Posts Tagged pork
There’s a good chance that most people reading this post have never even heard of Taqueria Karina. But for those who have experienced the restaurant at 5309 W. 65th Street, you know the food is worthy of high praise.
And that’s exactly what I’m about to do.
It all starts out with a chips and salsa combination that is, to date, the best I’ve come across in Little Rock. The chips are thin, crisp, and absolutely fresh–perfect for dipping into the warm, soupy, slightly spicy salsa. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants in this area either do a good job with the chips or the salsa, but not both, and more often than not, neither. So kudos to Karina for starting the meal off right.
I’ve only eaten at Taqueria Karina three times, so while my knowledge of the menu is still fairly limited, I can definitely recommend leaning towards beef and pork options, as the chicken tends to be on the dry side. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken isn’t bad, but the beef and pork are far superior … especially the pork. On my most recent visit, I ordered the Burrito de Carnitas, a plate that included a large tortilla stuffed with a heaping portion of tender, shredded pork meat, as well as a serving of rice and beans. The pork was magnificent, seriously, like really magnificent. For the most part, the chef kept the fatty pieces off the plate, which was very appreciated. The rice was fine–nothing stellar–but no worries from my end, as accompanying rice is usually viewed as a plate filler for me. The refried beans were a little runny for my liking, but again, this comes down to personal preference.
If you’ve never been to Taqueria Karina, I highly recommend trying this underrated hidden gem in SWLR. And if you have been, please let me know what you like and dislike.. It will be difficult to divert from the burrito, but I’m willing to try.
I have a quest to work my way through The Pantry’s entire menu, which apparently, given their execution on a variety of dishes, seems to be none too difficult of a task.
On a recent visit, I settled on the Roasted Pork Shoulder ($12.50). This well-composed plate included a pile of thinly sliced shoulder meat resting alongside three hunks of Czech potato dumplings and a pile of braised red cabbage.
The blending of flavors, due in large part to the pool of red cabbage juice seeping into the other components, is really what elevates this dish. The dumplings are meant to be thick and somewhat under-seasoned, a vessel to capture the burst of tanginess injected from the cabbage. The slightly overcooked pork also benefits from the pool of juice originating from the plate’s lone veggie.
Make no mistake, compartmentalized eaters should shy away from this dish; the magic lies in getting a little of everything on each forkful… and this is exactly my kind of eating!
Like most dishes at The Pantry, the Roasted Pork Shoulder represents hearty comfort food that fills your belly without putting a dent in the wallet.
The restaurant continues to consistently serve up dynamite cocktails, shareable appetizers (like the bacon-wrapped dates and truffle deviled eggs) and traditional entrees under an umbrella of top-notch service and a cozy atmosphere.
I wonder what I’ll order next time around. Maybe the Fish & Frites.
Special thanks to Ashli Ahrens for sending in this wonderful recipe. I promised her that I’d try it out … and I did. And we all win. I’ve probably cooked more than 100 crockpot recipes through the years, and this one sits right at the very top.
–approximately 3 lbs. thick-cut pork chops (bone-in or boneless and butterflied)
–envelope of fajita or taco seasoning (reg or hot)
–1 white onion, cut into rings
–1 (16 oz) jar green salsa
–½ cup fresh cilantro, stems removed but not chopped
–2 cloves garlic (or more) peeled and crushed
–2-4 fresh whole serrano chile peppers
Rinse and pat dry the chops. Lay them out on a cookie sheet with sides or jelly roll pan (to contain the mess) or use the “shake in bag” method. Sprinkle or coat chops liberally with fajita seasoning, making sure to coat both sides of each chop. (You can mix any remaining seasoning with the rest of ingredients when putting in crock pot.)
In crockpot, begin with a layer of half the onion rings in the bottom, then half the meat, half the garlic, half the salsa, some cilantro and a pepper or two. Then finish by layering the rest of the onions, meat and so forth until you run out of ingredients. The point is to layer and distribute the ingredients so all the seasonings come in contact with the meat.
Cover and cook in the crockpot on low for 8-9 hours until the meat falls off the bone and apart easily. (Note: the concoction won’t necessarily look very “pretty” when you uncover it after 8 hours, but trust me, it will be fine.)
Gently remove the pork with slotted spoon or tongs to a cutting board. Strain and discard about half of the remaining liquid from the crockpot, reserving the rest. Discard the cilantro leaves, the peppers and onions if you desire. (I usually keep the onions in with the meat and trash the other things.)
Shred the meat with two forks, being sure to remove all the bones. There will be some smaller bones so look carefully. When deboned, mix the meat with the reserved juice and keep warm to serve.
We usually serve this on soft corn or flour tortillas with the usual Tex-Mex fixins. Any leftover meat can be frozen as well. Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: I kept the entire remaining liquid and just dumped the shredded pork back in. I served the mixture on two corn tortillas, topped with sour cream, avocado and cheese. Amazing!
Saturday was a day to remember!
The Gees are strangers to no one in Little Rock and are really the closest thing we have to foodie royalty in this town. Whether they’re hosting legendary cookouts or just being the life of the party at events, the Gees know how to live it up.
Which takes me back to yesterday’s tailgate at War Memorial Stadium. The centerpiece of day was Kelly’s recently (and famously) acquired smoker…a.k.a…The Beastmaster. The apparatus was in full force by the time I arrived at 2 p.m. Some beautiful pork ribs had just come out of the smoker five minutes prior and had a crowd around them, as if Bret Bielema himself had just showed up at our tent.
Friendships aside, these were absolutely the best ribs I’d ever eaten in my life. Seriously. They were unbelievably juicy, had a beautiful sweet and salty crust, and were infused with that amazingly smoky peach wood flavor.
And guess what? Kelly’s smoked chicken wings and pork shoulder were even better. Oh, and I better make mention of his insane pork loin, as well as Erin’s potent Jello shots, Dan’s Italian meatballs, and my jalapeno poppers.
It was my first Jello shot in about 15 years, but hopefully I won’t have to wait that long for my next one…or ten. These were not your college dorm shots. My favorite was the Cherry Coke—super strong and even had a cherry in the middle. Walking in the Arkansas hot sun with a Jello shot in one hand and a rib in the other makes for a damn good day.
I ask you, does it get any better than tailgating at War Memorial? You’re surrounded by great friends, great food, and great drinks…and btw…there’s a football game going on.
A huge thank you goes out to the Gees for the invitation. It was a day I won’t soon forget. November is just around the corner!