Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carnitas Y Dos Brewers

Last Wednesday night, I had the honor of meeting two lovely gents, determined to make an impact on Chicago's microbrewery scene.  I wrote all about their project, and how you can help at Gapers Block but I wanted to share with you all some of the more personal touches of the evening...

The truth of the story is, I wanted to hear their story and the guys (Beejay and Gerrit) wanted me to taste some of their brew, but where could we do such a thing in a public place?  Last I checked, restaurants and bars don't look to favorably on you pulling out an unmarked bottle from your backpack and sipping on free suds.  What's a girl to do?  We could have crashed a BYOB but I was a bit concerned the guys wouldn't have enough space to showcase their wears.  I settled on option #2.  How better to make new fast friends than to open up your own home?

The guys arrived at 6:30 at my place, with chilled beer in hand (mostly bombers), and hungry stomachs in tow.  I provided dinner and questions and brought a long 2 interested party guests.  1, a roommate (Cap'n) who is by default one of my favorite dinner party attendees.  2, my lovely resident homebrewer (Trodimon), who's experimentation has been a fun addition to my culinary adventures this year.  (Ladies, if you want a gift that keeps on giving, give your boyfriend a brewer's set for Christmas-- score!)

The great thing about interested parties is that they, well, make the conversation more interesting.  Cap'n had some insightful inquiries about how the business would take off and right on queue Trodimon turned into a super beer geek.  "But where can I find some of those New Zealand hops?" and towards the end of the night, "yeah maybe we could brew a beer together..."

As it happens, we were all utterly charmed.  Gerrit and Beejay both have an incredible head on their shoulders, and a creative vision for brewing, something that doesn't pair so naturally, I think.  Since my piece in Gapers Block, they have 188 more backers, and about $1000 more dollars since before my article was published.  My fingers are crossed for these guys-- 10 more days and $1,873 to go.  Track there progress and donate yourself here, if you'd be interested.  Every bit counts!

I know, I know.  The question on all your minds is, what does one serve to guys that are into deep flavor profiles in sudsy concoctions?

Carnitas modified from last year's Slow Cooking edition of Bon Appetit
Bur's boneless pork shoulder
2 t salt
2 t ground black bpepper
2 t oregano
1 cinnamon stick
1 t Mexican chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1 can of cheap lager

Remove any excess fat from your pork shoulder and place it in a large slow cooker insert.  Rub with all your spices.  Place onion wedges atop meat.  Pour your beer over the whole deal.  Turn on low and let it simmer for 10 hours.  Go to work, come back to a delightful smelling house.  Then mix up:

2 small dice avocados
1/2 a bunch of green onions
1 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

When you're ready, pull your shoulder out of the slow cooker and put on an edged cutting board (otherwise your juices will go everywhere).  It should be falling apart, but use two forks to pull apart the strands.  Discard onion pieces.

Serve Carnitas meat in a warmed bowl with corn tortillas, shredded monterey jack and guacamole.
 (confession, this photo is actually from when I attempted the original recipe last January.  My alterations made these carnitas so delightful, we snorted them down before a pic could be snapped.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meadow Haven Farm: a full meatwagon

I'm almost at the end of my winter share CSA, and realizing that Slow Cooker season is right at my heels.  And what do I need?  Meat.  Lots and lots and lots of meat
The other day, Time Out ran an incredible story about Restauranteur Daniel Rosenthal.  He saw Food, Inc two years ago and now, because of how heavily it impacted him, he's leading a charge to have all of Chicago's burgers come from grass fed beef.  His Loop joint Poag Mahone's, ranked by GQ in "top 20 burgers you must eat before you die" is serving only grass fed beef.  “Watching that documentary made me realize that I not only was participating in, but--through my restaurants-- helping to perpetuate a system that was not only not sustainable but destructive to the health of my clients and my community.  And it was really a wake-up call to me to try to figure out how I, in the restaurant business, could make an impact."
How perfectly stated?! I'm not a restaurant but I'll own up to my own impact as well.  So here I am, the slow cooker is ready, I'm veggied out from the fall and long over due for a car-full of meat.  Good meat.  Why a car-full?  Because farmers can sell quarters, halves or full hogs and cows to individual buyers.  Rather than trek to the farmers market ever week and buy one piece of meat at a time, I can purchase the whole hog, get an unbelievably discounted price for organic, free range meat, and shake hands with the guy who raised the hogs, cows, turkeys, you name it.  Talk about a positive impact.

Mid-September, I called up JeremyAgain.  This time I wanted one of his birds. And pig. And cow.  I ordered a turkey, half of a hog and a quarter of a cow.  The turkey, I picked up on Wednesday for Thanksgiving, hauled all 26 pounds of fresh bird up to Minneapolis and feasted on it with 12 friends and family for the next 5 days.  It was Benny expensive but decidedly the freshest, cleanest, most delicious turkey I've ever had.  It's only once a year and I think it was worth every dollar.
Wilbur went to the "processor" (a gentile way to say butcher) two weeks ago and has been chopped up every which way for me to eat.  The Wil part is going to my boss, Paul.  He bought a deep freeze freezer and has been researching meat options for a couple months.  We decided that between the two of us, we could take down that much meat.  Bur is coming home with me.  I asked Jeremy for all the weird bits too: tongue, heart, liver to experiment with (see picture above).  I solemnly swear to report back how pig heart is best cooked. 
Bessie, our quarter cow, is arriving sometime in January.  Again, Paul will get Bess and I'll get Essie. Honestly, all "positive impacts" aside, meat from Meadow Haven is good.  Really really really good. If you want to be in on the next round, let me know.  There are plenty more cows in the pasture, pigs in the pen, fish in the sea.
Bur's Italian Sausage made it to the "number 1 thing I must try immediately upon arrival."  I opened a can of some homemade tomato sauce that D and I canned over the summer, added a few extra tomatoes, a little wine from a forlorn, half-drunk bottle, and a pound of Italian sausage. Delicious.