Friday, February 5, 2010

Turkey Carnitas

I do, occasionally, cook things other than bread. Meat!

For reasons political, health-related, and financial, I've been a little more wary about buying meat lately.  We do eat it, but we really don't want to be eating factory-farmed or processed products, for all of the obvious reasons. (We're not perfect, we sometimes buy eggs across the street, or Boars Head turkey, but we are really trying not to.) I won't go deep into what should be well-known by now, nor into the obvious equation that eating more expensive meat means that we eat less of it, but one of the effects of these choices is that the meat I buy most frequently has become turkey from DiPaola Turkey Farm, makers of our favorite sausage and purveyers of affordable, delicious everything.

Actually, I don't know a whole lot about DiPaola's breeds or farming practices, I tend to trust that they're all right because they show up at the farmer's market. Writing this, that seems a little credulous, so I'll look into it and get back on that one, but at the moment, I'm making recipes for everything from chicken to beef to pork with turkey legs and thighs. The man at the market suggested I beat and bread boneless thighs, scallopine-style, but I have yet to do this. Mostly, I've been making stews and braises.

The other night, I used turkey legs to try a recipe for a dish that's been mildly obsessing me--carnitas. I got my general ingredient profile and tips on technique from Molly Stevens' book All About Braising. Stevens' careful, detailed, step by step instructions let me feel free to use what I had in the house and basically do whatever I wanted.

First, I seasoned and browned the legs, and at the same time roasted garlic, a few chiles, and canned tomatoes for a paste. I pureed the blistered vegetables, adding salt, cumin, smoked paprika, quince paste, oil, and a little water. Following Stevens' lead, I then burned some onions and added the paste in to cook with them for a while. Needing more liquid, I added some red wine and a little more water. I poured the sauce over the legs, covered the dish with parchment and foil (which felt wasteful, next time I'll use a dish with a top, and baked in a 300 degree oven for about two hours, turning once halfway through.

The legs, which were still half-frozen when they went in the oven, were fully cooked and easily sliced through with a spoon after the two hours, but to make them carnita-like, I turned up the oven to 350 and continued to cook, uncovered, for another half hour. The result was perfect texture, just slightly roasted, fall-apart moist meat. The taste was also good, though surprisingly mild. Next time I would considerably up the chile quotient, and maybe some of the other spices. Still, we've been eating it all week, over ginger scallion noodles, over potatoes, right off the bone...As you can see from the picture below, the dish also yielded a lot of turkey fat, one of my favorite cooking fats when I can get it, which will make some future risotto or kasha or pot of beans very happy. First carnitas effort a success. And I'm still obsessed with the general technique, so there will probably be more soon.

Doesn't it rest your eyes to see something other than bread and cake pictured? I promise, vegetables abound, and I'll let you see one soon. For now, just go back through all those CSA roundups if you can't wait.

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