Beef Carnitas

Mmmmm beef fat…

Not suet…which is clean, easy melting fat that’s obtained from  just outside the kidney of a bovine. but beef fat trimmings.  Not only is rendering fat kinda cool, but it’s a deeper flavor that reaches juuuust outside our norm.  Easily obtained from a serious butcher shop, suet and fat is inexpensive, easy to render and gives you a clean, savory cooking oil.   On new years eve I set out to make traditional carnitas.  Slow cooking pork butt in pork fat until tender, then raising the temp to fry and crisp.  Cooking meat in its own fat compounds the flavor and rings in that authentic bell.  Unfortunate to those classic carnitas plans, my sister in law was coming over and like always, I forgot she doesn’t dig on the swine.  So I switched it up a bit and decided to try the same thing with beef; after all, I had a few pounds of chuck in the freezer.

Went to the local butcher and asked ’em about getting some suet.  They didn’t have it and I didn’t want to drive across town to get it, so I asked them if they had any fat trimmings.  They didn’t right then, but would later in the afternoon.  Cool. I went back later and got 10 pounds, came home and chopped it up into fist size chunks.

All it takes to render fat is a heavy bottom pan and a heat source on low.  It took about 3 hours to render and I didn’t really do it to perfection.  Towards the end my impatience got the best of me and I got it a little hot.  It didn’t damage the oil to detriment, but it took away the clean purity of perfectly melted fat.  I put it through a strainer to remove the fried pieces of crispy fat and any particulate matter. In went the lime soaked beef to a long slow bubble, bubble, bubble.

Towards the end of cooking and several cape cods later I over-cooked the beef a bit.  The result was extremely delicious buuuuuut, a bit chewy.  Not to jerky standards but still jaw wearing.  You’d think I’d have learned my lesson at the family reunion (referenced here). Oh well.

Earlier that day when I got the fat, I realized I was gonna have a fry station ready to rock for midnight munchies, so i picked up some yukon gold potatoes and flour tortillas. Around 11pm I fried the potatoes and they were salty and luscious…and needed at that point. But what came next was an experience no one saw coming, and no one will forget. Well…it was New Years, so a couple people might forget :-|

The magic came when I used the flour tortillas to make bunuelos, which is a fried flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon sugar. Bunuelos are always a wonderful treat, but these were out of this f-u-c-k-i-n-g world. The addition of some sea salt sprinkled into the cinnamon sugar, with the savory goodness of the beef fat…it was just mouth wateringly sublime. So remember, you don’t always need to get your cooking fats from a bottle or rectangle, mix it up. And don’t stress too much about dinner, it might be the forgotten munchie that wins the night.