning, what I did was give you all the ingredients that I put in the dish, then let you decide how much of it you want to add. As far as Garlic and Onion powder are concerned my advice would be to not be shy: it’s hard to add too much of those, so I usually add a liberal coating over the potatoes and onions, stir, then add another liberal coating and stir again. With salt and pepper, you’ll need to be more careful, as it’s much easier to over salt or over pepper a dish. Butter Buds are basically dried, powdered Butter flakes that make potatoes basically irresistible. It’s also a healthier alternative to using straight butter. They can be found in the spice aisle of grocery stores, and really are worth the buy if you can find them in your area.

 After they’re done cooking, the potatoes become tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, forming that delectable crust that reminds me of hash browns. The nearly caramelized onions should be limp and they really provide the perfect, slightly sweet complement to the saltiness of the potato. And to top it all off, there is a slight aftertaste of bacon thanks to the potatoes and onions being cooked in the liquid bacon grease.

You guys, this food is the South on a plate. It really speaks to my heritage and style of cooking, and just tastes phenomenal.

I decided to bring this to the Fiesta Friday party this week, hosted this week by Elaine@Foodbod and Julianna@Foodie On Board. Hope you guys like this little taste of the South 🙂

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Southern Smothered Potatoes & Onions

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup liquid bacon grease
  • 4 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Butter Buds, to taste

 Directions

1. Heat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat.

2. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease into the pan, swirl about to evenly cover the surface.

3. Add enough potatoes and onions to pan to fill up. (You will have to do this in multiple batches).Sprinkle a generous coating of the onion powder, garlic powder, and butter buds over the potatoes and onions. Stir to evenly coat, then add a little bit more if necessary.

4. Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and onions (be a little less generous with these, I typically do about 1 tsp of each per batch).

5. Cover the pan and allow to cook until potatoes are brown, tender and slightly crisp at the edges, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom of the skillet.

6. Repeat steps 2-6 in batches with the remaining potatoes and onions and serve.