July 13th, 2011

Spicy pulled pork with mandarin, guacamole and black quinoa

The best of my “Mexicanexperiments yet.

I got totally carried away today. We had a few avocados sitting in our fruit bowl that needed to be used up, so I decided to make some guacamole: avocado, red onion, lemon juice, salt, hot sauce(s). But then we needed something to go with it, and I’ve been craving something like carnitas since I got back from a short trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago.

So I grabbed some free-range pork belly, sliced it through to the skin, and rubbed it all over with the sauce from a tin of La Morena chipotles in adobo (a tasty, sweet, smokey chilli flavour). By using just the sauce I could give the pork a gentle warmth without the overpowering heat of the chipotles.

To slow cook the pork, I made a bath of onion,  carrot, mandarin pieces, lemon juice, coriander, bay leaves and water. After letting the pork sit and marinate for about 2 hours, I lowered it in to the bath (just below the level of the skin), and let it cook in a low oven for almost 3 hours.

When the pork was cooked through and very soft, I tore it in to strips, placed it in a clean tray, added a little of the cooking liquid, and returned it to a hotter oven to crisp up a little. I had originally planned to try and make some crispy crackling too, but the skin just turned leathery so I cut it off and threw it away.

While the pork was in the oven I strained the stock and reduced it to almost nothing (as you can see here) – It made a delicious, spicy, meaty, sticky sauce. I realised tasting this that citrus was the essential ingredient in Mexican cooking that I’d been missing up until now.

I wanted some pretty mandarin pieces to serve, but I couldn’t work out how to peel them without destroying them—so I just cleaned them with a small serrated knife.

I served the pork with a good serve of gucamole, some black quinoa (which has a lovely crunch and nutty flavour – a great alternative to rice), a scattering of tomato, mandarin and coriander, and some of the reduced stock.

I was incredibly happy with the result. I remember my brother telling me years ago what he loved about Vietnamese food: the fact that it always combined “hot and cold, sweet and sour, salty and bitter, crunchy and soft”. This meal had the same qualities—all of the elements in a single mouthful worked together and against each other beautifully. Plus it looked pretty as well. I’ll be definitely doing this one again.


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