Club Kitty Carnitas

Club Kitty Carnitas

Got some friends coming over tomorrow to hang out with Miss Maggie and eat at Club Kitty. For those of you who don’t know about Club Kitty, it’s a little something I started a few years ago when I used to go to this wine bar around the corner. One Friday night, we were all sitting around tasting some wine and we started talking about where we were going to eat afterwards. Since I lived a few blocks away, I invited everyone to just come on over to my house. I promised to throw something together and the only rule was that everyone should bring a bottle of wine they wanted to try. Well, I think we had about 6 people that night….Kaj, Diane, Steve, Paul, Ray and Catheryn. I ended up making pizzas, which, since I started around 9pm, meant we were finally eating at close to 11pm. It didn’t matter, good friends and good wine made for a fantastic evening. After many glasses of wine and some wild boar sausage pizza with white truffle oil, the instruments came out and an impromptu jam session started. We had such a blast that evening that Kaj dubbed it Club Kitty and I continued to ‘open up’ every week. It grew and grew and after a few months, I was getting an average of 15 people over to my house every Friday. Every night, it was a different food theme and people were told to bring wine to match it. Some pics from the very first Club Kitty:

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Well, with a new house and a new baby, Club Kitty fell by the wayside. The regulars scattered to the wind and I ran out of time, but I still miss it, so I figured it was about time for a little Club Kitty reunion. Sadly, Paul has moved on to Dallas, Ray was working and Catheryn was out and about but we still had Kaj, Diane and Steve…and my husband Sean, who was in NYC for the first Club Kitty. Taco night was always a big draw and since I’m low on time these days, it’s easy to prep a lot of it the day before so that I’m not too crazy to enjoy my friends. For this Taco Night, I’m making carnitas, tri-tip and my own tortillas. If you read my other blogs, you already know how to make the tri-tip and tortillas, so here’s my carnitas recipe for you. Start it the day before, because it will be cooking for roughly 18 hours total…yes…18 hours….trust me on this. You’re not slaving over the stove for 18 hours, it’s just in the oven, doing it’s own thing for most of that time.

Remember, always start by turning on your oven and getting your mis-en-place together. Oven temp should be 200 degrees.

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You’ll need a dutch oven. I like enameled cast iron, like le Creuset. Now, I’ve done this so often that I don’t really measure the ingredients but I’ve made an effort to do that this time for you guys. Know that these measurements are approximate and if you go over or under, it’s really no big deal. This recipe is pretty fool-proof and you can tweak it any way you wish. In fact, I also make porchetta the exact same way, which is just the Italian version of carnitas with different flavorings.

1 boneless pork shoulder (also called pork butt, strangely enough), about 3 pounds but it doesn’t matter because we’re cooking it forever anyway…tied like so:

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Don’t freak out about the tying, it usually comes that way. If not…doesn’t matter. It just helps keep it together when your searing it off.

Good bacon…about 4 slices. I like Nueske’s, but use your favorite brand.

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Slice into lardons.

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Place the lardons in your dutch oven and sauté over medium heat until you have rendered the fat out.

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Then remove the lardons from the pot, drain off the fat and set them aside for later. Add the bacon fat back into the pot. Yes people, you guessed it, another artery-clogging recipe from Kitty. One of these days, I’m going to have to blog a healthy one but not today.

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What? Not fattening enough for you? OK! We’re going to use chicken stock too, 3 Cups. I make my own whenever we eat a roast chicken. I stick it in the fridge, let the fat rise to the top, which forms a thick fat cap that seals off the oxygen, preserving it and allowing you to keep it for several weeks without worrying about it going bad. Well, for this recipe, I need the chicken stock, but why waste that yummy chicken fat/
Schmaltz? It adds so much flavor to the finished dish.

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Add the chicken fat to the pot too and melt it into the bacon fat over medium heat.

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Now, back to the pork shoulder. This is where I’m going to be a little hazy on measurements because I just shake the herbs and spices on. No need to worry too much about it. Do it ‘to taste’ and just give it a nice coating. Rub the pork shoulder with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, ground cumin, oregano (preferably Mexican oregano), ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder. If you have any problems finding these spices, here’s where I get mine: Penzey’s Spices

Note: when I say Ancho Chili Powder and Chipotle Chili Powder, I mean ground chilis and not something called ‘chili powder’ that you find at any grocery store. That is usually a chili blend that includes ground chilis, cumin, oregano, and God knows what else. If you use that, don’t bother with the cumin, oregano, etc., because you’ll just be repeating ingredients. Alternately, you can buy whole dried chilis, toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, let cool and grind them up in a coffee grinder. (Preferably one that you only use for spices unless you like your coffee SPICY.)

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Anyway, after you’ve rubbed your pork butt all over with the herbs and spices, salt and pepper, place it in your hot dutch oven and sear it on all sides in the bacon/chicken fat mixture. Keep it on medium heat and leave it in there a while to let it get a nice, dark crust. This is called the Maillard Reaction and it is absolutely essential to the flavor of this dish. You can let it get really dark, even charred in places. Normally, I would say ‘no black just chocolate brown color’ but with carnitas, I don’t mind a little bitterness from the char. It makes it interesting.

