Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mexicana to Thai: a carnitas/cabbage study

I solemnly swear to those interested parties that this is my last publicly sung praise of my slow cooker.  I'm moving on to bigger (physically) and better (come on, it's JOHN!) cookbooks, namely this one.  It was a delightful peace offering from a biz trip to NOLA and I'm quite eager to get at it but before I do,  Trodímo̱n please allow me this final last tribute to my lovely slow cooker.

I received this slow cooker from la maman de Trodimon for Christmas.  As a matter of irony, I was incidentally so vocal about my desire for a slow cooker that I also received one from my culinacurious father.  On December 26, 2009 I was the proud owner of TWO slow cookers-- and sometimes I still wish I had two, if only because it would be a physical manifestation of my true love.  Alas, practicality calls and I really needed new cutting boards, knives, a slotted spoon-- you know, the essentials.  For those that are still using old cutting boards that are warped and don't have the fancy stick-ems on the bottom: UPGRADE!  It makes all the difference.

Back to the matter at hand, she who gave the slow cooker happened to be celebrating  une petite anniversaire, and naturally it was not enough to only have a stellar lunch here; we needed to have a two day celebration.  I personally believe that birthdays should be week-long extravaganzas, so a two-day is a must.  With the last evening of slow cooking ahead and a birthday at hand, a new recipe was needed.

Bon Appetit ran a spread on slow cooking in their latest issue, much to my delight, and in it was a lovely recipe for carnitas.  With a pork shoulder in the freezer from a local farmers market, it seemed an easy choice.  I left my slow cooker on low for 8 hours, and then at warming for another 3-- final tip to the slow cooker: when it comes to meats, the longer on the warm setting, the better.  Don't be afraid of a 6 hour cook time-- you can go longer.  In fact, this recipe doesn't call for any liquids to add and I was a bit nervous about the meat drying out.  When you're throwing together salt, pepper, oregano & pork, having good quality meat is key.  I picked up a pork shoulder from Jake's Country Meats at the Logan Square Market and it was phenomenal. 

But then, here I am with 3/4ers a head of cabbage and where to go from there?  I've fallen in love with the Brassicaceae family, so I could not leave such a delightful specimen alone.  New challenge:  how to cook with cabbage.  But let's be honest, none of us like cooked cabbage. I can handle a little saurkraut every now and again but cooked, wilty cabbage?  No merci.  Call in for backup:  I have two friends at work that have been a delightful discovery.  Turns out, when you start to be vocal about your love of food, you never know what effect that can have on a friendship.  One of these you've heard of before but the other, a delighful franco-fille has been an incredible source of new recipes and ideas and cooking dates. (*note to self, we're WAY overdue for another one... ) So Tweedle-dee and Tweedle dum came in to save the day.  Try this they suggest.  Both ladies made this last summer and it won top prize at their respective July 4th celebrations.

But since a cabbage salad cannot stand alone, it came with a side of Thai curry shrimp and Trodimon's homebrew.

Winter Seasonal Thai Cabbage Slaw  adapted from Bon Appetits
1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded into 1/4 inch strips
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
handful baby carrots, chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped

1 T fresh squeezed orange juice
1 T canola oil
1 T asian rice vinegar

Toss veggies and cilantro.  In a separate bowl whisk oj, oil and vinegar.  toss together and voila!  Serve with one of those cheap asian pre-fab noodle dinners.

Locavore plug:  I can't barely stand buying wilty greens from the grocery store these days but am growing fairly weary of potatoes 24-7.  This salad is delightfully seasonally appropriate: cabbage is being sent in most CSAs during this time of year; I used fresh squeezed orange juice from oranges I picked in CA three weeks ago and dragged in my carry-on all the way back.  The frozen corn from the Cap's grandparents' farm (which has appeared before), carrots from a farmer's market and err... cilantro.  Forgive the one exception.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know about you folks but I STILL had cabbage left after both these meals and made this lovely side dish last evening. It comes highly recommended.