That’s a French Ass Name

I’m no stranger to anthropomorphism. Whether it’s a projection of my own sensitivities or just a matter of upbringing, I don’t see too much wrong with casually assigning personas and feelings to certain inanimate and nonhuman objects.

To clarify, the house(s) I grew up in were filled with a few fixtures that, at the very least, had their own names. The ceramic monkey tabletop planter. The five-foot leather giraffe. And then there is the family dog, who in fact is not treated as a dog but instead as my sister and/or paternal grandmother reincarnate, among other beings.

With no pet of my own and no motivation to bestow furniture its own set of personality quirks, all of my anthropomorphic endeavors happen in the kitchen.

No new appliance, pot or pan is put to use until a sufficient amount of time has been spent deliberating its name.

In our kitchen you’ll find Ulysses, the all-utility cast iron skillet, and Betty, the 9×13 casserole dish. There’s Laine, the tall Farberware pasta pot named after a little girl I once knew with a very similar last name. Laine sits high up above our kitchen shelving, right next to Handsome—the 12″ non-stick pan we acquired during Jewel’s latest promotion (either for free, or for $1600, depending on your disposition.)

A few weeks ago, our kitchen family grew by one when I was smiled upon by the culinary gods oh so generously gifted a life altering Le Creuset French oven. With its warm hue and feminine curves, we immediately ran through suitable lady’s names (Genevieve, Amelie), but nothing fit. For the next 36 hours or so it remained a nameless male, tucked next to Ulysses in a very reachable spot, until a few third party suggestions gave way to Verne. It met all the qualifications: French in origin, out of fashion with the contemporary mommy blogger set, and reminiscent of a seasoned old man who wears rust colored sweaters well.

Verne’s first voyage into food-making was far from classical French cuisine; turns out, he’s a pro with Tex-Mex.

Beer-braised carnitas
Serves 4-6; adapted from Bon Appétit.

2 dried guajillo chiles (Mariano’s or an equivalent is your best bet)
3 lb skinless, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
9 oz lager (I used Great Lakes’ Dortmund Gold, but Modelo Especial or Budweiser will do)
3 garlic cloves, crushed/smashed
~1.5 tsp salt
1 lime
1/2 red onion, chopped
Small, soft corn or flour tortillas
Cheese of your choosing (queso fresco or chihuahua being obvious winners)
Guac (or plain old avocado slices)

In your French/Dutch oven or similar device, toast the chiles over medium heat for around 2 minutes (they’ll start to puff up and darken.) Remove and let cool before stemming them, cutting them in half lengthwise and removing the seeds.

IMGP5046Combine the chiles, pork, beer, garlic salt and 3/4 cup of water to a boil in the same pot. Bring the heat down a bit, cover and simmer for 60-80 minutes until the meat is fork-tender. Stir every few minutes to inhale the ethereal olfactory sensations going on in that pot,
if for nothing else.

Next, remove the lid and let everything simmer until almost all of the liquid evaporates and the pork begins to brown. The original recipe says this should take 20-25 minutes…IRL it might take more like 45, so plan accordingly. Once the liquid is basically gone, start shredding the pork and continue stirring/letting it brown for 10-15 minutes. When the pot is full of perfectly caramelized pig, mix in another 3/4 cup of water and let cook for about 1 minute, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

IMGP5048

Serve with warm tortillas, chopped onion, cheese and the avocado preparation of your choosing. Finish with a fine squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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