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While the pork is searing, roughly chop 1 onion. You’ll need about a cup to a cup and a half chopped, so depending on the size of your onion, may mean 1 onion or ½ onion if you have one of those huge suckers.

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Once the pork butt is seared on all sides, (this will take about 45 minutes or so), remove it from the pot, set it aside and throw in the chopped onions. Sprinkle in a healthy pinch of Kosher salt. The salt will draw the water out of the onions and will help to deglaze the pot, and this is where ALL the flavor comes from. Saute the onions until translucent, scraping up all the crusty bits you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get them all. You will in a minute.

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Now, add about 1 Tablespoon of dried orange peel, 1 teaspoon of anise seed, 2 teaspoons of epazote and a bay leaf. Now, my orange peel is cut up pretty small, almost granular, but sometimes it comes in large chunks. If yours does, use about a ¼ cup.

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Add the bacon back in:

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Add 3 Cups of Chicken stock, 2 Cups of orange juice (preferably fresh-squeezed) and 2 cloves of garlic (halved).

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Bring this all to a boil, stirring and scrape up the last bits that are clinging to the bottom of the pot.

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Meanwhile, go ahead and snip those strings off the pork butt now. They’ve done their job and you don’t need them anymore. Place the pork butt back into the pot, (the liquid should come half-way up the meat) and stick the whole thing in the oven, partially covered.

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Now, this is going to stay in the oven for the next 16 hours. I’m putting this in at 4pm and taking it out the next morning when I wake up at about 8am. It’s pretty forgiving, though. The temperature is really low, so if you sleep late, it won’t be affected. One thing that WILL affect it though, is if your oven turns off by itself. I found out the hard way that mine turns itself off after a certain period of time. It would behoove you to test your oven out first by turning it on and leaving it overnight, because if the oven turns off, your pork will spoil and you’ll have to throw the whole thing out, which sucks hard…trust me.

After 16 hours or so, take it out of the oven. It should look something like this:

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Remove the pork but to a pan. It should pull apart easily with just your fingers. Strain the juices into a pyrex measuring cup and place it in the fridge.

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Next, start to pull the meat apart in chunks with your fingers. Remove anything like unrendered fat, skin, etc., that you don’t want to eat. This is best done by hand because you can feel easily what you don’t want to eat. Try to keep the meat in fairly big chunks.

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Discard the schmutz:

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Then place the good meat in a container and refrigerate until needed.

A couple of hours before you’re ready to serve, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Take the meat and the juice out of the fridge. The fat should have solidified on top. Remove that fat and set aside. (yep, we’re still using that….I know…I know….I’m bad.) Heat up a wide yet shallow pan over medium high heat. I’m using another le Creuset pan. Melt that fat in the pan and then place the meat chunks in and fry them for about 15 minutes until you get some crispy bits. Then add the juices back into the pan and place, uncovered, into your 300 degree oven for about 2 hours until you want to serve.

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It should look something like this, with crispy parts and tender, achingly moist parts. Perfect for pulling apart and spreading on freshly made tortillas.

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Dinner’s ready. Let’s go check on the gang:

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Uh oh….looks like Maggie’s getting hungry. She’s eating Diane’s face:

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Dig in everyone!

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Ahhhhh…that was good. Now, for the fun part:

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PORCHETTA VARIATION:
Substitute fennel seed for the anise seed, fresh rosemary for the oregano, a few pieces of fresh meyer lemon peel for the orange peel, a ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice instead of cumin, savory for the epazote. Still use the bay leaf but substitute apple juice for the orange juice and roughly chop one fennel bulb in addition to the onion. Same technique, totally different flavor.

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6 Responses to “Club Kitty Carnitas”

  1. I Dig On Swine…Grilled Maple-brined Pork Chops with Sweet Corn Succotash and Hash Browns « Club Kitty Says:

    […] versatile meat. I greatly prefer pork with a little fat on it. I think some of you may have read my carnitas blog and know how much I adore pork butt. I’ve never been a huge pork loin person. Too lean…it dries […]

  2. Club Kitty Spain - Part 1 - Farmer’s Market Inspirations « Club Kitty Says:

    […] the yolk of my eggs into the chorizo, I wondered how long it had been since I’d done a Spanish Club Kitty and then I thought about how well-suited the late summer produce is for a Catalan […]

  3. Kim Says:

    Oh Kitty, i do remember drooling over this on myspace a while back. I didn’t know you had another blogspace 🙂 Awesome..

  4. Kim Says:

    I do remember this from your myspace, i was frothing at the mouth the whole time reading..ran to the fridge to get leftovers..lol
    I do sooo love your cooking style!

  5. climbhighak Says:

    Glad to see that this write up didn’t die with myspace. Now I have to look and see if your tarte tatin recipe is here.

  6. clubkitty Says:

    Front page, baby!

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