Tacos de Carnitas + Sangría Roja


A lot has happened since I've been away.

I graduated. I showed New Hampshire and my big crazy family to Jimmy for the first time. I traveled to Nice, Genoa, Bologna, Siena, and London over three weeks. I ate a lot of wonderful, wonderful food. I got tan. I found my new home in Washington, D.C.

Trafalgar Square, London, with Jimmy

And now, with only a week left until I move and start my new job, I feel very ready, nervous, and sad to leave Chicago. I resisted calling it home for a long time, even after my parents moved here from New Hampshire, and even after I started living in an apartment -- but when I was traveling this past month and asked where I was from, Chicago was the first place on my lips.

I hated that, because Hudson was my home in a way Chicago never was and no other place will ever be again. That's fine, though. I'm able to call Chicago home just as I'm about to leave it, and maybe there's something poetic about that. Or maybe I'm just feeling grossly sentimental. I'm not sure that I would feel the same way if Jimmy weren't staying in Chicago, but it really hit me this morning that this is happening -- that this time I'm the one moving, and even though we'll see each other much more frequently than we did when he was in Chile, it's still hard to say goodbye. We've gotten very used to saying goodbye to each other at airports. I hate that too.

I have another week left, though, and so I can't be too sad or try to buy too many things for the new apartment on Amazon yet. I've been on a pie and galette-making spree, with the sour cherry pie from summer's past turning out deliciously yet again and one peach galette turning out much better than the other (I made the crust too wet when it was grossly humid out here, never again!). We also made an enchiladas verdes recipe from Rick Bayless but with an improvised cremini mushroom, zucchini, and black bean filling spiced with cumin, coriander, chili powder, and oregano. Last week I made tilapia ceviche with the usual lime and cilantro, but also added fresh ginger and it was pretty amazing. And let's not forget these tacos de carnitas that we made last night, improvised using the New York Times cooking blog's recipe. They turned out so, so well, especially served with pickled radishes, avocado, and cilantro. They made an excellent dinner last night, and dare I say even better lunch today? Also this sangría roja, which Jimmy and I first improvised for my graduation party, is super delicious. I imagine I'll be making it fairly often to survive the D.C. heat, which my body is certainly not ready for.

Tacos de Carnitas

3-4 pound pork shoulder, marbled with lots of yummy fat (mine was about 4 pounds)
1 1/2+ teaspoons salt
1-3 teaspoons dried oregano, to taste
1 large orange, zested
1 large onion, sliced
4+ garlic cloves sliced, depending on your taste
1 bottle Negra Modelo or other dark beer
3 chipotles in adobo, with a couple spoonfuls of sauce
1 large Mexican cinnamon stick, or 2 small regular ones
2 bay leaves
1 ounce very dark chocolate, whatever you have on hand

Trim any large, thick pieces of fat from the pork shoulder. Break it down into 1-inch cubes and add them to a pot, preferably a cast iron Dutch oven. Toss the meat with the oregano, orange zest, and salt to coat, then add the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate. Add enough water to cover the pork, then simmer over medium-low heat (depending on your stove) for about 2 hours. Skim any foam that forms on the top every 20 minutes or so, and add water as needed to keep the pork covered. 

Start checking around 1 1/2 hours for doneness: the pieces of pork should be breaking down and yield very easily to being pressed. Turn up the heat to allow the liquid to boil down and become a lovely sauce. If you're afraid that the meat will become overcooked, depending on how much liquid you have left to boil off, remove the meat and then reduce the liquid. You want to have enough liquid to keep the pork moist but not so much that it's soupy -- I probably left a half cup of liquid. As the liquid boils off, shred the pork (you can use 2 forks for this, but honestly I just pressed mine with my spoon and it fell apart easily). Add in the chocolate and let it cook for a couple minutes with the meat.

Remove the cinnamon stick(s) and bay leaves. Serve with warm corn tortillas and your desired condiments. 

Sangría Roja

1 large bottle of red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 cup apple cider or natural apple juice
1/2 cup apple brandy (you could use regular brandy instead but that's what we had)
1/3 cup simple syrup, or to taste
Sliced fruit (oranges work especially well because they soak up the sangria)

Stir liquids to combine. Add in the fruit and serve over ice. I recommend letting the fruit marinate in the sangria for a couple of hours before serving if possible.