March 27, 2013

Bear Essentials: Pineapple
( + Pork Confit Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa)

Look at that up there.  I did that.  Sometimes it's okay to be impressed by yourself, right?  That doesn't make me obnoxious.  Or conceited.  Not if I'm legitimately amazed.  Really, I think that just proves how humble I am.  Freakishly humble.  Impressively humble.  I win at humility. 

I made confit tacos.  And you can too.

Confit is a scary word.  You can tell because you don't pronounce the "t,"  which means that it's French.  The French are pathologically afraid of pronouncing things.  That's just about all I took away from two years of college French, but I think it's valuable nonetheless.

My knowledge about French cuisine is about as comprehensive as my knowledge of the French language.  And this causes me to be scared, because what I do know about it includes:

(1) Wine (scary and complicated)
(2) Pastry (fiddly and complicated )
(3) Cream Sauces (delicious and probably not complicated but definitely fattening)

If your knowledge of French cuisine is anything like mine, you might be scared by this confit situation.  Don't be.

Confit is just something that's been cooked in its own fat.  Which sounds bad, sure.  But it's no different than deep-frying something.  And you know you would eat a stapler if it was deep-fried, so maybe a little less judging, yes?  And we're using vegetable oil instead of pork fat here.  Because we're decadent.  Not crazy.  

Now I'm thinking about what it would be like to make this with bacon fat.  And I'm falling over with joy.  But just imagine how much bacon you'd need to cook to get 2 cups of bacon fat.  Also, you'd just have to let go of the concept of self-respect altogether.  Not that I'd consider that a deal-breaker.

So here's what you're doing with these tacos:  you're cooking the pork.  You're grilling some veggies.  You're chopping the veggies up to make a salsa.  You're grilling the pork.  Then you're nom-ing.

That's it.  No sweat, right?  And now you've made confit.  Which basically makes you a French chef.  Way to go, you.

Notes:  I found this dish to be extremely salty.  So much so that, after tasting the pork, I left the salt out of the salsa completely, and still found the dish to sit right on the edge of how much salt my palate was willing to accept.  Mr. Bear, on the other hand, says he wouldn't have changed a thing.  Adjust to your taste 

I'm attributing this to two things: my kosher salt flakes may have been smaller than the ones used in testing this recipe, which led me to have more salt in my 1/4-cup measure than the author did.  Also, I was not exceedingly careful about scraping every bit of seasoning off the pork before confit-ing.  Next time I will be more assiduous.

Either way, don't let this deter you from trying the recipe.  This was the most amazingly flavorful, melting pork I have ever tasted in my life.  And then we put it into tacos.  Life is good.

Pork Confit Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
barely adapted from Andrew Zimmern

Kosher Salt  [ 1/4 cup ]
Sugar  [ 3 tablespoons ]
Juniper Berries  [ 2 tablespoons, crushed ]
White Pepper  [ coarsely ground, 1 tablespoon ]
Garlic Cloves  [ 10, minced ]
Thyme Sprigs  [ 8 ]
Cilantro  [ chopped, 3 tablespoons ]
Boneless Pork Shoulder  [ 2 1/2 pounds, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces ]
Vegetable Oil  [ 2 cups ]

Fresh Pineapple  [ 12 ounces, sliced 1/2 inch thick ]
Yellow Onion  [ 1, sliced 1/2 inch thick ]
Plum Tomatoes  [ 4, halved lengthwise ]
Vegetable Oil  [ to taste, for brushing ]
Fresh Mint  [ chopped, 3 tablespoons ]
Red Onion  [ minced, 2 tablespoons ]
Chipotle Chiles in Adobo  [ 1, chopped ] 
Lime Juice  [ from 1 lime ]
Cilantro  [ chopped, 3 tablespoons ]
Salt  [ to taste ]

Corn Tortillas  [ warm, for serving ]

1.   In a bowl, stir together Salt, Sugar, Juniper, Pepper, Garlic, Thyme, and Cilantro.
2.   Add in Pork; toss to coat Pork thoroughly.
3.   Refrigerate at least 8 hours, or up to 16 hours.

4.   Heat oven to 300 degrees.
5.   Thoroughly scrape seasonings from Pork and place Pork in the bottom of a large enameled cast-iron casserole
         or other stovetop-to-oven dish.
6.   Pour Vegetable Oil over Pork.
7.   Place casserole on stovetop over Medium-High heat and bring to a simmer.
8.   Remove casserole from heat.  Cover with an oven-safe lid and place in oven.
9.   Cook 2 1/2 hours; Pork will be very tender.

10.   Meanwhile, heat a grill to Medium-High heat [ I used a countertop grill, because this is Michigan in March ].
11.   Brush Pineapple, Yellow Onion and Tomatoes with Vegetable Oil.
12.   Grill Vegetables until charred  [ about 2 minutes ].  Then brush second sides with Vegetable Oil and flip,
            grilling until second side is also charred  [ about another 2 minutes ].  [ I did this in 3 shifts, one for each type
            of vegetable. ]
13.  Cut Vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces and mix together in a bowl.
14.   Mix in Mint, Red Onion, Chipotle, Lime Juice, and Cilantro.
15.   Add Salt to taste.

16.   When Pork is done, carefully remove from oil and place on grill.
17.   Grill over Medium-High heat, turning occasionally, until charred.
18.   Remove Pork to a plate and tear to shreds with 2 forks.
19.   Serve Pork with Salsa and warm Tortillas.

Serves 6.

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