Oct 3, 2009

Life Goals and Pulled Pork

My loyal readers may remember a post from a while ago, where I explored my innermost feelings on being asked what my "plan" for the "future" was. It was a heartfelt personal examination with a complicated conclusion (to summarize: shut up and leave me alone).

In this post I did mention three short term goals I was working on. To recap:

Currently, my plan looks something like this:

  1. Find key to my bike lock, or possibly purchase a new one
  2. Find someone to help fix car window (it keeps falling into the door)
  3. Find annatto seeds and attempt Robert Rodriguez's puerco pibil recipe
Future updates as events warrant.

46 days later, I feel it prudent to provide an update on my life's ambitions.


1. Find key to my bike lock, or possibly purchase a new one

Task: When I left my previous apartment I put my bike in my mom's shed, my saddle bag and my bike lock in storage, and the key to said lock...well, that was the question. It wasn't with my car keys, it wasn't with my spare keys, it wasn't with my bike or my bike lock.

What happened: I was about to give up and buy a new lock when some vague thought floated into my head. Some feeling like maybe I'd given some keys to my sister? Why, I didn't know. But sure enough, upon inquiry I discovered she had my spare storage key AND my bike key.

Project Status: Complete.

2. Find someone to help fix car window (it keeps falling into the door)

Task: This window has been busted since car ownership commenced three years ago. Normally it means that if I roll up the window the top left corner misses the window frame and keeps going, reaching for the stars. I've never tried, but I'm pretty sure when my window is in this crooked state I could grab it and pull it right out of the door. Usually this can be fixed by manhandling the window while rolling it up. But eventually some important piece of the window mechanics slips out and the window falls into the door and won't roll up no matter how rough I am with it. When this happens I need to take the door apart, find the important piece rolling around in the bottom of the door, stick it back where it belongs, and I'm good to go for another six months or so.

Getting the door off involves tools I don't own.

What happened: Before I got around to bribing someone with tools to help, my window broke further. By the sound it made I'm guessing that more parts fell off and landed in the bottom of the door. The extra breaking of my door somehow fixed the immediate problem of the window not rolling up. It will now fit into it's frame with 57% less manhandling then before. So, no need to take the door apart.

Project Status: Complete.

3. Find annatto seeds and attempt Robert Rodriguez's puerco pibil recipe

Task: I recently watched Once Upon A Time In Mexico. It features a pulled pork dish that Agent Sands feels can be too tasty for the universe's good, causing him to execute the chef. On the DVD, director Robert Rodriguez gives a demonstration on how to prepare this deadly dish.



What happened: Here is my experience attempting to make Robert Rodriguez's Puerco Pibil.

Ingredients:

5 tbsp. Annatto seeds
2 tsp. Cumin seeds
8 Whole Allspice
1/2 tsp. Whole Cloves
1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup White Vinegar
2 Habanero Peppers
2 tbsp. Salt
8 cloves Garlic
Juice of 5 Lemons
Splash of the finest tequila you can find
5 lbs. Pork Shoulder Roast
Banana leaves

Preparation:

1. Gather ingredients.
This proved to be problematic. My first issue was finding annatto seeds. I started my search at the main grocery stores, then the health stores, then the small speciality shops, then, in desperation, any convenience store that sold more than gum. No luck. Stalled before I got started, I was whining to my sister one day. She said that there's this little Mexican restaurant downtown called Orale that may sell some groceries as well. I went in search of this place, and low and behold, they sold packages of annatto seeds for $1.99. I praised them to the moon while I made my purchase, then stuck the seeds in my bag and promptly forgot all about them and this recipe.

2. Find ingredients.
Last week I was rooting through my underwear drawer looking for, well, underwear. And I came across the packet of annatto seeds and some allspice. Oh, right, I thought. I was supposed to make that. So I set a date for last Tuesday and invited over a select list of very important people (Granny, my sisters, and Andrea, my long lost twin that my mom keeps lying about. But that's another story).

3. Buy the meat.
In the instructional video provided above, Mr. Rodriguez calls for 5 pounds of pork butt. I kept going to the grocery store, kept cruising the meat section for some pork product that referenced a bottom (pork butt, rump roast, anything), but nothing, absolutely nothing remotely relevant appeared. Finally I broke down and asked one of the fine butchers.

If you had a recipe that called for Pork Butt, I asked, what would you think it meant? 
Pork shoulder, the butcher replied.

Ah, yes. Of course. Silly me.

With my pork butt shoulder in hand, I was able to start on this recipe.

4. Take the annatto seeds, cumin, allspice, cloves, and pepper, and roast gently in a frying pan until they start to smell toasty and delicious. Grind in a coffee grinder. (Note: roasting is not in Mr. Rodriguez's instructions, but is a must for any use of whole spices. Trust me.) (Other note: don't use a grinder that you also use for coffee. Get one just for spices.)

5. Put spice mixture in a blender with the juice, vinegar, chopped habanero peppers, garlic and salt, and blend. Add lemon juice and tequila and blend again.

At this point I had a frothy concoction that looked like blood and grey matter and smelled sort of like the old red liquid pin worm medication me and my sisters had to take as children. Basically it did not look or smell like anything I wanted to put near my mouth.

6. Take the pork butt shoulder and cut it into 2 inch cubes. Note the amount of fat on the meat, but ignore it.

7. Add the butt shoulder and disgusting marinade in a ziplock bag and chuck it in the fridge.

8. Go to bed worrying that you are in the process of wasting $30 on meat for a meal that will make your family vomit on you.

9. Wake up during the night with face pain.
I get this every time I cook with hot peppers. If I was smart (and I'm not) I'd buy some latex gloves to wear while seeding and chopping these potent little guys. But no, I do it naked-handed every time. And their hot little juices seep into my skin and no matter how long and vigorously I wash my hands later, I still end up with minor burns around my lips and nose and eyes from rubbing and scratching. I never realized how often I touch my face during the day (and apparently as I sleep) until each touch ate away part of my skin.

10. About 4 hours before you want to eat this mess, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. Line a pan with banana leaves.
Unless, of course, you can't find banana leaves in town. Even if you go to a million shops, and of the million find four that all say they are out, but will have some next week. And next week you go to all four shops and they all still don't have any. Then, and only then, can you line the pan with tinfoil.

12. Add the butt shoulder glop into the pan, and cover tightly with more tin foil.

13. Stick it in the oven and leave it alone for 4 hours.


14. Take it out, peel back the tinfoil.
What I found was a tasty looking meat, all tender and falling apart, just like a good pulled pork is supposed to be. This treasure was hiding underneath a swimming pool of red fat. It looked like strawberry jello before it's set. Who put jello on my pibil?!?!

Oh, right. Remember all that fat we ignored in step six? Maybe we should have trimmed that away.

15. Drain off spoon after tedious spoon of jello fat. Be sure to store this in an open container on the counter and forget all about it, forcing another member of your family to deal with it days later. They won't really be able to get mad at you because the effort you put into this meal will still be fresh in their mind, making them feel guilty for pointing out one tiny, gross thing you overlooked.

16. Serve with rice and a side dish of black beans that you decided to try in a crockpot with no recipe, even though you've never cooked black beans before and only used a crockpot once maybe a year ago.

17. Enjoy compliments from delighted guests while quietly trying to figure out at what point this raw and chunky mess of blended yuck transformed into a delicious meal. Although, hopefully not good enough to be shot in the chest!

18. Chuckle over sexual innuendo such as "How did you like your two-day pork?" and "Can you save some for Nathan? He always enjoys a good pulled pork.". Etc. Etc.

Project Status: Complete



Okay, temporary life list complete. Now what?

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