Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Carnitas Quesadillas

Leftover food is awesome. Fried rice and turkey pot pie are two of my favorite dishes that can be made with the remnants of the previous night's dinner. Here, I'll share with you my carnitas quesadillas, made with left over pulled pork. Of course, you'll need to start with pulled pork. Then you'll need a delicious sauce, which I make from the braising liquid that the pork is cooked in. Here's how to do it:

The first thing to do is put the left over braising liquid (which is now a pork stock, really) back on the heat. Since the raw pork was in there, it's best to bring this liquid to a rolling boil for a few minutes before proceeding. As you can see, there will be quite a bit of fat in the stock (this is the leached out fat from the pork), so as the stock boils, you can skim as much or as little as you like off with a spoon.

After the stock has boiled for a while (it has basically been pasteurized), transfer it to a blender to puree. Be very careful here if you want to blend it while it is still hot: the steam builds up pressure in your blender and can make the top pop off (creating a big mess) if you're not careful. It's best to do this is small batches while firmly holding the lid to the blender on:

After pureeing, I like to strain this mixture so that it is smooth. I use a wire-mesh strainer for this, which works well.

At this point, I put the amount of stock that I want to use back on the stove top in a smaller saucepan at a simmer. The rest can be refrigerated for about 1 week or frozen indefinitely. The stock is very flavorful at this point, but will likely require the addition of salt. Taste to check. You can also add further flavoring if you'd like (I added some chipotle peppers and some of the spices that went into the dry rub for the pork).

The next step is to thicken the sauce. You can do this in a variety of ways, including use a roux or corn starch. However, for quesadillas, I like to use a cornmeal dough as a thickener. While this is a little less conventional, it gives good body and flavor relative to other methods. To make the dough, simply add warm water to cornmeal to form a crumbly dough that looks something like this:

Now add a few tablespoons of this dough to the simmering stock, whisking vigorously as you add the dough to avoid clumping.

Once you get to the desired consistency (I like it to be about as thick as a typical gravy), you can add your pork directly into the sauce pan. The pulled pork absorbs the flavor really well.

The next step is to construct the quesadilla. You can use whatever you like to go with the pork. I put some corn salsa (made with red peppers and jalapenos) in along with some cheese (cheddar and pepper jack) and black olives.

Now brush the outside with oil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the outside is just crispy and the cheese inside is bubbly.

A great way to enjoy pulled pork!

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