I’ll just start off by saying: Aimee’s carnitas are good. There’s maybe nothing I miss more than a basic hot fried pork burrito in San Francisco. It’s terrible for you. But so delicious; and these channeled that loveliness surprisingly well.
But you can’t have carnitas without a little spice, and good tortillas. It is possible to buy salsa here in Berlin, but it tends to fall more into the category of what my mother used to call “taco sauce.” Red, vaguely tomato-based sauce, with a little spice, but no real flavor.
Once summer rolls around, making a raw tomato salsa might be more feasible. And if anyone finds tomatillos, well, let me know and I’ll buy you all the beer you can drink. But for now, since most of the tomatoes we get here aren’t spectacular (even mid-summer), I recommend a roasted tomato-chipotle salsa. Brings out the flavor nicely, even if there’s barely any to start with.
Here’s one good recipe, with a tip of the hat to Heidi Swanson and her 101 Cookbooks site.
-Two pounds of the best tomatoes you can find
-1 medium white onion
-1 large garlic clove, halved
-sea salt. regular salt will do, too
-2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
-1 or 2 chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce
-(optional) dried peppers
Cut tomatoes in half, and chop onion into large wedges. Halve garlic clove. Toss all three in a bowl with olive oil and garlic, and then roast in the oven about 200 C for about 25 minutes. Onions should start to caramelize a bit, and tomatoes should be nice and squishy.
Take about a quarter of your roasted tomatoes, peel off the skins, and puree with the roasted garlic and chipotle peppers. A word of caution – the peppers can be spicy, and you might want to start with one, and taste the results before adding the second (although I don’t find the canned peppers to be terribly overwhelming). I used one of those little hand-held immersion blenders, which worked marvelously.
I also used a single dried habanero pepper, seeds removed, which we brought from the states, but the chipotles can stand on their own, or with other dried peppers, as well. Different peppers help intensify or richen the flavor, and this depends on what’s available, and your own pepper preferences.
Chop the rest of the roasted tomato (peeled too) and onion coarsely by hand, and add it to the soupy mix, to give it texture. Chop a bit of cilantro, and stir in, along with a bit of salt, to taste.
As to where to find the things – canned La Costena chipotles are available at Goldhahn and Sampson’s in Prenzlauer Berg, or were last time I looked. If anybody has other good pepper connections in Berlin, let us know.
Then it’s the tortilla time. Ed is the magician here. I’m quoting his email, since was all a group project:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 T lard
water to mix
Mix the dry ingredients well in a bowl. Add the lard in 1/4″ cubes, rubbing them with your fingers until they integrate into the flour mixture to form a coarse meal. Add the water all at once, using a fork and tossing quickly. Knead and press the dough with your hands, adding extra water a teaspoonful at a time to catch the dry bits. When the dough can be gathered into a soft mass, turn it out onto a lighly floured board and knead for 5 minutes before letting it rest.
I buzzed the first three together in the food processor, then added the lard and processed it until it was mixed in, similar to making biscuits. Then the water til it formed a good ball, not too sticky. Let it sit an hour, for some reason — but all the recipes agree.
Then you do the drill of pulling off a ball, shaking it in the flour bag, rolling it out *from the center* (no idea why that works so well) and toasting on a dry non-stick skillet. Wait for the bubbles to start appearing, then flip, toast for a slightly lesser time (unless you want it to become a cracker) and stick it in a warm place, covered by a cloth or foil or, as we did, in the oven.
And that’s the drill. Happy Cinco de Mayo!