On the wall by my desk, I have a little sign: Shake Up Conventional Wisdom. It’s one of my reminders to avoid the mind traps of the Usual and the Expected, when I want to get into the creative flow. I should have a variation of that on my kitchen wall: Shake up Conventional Kitchen Wisdom. I learned this recently, when preparing for our Third Thursday Potluck. Now in its fourth year, Third Thursday brings together a cross-section of folks bearing delicious local, seasonally driven dishes. There are no assigned dishes. No RSVP! We enjoy the creative sparks that tend to happen in a less formal structure. True to the notion of “Potluck,” there’s an element of surrender in that, but it always works out.
I wanted to make pork carnitas—it’s a tasty, inexpensive way to feed a crowd. While researching some recipes, I was drawn to one on Lisa Fain’s website, The Homesick Texan. Intriguing: it ran counter to my conventional kitchen wisdom. In fact, its method was completely the opposite of how I would have made the dish.
But this Houston girl knows good carnitas. I had to try it.
Conventionally, I would have trimmed the fat from the pork, cubed and browned the pieces before adding liquid. In Lisa’s version, there’s no trimming. You slow-simmer the meat in water and orange juice before boiling off the liquid. The pork, tender and succulent, gets crispy brown edges in the remaining rendered fat.
Oh, my. Incredible! Everyone loved these carnitas at potluck, and clamored for the recipe. Such delicious fun, to shake up convention. Here are three more recipes that change things up along with our Third Thursday Potluck menu from last years Memorial Day celebration.
—By Nancy Vienneau, a food writer in Nashville, Tenn
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