Spring is springing around here. Though it’s not official yet, the signs are everywhere. My daffodils have been blooming for a while now, the crocuses are up, I have one or two tulip buds, and some of the irises are blooming. What the what!
March is the month when planting really kicks into gear in Portland, so this week Joseph topped off the raised beds with some good, compost-y soil, and I tucked new seeds into said soil. Peas, bok choy, mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and the most like a Zen garden: these potatoes.
These months of late winter and early spring are really nice, food-wise, because the farmers markets are full of wonderful, crunchy, overwintered produce like sprouting broccoli, cabbage, and raab/rapini, and it’s still chilly enough outside that their fresh crunch pairs perfectly with a hearty soup or a warming braise.
While I garden, I have been listening to some old Spilled Milk podcasts, and on their braising episode, Matthew Amster-Burton talked about his recipe for carnitas and carnitas salad. I’m a sucker for braising. And pork. And Latin food. And salad. So I took what I already had around the house, augmented the recipe to my liking, and made some killer carnitas to top a spinach salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta, lime juice, and Louisiana-style hot sauce. It was one of those meals Joe and I both wanted to keep eating after we were already full. The good thing about spending an afternoon tending a simmering stovetop pot (not actually hard) is, there are about a million pounds left over, and this type of meal freezes well – minus the salad, obv.
4-lb. pastured pork shoulder, cut into one-inch cubes
6 garlic cloves, crushed
Two medium onions, diced
Juice of two limes
One orange, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch cinnamon powder
Salt to taste (about 1 T best-quality sea salt was what I used)
1/2 C. tequila
1 1/2 C. bone broth (I had pork broth, but chicken would work well)
Mix all ingredients but the orange in a Dutch oven, a large soup pot, or a slow cooker (I used my Dutch oven and recommend it). Squeeze the orange quarters over the stew and tuck the slices into the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for several hours, until there’s no more liquid left. Use tongs to remove the cinnamon stick and orange quarters.
Take out the amount of meat you’ll want to top each salad with (1/2-to-3/4 C per large serving), spread it thinly in a glass casserole dish, and place the dish under a high broiler. I checked mine after 5 minutes, stirred it around, and left it another 4 minutes, until much of the meat had crisped and browned. Dump it atop the following salad.
1/2 head savoyed or napa cabbage, shredded, OR
Several big handsful of raw spinach
Lime juice, to taste (I used one lime)
Louisiana-style hot sauce, to taste (My favorite is Crystal, but I had Frank’s Red Hot in the fridge, and I used about ten shakes)
1/2 C pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted in a pan over medium heat and cooled somewhat
1/2 C crumbled, dry feta (cotija would be awesome here, but again – the fridge makes the rules)
Use clean hands or salad tongs to toss the greens with the lime juice and hot sauce. Mix in cheese and pepitas. Distribute into two large bowls and top each serving with about 1/2 C oven-crisped carnitas.
Die and go to heaven.
Come back for more.