Let’s Hear it For New York (Or How to Make a Manhattan)

It’s hard not to think about where you were on September 11, 2001. I had just moved across the country for grad school 22 days earlier, and I was only half awake when I heard the caller on a morning radio show say, “When the second plane hit the tower…”.

I had close friends in Manhattan that day, and I won’t pretend to understand the magnitude of the loss or terror they experienced. I didn’t lose anyone dear to me. I only lost a sense of security, a sense that my country was too powerful to be vulnerable. Yet, still it haunts me.

In the days and months that followed, I will admit I questioned what I was doing so far away from my family. Today I find myself reflecting on that same question and thinking about my friends in New York. Thinking about the time I have spent in that city, and the experiences I’ve had there.

Here I am at a cafe somewhere between midtown and the east village on my 30th birthday. Let’s pretend I just turned 30 this year, K?

I find myself at a crossroads of sorts today. My career has been a wild ride, complete with some truly unexpected turns, and my relationship with Los Angeles has been a tumultuous one at times.

So tonight while I reflect on the past and look ahead to an uncertain future, I will do it while sipping a Manhattan. It seems only right.

If you find yourself in an Empire State of Mind, here are two variations on the Manhattan recipe.

This is a “Perfect” Manhattan, and I’m not saying because I’m an amazing bartender or anything. I’m saying it because that’s what you call the drink when you have equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

Perfect Manhattan

2 oz whiskey
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
dash of Angostura bitters
orange zest, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve. (I must admit I sometimes skip the orange zest because I don’t always have oranges in the house.)

This version? With the cherry? It’s the sweet kind.

Sweet Manhattan

1 ½ oz whiskey
¾ oz sweet vermouth
dash of orange bitters
maraschino cherry, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve.

Tonight, I’m going with the Perfect Manhattan, and I just might crank up Sinatra’s New York, New York while I’m making it.

Can’t They Have Pork Now? (Or How to Make Cola Carnitas in a Slow Cooker)

Cola Carnitas Tacos are decidedly not for dogs.

“They look sad. Can’t I give them some pork?” It was my mother’s first night in Los Angeles, and we were enjoying carnitas tacos and cocktails while listening to a little Sinatra. The dogs were not exactly begging, but I must admit they were looking at my mother rather imploringly from across the room.

“That’s how their faces look — and no, you may not.”

“Your momma’s mean,” she told the dogs as she stuffed her mouth with taco.

For the record, I most certainly am NOT mean. I feed them fancy fish biscuits and venison dog food — plus I make them homemade peanut butter popsicles! I just don’t feed them from the table because Albus does not need additional motivation to put his feet and face on my table during dinner.

I was eventually able to convince my mother that the dogs definitely were not sad and absolutely did not need to be fed from the table. They did get some pork in their bowls with their morning meal, however….

“Can’t they have some pork now?” She asked as I was preparing their breakfast. I rinsed the meat to make sure it wasn’t too spicy and placed it in their bowls. She smiled triumphantly and turned to the dogs to tell them, “Gram Gram just got you some meat.”

My mother (called “The FP” by her friends, which is short for “food pusher”) has now gone on to Honolulu for a week, and we have all been properly spoiled, stuffed with pork, and are in need of a very long nap.

If you’re into easy, yummy ways to cook meat, the recipe is below. Just don’t let your mother slip it to your dogs under the table….

Slow Cooker Cola Carnitas Recipe

5 lb pork shoulder (sometimes called pork butt)
3 medium onions
2-12 oz bottles of Coke (I prefer Mexican Coke*)
3.5 oz of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce**
1 fresh Anaheim chile, diced***
4 garlic cloves, peeled

Slice the onions in half and place them on the bottom of the slow cooker. Dice the Anaheim chile. Place the pork on top of the onions, fat side up. Pour the cola into the slow cooker. Add the chipotle chiles (with the adobo sauce) as well as the garlic and chopped Anaheim chiles.

Turn the cooker on the low setting and cook for 8-9 hours. Once the meat is tender and cooked thoroughly, remove it from the cooker and place it on a plate. Remove the excess fat and shred the tender pork with two forks.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with your choice of toppings. I used guacamole, salsa verde, my variation of pico de gallo, cilantro, and cotija cheese.

*Mexican Coke is made with sugarcane instead of corn syrup. It’s available at many grocery or specialty stores.

** I included a link to the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce from Amazon… just in case.

*** If you can’t find fresh Anaheim chiles, you can omit this ingredient. The chipotle chiles are incredibly flavorful and are more important to the recipe.

Why did you let the nice lady leave? She gave me meat. And presents.