There's very few things I dislike about Charlotte. The people, the weather, the energy; all are incomparable. However, I'm sad to say, being from the western US, I have been unable to locate a superbly authentic Southwest Mexican restaurant. I'm taking about the kind that make you certain you're sitting in Scottsdale, AZ, or Old Town San Diego. It's that certain taste of the corn in the tortillas, the way the lard underscores the tanginess of a good chile or cheeses that carry you away on a yellow, Mariachi studded cloud. Hmmm. That's a bit overly romantic...maybe its just the cactus growing outside the restaurant window that has me grinning underneath my sombrero? So...as a side bar, I welcome your suggestions to direct me to a place where I can find the southwest here in Charlotte. In the meantime, I enjoy making my own.
Now I don't just cook. I think of the entire meal, the plate even, as a story. I see it as a stage where the players move about in costume, dazzling us with movement, color and choreography. So when planning a Mexican burrito bar last weekend -- a "serve it yourself" carnival of Spanish cuisine --I went WILD!
The first item on my list was of course to make the BEST pork carnitas. CHIPOTLE MUSTARD SLOW COOKED PORK CARNITAS to be exact. Nothing like a slow cooker and the right spices to create the bed on which all other delectable flavors will be built upon. After that, the perfect SPANISH RICE, which must roll around in your mouth and not mush into the other flavors is key. The rice kernels must still be visible, separate, and therefore imperative to the finished dish. You have to have salsa. And since the mangoes were ripe I sliced them and tossed them with the requisite ingredients, substituting red chili flakes instead of the jalapeno for color and an interesting bite. The topping I chose was like the twirling petticoats of the Flamenco dancer as I plopped a helping of my QUICK PICKLED CORIANDER RED CABBAGE SLAW. Oh, it was so good! (Sidenote, this pickled slaw will go great with other meals such as fish, on a sandwich, tossed with other green cabbage, pineapple and cilantro...the choices are endless!)
The meal was acidic, spicy, sweet, meaty yet fresh, southwest in the southeast! Maybe I don't need to look any further than my own kitchen for any further tortilla wanderlust?
My dad is a fan of giving food as gifts, especially on Christmas. I can always count on receiving some fantastic cheeses, beautiful nuts and dates, and other fare that makes me feel like I'm in that scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," where Donna Reed is welcoming the Martini Family to the hood. However, this year we got sidetracked a bit and didn't exchange gifts until a day or two after, even though he lives just around the corner. So, when I opened his gift this year and saw two beautiful Pork Loin Roasts. I quietly wondered if they'd been in his garage for awhile because he's famous for short-cuts. Yes, they were cold and had been refrigerated. No, they hadn't been frozen. All in all, they were about 3 days old. They needed to be cooked.
Don't tell anyone, but some days I don't feel like high maintenance cooking. And with Pork Loin, I like to make them with a Mushroom Port Wine Reduction as a reward for surviving Winter, and because I love how the wine sizzles when you add it to the mushrooms. When faced with these slabs of luxurious pig, I realized I wanted something, or someone to do it for me. Which is why God invented slow cookers, and why I knew it was time to figure out how to make shredded meat carnitas enchiladas at home because it's one of my husband's favorite 'eat out' meals.
The following was a sure thing. Moist, tender, flavorful and super duper easy. The spice was perfect, the tanginess balanced, the cumin unobtrusive but present. You don't HAVE to use pork tenderloin, indeed this is a bit of a luxury for peasant food, but I'm telling ya, it really makes a difference in the sweetness and the texture of the entire meal.
Ole, Dad. And Gracias for another great gift!
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.