Monday, July 31, 2006

It Takes Two Hands . . .

Slow Roasted Pork Taco

It's not just that Burger King signature burger that takes two hands, lots of great food is best eaten without benefit of knife and fork. Easily swayed by suggestions from one of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman, this was the weekend for slow roasted pork to enjoy as tacos, burritos and enchiladas. All but the latter easily eaten with two hands. The enchiladas do require a utensil as that molten melted cheese can get messy.

Over ten years ago, I fell in love with the adventuresome Latin American and Spanish cooking techniques that Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger introduced to me with their TV cooking show, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales. Their book by the same name quickly made its way into my food library and I began to experiment using their recipes and tips as a springboard for some mighty fine eats.

One of my favorites was a take on traditional pibil cooking from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Pork (conchinita) is marinated in a blend of achiote paste, citrus juices and spices before being wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a banana leaf-lined pit called a pibe. Several years ago, Greg took me to Border Grill in Santa Monica for dinner. Without hesitation, I ordered the Conchinitas Pibil. Just had to see if I'd come close - can you imagine my surprise when halfway through the meal, Mary Sue Milliken appeared at the table to ask if everything was okay. When I explained that I'd been attempting the conchinitas pibil at home, she asked if hers was as good as mine?

The recipe in last week's New York Times for slow roasted pork is an easy variation of this specialty. I picked up two pounds of boneless pork spareribs, marinated them with garlic, citrus and toasted spices, made a makeshift banana leaf wrap with aluminum foil and roasted them off in a 300 degree oven for a little over 3 hours. When checked, the meat was tender and lusciously fragrant.

If your experience with tacos is limited to ground meat flavored with tomato sauce and an envelope of mystery spices served in a hard shell, you might want to refer to Mark's easy instructions, Taco Technique, Bottom to Top, to learn how to build a mouth-watering treat. Mine always need two hands.

While the pork is slow roasting there's plenty of time to make some fresh salsa. If you must use the bottled stuff at least buy one with a minimum of ingredients and let those be not only things you recognize as edible but organic. Here's an easy hot, red salsa that will complement the pork and give your taste buds a little jolt!

Red Salsa Components

2 cups diced tomatoes

1/4 cup minced jalapeno or serrano pepper (more depending on your tolerance for heat)

1/3 cup diced onion (put in a strainer and rinse under cold water)

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 tsp salt

2 - 3 TBS fresh lime juice
2 - 3 TBS ketchup (optional)
Fresh Red Salsa
This week's page turners, I'm embarrassed to say, included Pressure Drop, another one by Peter Abrahams. I just can't seem to leave the library without checking out another of his achievements. Pressure Drop was published in 1989. The storyline has a great plot interweaving artificial insemination, infant kidnapping, underwater diving, 'blue holes', war time mysteries and Nazi survivors -- hey, something for everyone. Once again, Abrahams has written another keep you on the edge of your seat thriller with a cast of characters you'd like to meet and won't easily forget, told from both the male and female perspectives. A very enjoyable undertaking.
I can highly recommend John Hart's debut novel, The King of Lies. For all you lovers of the lawyer-turned-author publications, this new Southern writer will be a pleasant addition to Grisham, Turow, etc. Hart writes from the heart both as a man, husband, lover, and lawyer. King of Lies is a mystery and a love story but most of all, it's a look into the heart and mind of a man who must face himself and find the courage to follow a path of his own making, not one carved out by parental influence and the pressures of money, power and prestige. Hope Hart keeps on writing.
Till next time . . . Keep on cooking!

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