Thursday, June 2, 2011

among the converted


Consider me a Crockpot convert. I have only really used it twice, for the same cookout, one year apart and it is simply the easiest way to cook a ton of meat, really well, and keep it heated up all day long without having to turn your oven on, or keep firing up the grill. Not that we didn’t fire up the grill, we had a variety of sausages, grilled chicken and even burgers, but the pulled pork carnitas were the mainstay of my menu.


Though seriously similar to the cheater pulled pork I wrote about this time last year, these carnitas are too simple and delicious not to share. This would be a perfect easy summer dinner party. Very little hands on work because everything can be done well in advance, can be (nay, should be) served buffet style so people can deck their plates out with whatever condiments they want and get back outside with their plates in hand. We served these with a ton of different garnishes including tomato salsa, guacamole, corn salsa, sour cream, sprigs of cilantro, chopped purple onion, black bean salsa, you get the point. You can have as few or as many toppings as you like.



(found on

1 (6-8 pound) pork butt, also called pork shoulder
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
4 chipotle peppers (canned or dried)
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup orange juice


Trim excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in the slow-cooker. Set to cook on LOW for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off the bone (my butt was boneless (HA!) so I cut it up into big hunks for easier fitting into the Crockpot). When cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place in a large bowl. Remove the bone, then shred the meat. Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat. For carnitas tacos, reheat the meat and serve in corn tortillas with sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion and lime wedges. (makes 20-30 taco-sized servings).


Do not adjust your eyes. Those are the only steps. Purchase meat, add meat and stuff to Crockpot, turn on. What I did was arrange my ingredients in the Crockpot at about midnight the night before my party. When I woke up at 8 am, I went downstairs, did a temperature check on the pork to make sure it was done and shut the cooker off. I then let it cool off a bit while I assembled my Mexican Slaw and Potato Salad. About two hours before company came I hoisted the chunks of meat out of the cooker one at a time and shredded it using two forks, discarding any big hunks of fat that didn’t render. I also scooped any solidified oil off the top of the juices. Once all the meat was shredded, I returned it all to the bowl of my Crockpot and kept it on warm for the remainder of the day/evening. So easy it hurts.



1 bag cole slaw mix (or alternately, a shredded head of cabbage and grated carrots)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 small bell peppers (any color), thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, partially seeded* and thinly sliced into strips
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lime, zest and juice
1 teaspoon cumin (add to taste if you want more, I did)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Healthy splash apple cider vinegar
Sriracha chili sauce, or your preferred hot sauce (to taste)
2 healthy pinches of sugar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Handful cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)


In a large bowl, combine the cole slaw mix, red onion, pepper and jalapeno. In a separate large bowl combine the next 8 ingredients, whisking together slightly to combine. Then whisking with one hand, slowly add your olive oil in a thin stream to emulsify the dressing. You could likewise use an immersion blender or a regular old blender, combining all the ingredients. If using, add cilantro just before serving. I even left myself a note right on the bowl to remind me to do this, but I didn’t. Whoops. I blame the tireless hosting duties/ margaritas.


Because I knew my slaw would be out on the buffet for most of the day, I wanted something with absolutely no mayonnaise in it. The dressing on this slaw is great: just slightly spicy, with a smoky hit of cumin and a little lime zing. I assembled this about 3-4 hours before the party which gave it ample time to marinate in the dressing, without getting soggy at all. It had a nice crunch and was delicious with the carnitas. This slaw would be a hit in any cookout situation, whether it have a Mexican bent or not.

*seed completely if you don’t want your slaw to be spicy.


I wasn't lying about the note.


CUZZIN SAL’S STEEL CITY MARGARITAS (and other awesome beverage tips)

My cousin Sallyann is a mix master. It might have something to do with the fact that she’s an architect (so precision is the name of her game) or that she’s a big food and beverage enthusiast. Either way, every summer when she comes home to Mass (from Pittsburgh, hence the name I gave these ‘ritas) she always makes the MOST delicious cocktails, which are essential and perfect for porch relaxing and post beach appetizer eating (both of which we do a lot of).


I was at the grocery store Saturday morning getting my party supplies and I saw the frozen Minutemaid Limeade as I was picking up some lemonade mix. Instinctively I grabbed a couple cans and texted Sallyann “I know you make something delicious with frozen limeade. What is it?” She hit me back with an email I will be referring to for guidance all summer long. Check out not only the margarita recipe (with a watermelon alternative-YUM) and the recipe for agua fresca which I am most certainly going to have a pitcher of in my fridge throughout the dog days this year.


Our traditional margarita (quick and easy)

1/2 can limeade
1 lemon squeezed
1 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple sec or Cointreau (for fancy ones)
1 cup water

We mix all ingredients and serve on the rocks, but you can also mix in a blender with ice to make slushy. Serve with salt rimmed glass and lime.

Purée ripe watermelon and add 1 cup purée to each cup water.

(we frequently make watermelon agua fresca but add 1/2 can limeade and then use it as the base for both margaritas and alcohol free drinks... Any type of good ripe melon will work well.)

Also, I highly recommend either lime or lemonade with a hearty splash of vanilla extract. This make a nice base for vodka drinks too.

For our party, I quadrupled the traditional margarita recipe (what can I say I’m friends with a lot of boozebags?) and we offered them along side some delicious white peach sangria that my friends Mish and Anthony whipped up. Both of the cocktails did not make it past the first 2 hours of the party, because they were all THAT good. Many thanks to my contributors, both local and long distance, the drinks were absolutely perfect. I’m looking forward to making some vodka based cocktails in the not so distant future with the vanilla extract tip. Dangerously good!


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  1. Just made the carnitas today and the whole family gave it a massive thumbs up. Delicious, simple morning preparation and we'll have plenty of left overs for lunches.

  2. Awesome Heidi! I love massive thumbs up!


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