Yesterday was our first monthly Second Sunday Family Potluck. We had 5 families in attendance and one Dan Marino (not of the Miami Dolphins fame, but no less fun and charming). Our hostess was Girlfriend L, who has the perfect home for entertaining. Besides being tastefully decorated, it has a TV room where we set up the Wii for the kids and papas. Virtual bowing, tennis, baseball and boxing. At one point, I walked into the room and heard a papa cheer, “Hit him in the stomach!”
[Here’s where I throw out some free advertising: the Wii is a requirement for any gathering where there are kids to entertain, regardless of whether they are aged 4 or 40. As Girlfriend L remarked, “I hardly noticed the kids were here at all!” Thank you, Nintendo.]
The theme this time was Mexican food. Can you guess what I brought? Carnitas, of course. I also brought homemade crema, roasted tomato and chipotle salsa and sugar cookies, which we let the kids decorate.
As if a sugar cookie didn't have enough sugar. It seemed like a great idea until the kids were bouncing off the walls. Click here for the easiest sugar cookie recipe in the world. I mean, even I didn't screw them up.
Normally when I make carnitas during the week, I throw it into my crock pot before work so when I get home, all I have to do is brown it in a skillet. Since I had plenty of time, I did it in the oven, just like this oven-roasted picnic pork shoulder. This time I used a 4.5 pound Boston butt rubbed with 1 head of mashed garlic, fresh thyme, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. When it was done, I just wrapped it in foil and a couple of layers of kitchen towels to let it rest, and it was still warm over an hour later when we arrived at the potluck. To serve, we shredded it into a pre-warmed serving bowl and garnished with cilantro and onions. It was sooooo good.
If you don’t know what crema is, it’s the Mexican equivalent to crème fraiche or sour cream. Unlike crème fraiche, it’s not really stiff but since it's made with heavy cream, it's still deliciously rich. Obviously it is great on a taco or any other Mexican dish, but I like to use it atop a slice of sweet berry pie to cut some of the sugar. You can buy crema in any well-stocked grocery store, but it’s easy enough to make at home.
- 1 pint heavy cream
- ¼ to 1/3 cup buttermilk, depending on the level of sourness you like
- fresh lime juice, to taste depending on the level of sourness (but you probably won’t need more than 1 lime)
- salt, to taste
Making homemade salsa is also very easy. I like using fire-roasted tomatoes, and will do it myself when I have access to sweet summertime tomatoes. During the winter, I just use a canned brand like Muir Glenn. Hunt’s makes them now too. Both are fine, and your choice might depend more on organic vs. non-organic (guess which is non-organic?).
Fire-roasted tomato and chipotle salsa
- 1 14oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained (reserve juices)
- ¼ large sweet or purple onion, confetti diced
- half bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
- ½ to 1 chipotle in adobo sauce*, minced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/8 to ¼ tsp sugar to cut sourness of tomatoes (completely optional)
*I hate the thought of wasting a can of chipotles just to use one or two of them. What I do is freeze them. Lay them out on a cookie sheet or plate and stick them into the freezer overnight. This will keep them separate so you can take one or two whenever you need it. When frozen, throw them into a Ziploc freezer bag.