Today is both Cinco de Mayo, and the Kentucky Derby; both events that exist in the minds of most New Yorkers, at least, primarily as excuses to day-drink. Still, in light of this convergence of fictional celebrations, it seems worth posting some of my favorite drink and food recipes:
First, a simple drink recipe:
Sweet Tea Mint Julep:
Mint Juleps are incredibly simple drinks, traditional metal mugs notwithstanding: it’s just simple syrup, mint leaves, crushed ice, and bourbon. This variation essentially uses sweet tea in place of simple syrup.
Step 1: Make tea. This is, unsurprisingly, the key element. Specifically, I discovered that Bigelow makes a tea variety called “Plantation Mint”, which is black tea with spearmint. I usually make enough for a six-cup mason jar, using four bags. Barring this, you can just add peppermint or spearmint to a simple black tea and accomplish the same thing.
I typically boil tea for this, all the better to dissolve the sugar, but I’ve also made a decent sun tea, so feel free to experiment with that route, as well!
Step 2: Sweeten Tea and chill. The order of operations there is important. Hot water is able to dissolve more sugar more readily than cold water, so you want to add the sugar before letting the tea cool. Indeed, you’re goal here is to make a saturated sugar solution here: to whit, simple syrup. For my six-cup mason jar, I add 1 1/2-2 cups of sugar, which is really the barest minimum (true simple syrup is one part water to one part sugar). Once this is done, put it in the fridge for a day. Or, if you make it the morning of the Kentucky Derby, shove it in the freezer for an hour or two to cool it a tad faster.
Step 3:Fill cup with crushed ice, pour 2 oz bourbon, add sweet tea to taste, consume. This is pretty self explanatory.
Easy (if time-consuming) Pork Carnitas
- 1 1/4 lb Pork shoulder, a.k.a. “Boston Butt”, a.k.a. “boneless pork shoulder stew” at my local supermarket. cubed in 1-2 inch chunks
- 14 oz (one can) beef stock
- 15.5 oz jar of salsa. I typically use Medium or Hot Tostidos Salsa.
- (optional) Hot sauce, miscellaneous spices. I usually use Goya adobo powder and some sort of chipotle sauce, for reasons that might be clear below
- Tortillas and Fixin’s: grilled corn, avocado, cojito and/or oaxaca cheese are my favorite. But whatever, I’m not the boss of you.
Step 1: Place cubed pork in pan, add salsa and stock. The recipe I cribbed this from suggested trimming any visible fat from the pork first. Don’t do this. It’s incredibly time-consuming bullshit, and honestly, for the sort of cooking we’re doing, leaving the fat in makes for a tastier end result. Anyway, make sure you have enough liquid to basically cover the meat.
Step 2: Heat to a simmer, and then cover and cook over low heat. Cook for at least 4 hours (I’ve cooked this for up to 10 hours or so, before). This sort of cooking -cooking in a seasoned liquid over low heat for a very long time- is called braising. It basically dissolves the connective tissue, and is a great way to cook your cheaper, tougher, sorts of meat. It’s also basically all that pot roasts essentially are. You might want to watch it for the first hour, but if your liquid isn’t rapidly evaporating at this point, and your pilot light hasn’t gone out, you’ve pretty much got this.
If you’re pressed for time, you can (theoretically) use a pressure cooker, which accomplishes the same thing in 30-45 minutes, but they intimidate me so I don’t. On the other hand, if you’re leery about leaving an extremely low flame on for most of the day, that’s what crock pots are for.
Step 3: Remove pork and roast. So now, start heating up your oven at ~350, and remove the chunks of pork from the salsa-stock mix. DO NOT get rid of the sauce yet, we’ll come back to that in a second. Spread the meat out on a baking sheet; you should be able to flatten and flake out the meat with a fork or the flat of a knife. This is why pulled pork is called “pulled”: because it can be pulled apart relatively easily, by hand, after being braised or roasted forever. Remove any big chunks of fat at this phase. Place in hot oven and roast for ~20-30 minutes, or until it starts to turn richly reddish-brown and crispy.
Step 4: Fajita sauce. Now, let’s turn our attention back to the stock and salsa. That stuff is pretty goddamned tasty, you might be thinking to yourself. And there’s so much of it; are we sure can’t do something with it? Well, as luck would have it, we can! Raise the heat to medium, and cook that stuff down. Add spices and hot sauce: chipotles are smoked jalapenos, and thus chipotle sauce give the sauce a nice smoky flavor that I find enjoyable. Just remember that the cooked salsa has quite a bit of flavor to it as well, so don’t over-do it! Cook, stirring occasionally, until this stuff thickens. This takes about as long, or perhaps a bit longer than the meat takes to roast. Congrats! You just made a spicy fajita sauce to pour over your tacos.
Step 5: Serve and Enjoy. Fill tacos and add fixings and sauce. Save some for left-overs if you want to. Be surprised at the fact that there’s so little left for left-overs, since you were pretty sure this makes several servings worth.