A really good carnita is a combination of things- succulent, juicy pieces of meat with a brown crackly crust and fatty, tender pieces of meat . A combination I thought possible only within the confines of a restaurant kitchen. I assumed special equipment would be needed, a superior piece of pork purchased and seasoned and worst yet tons of fat for frying. How very wrong I was and how happy I was to be so wrong.
It’s no secret I love pork. On Saturdays when I didn’t feel like cooking we’d have takeout. The kids always had pizza and Drew and I would always have some type of pork dish. I started calling it Pork Saturdays. Luckily I live in an area that allows me many choices and ethnic variety when it comes to pork. I could have chicharonnes stuffed Salvadoran pupusa, Jamaican jerked, griot from Haiti , Puerto Rican roast pork (pernil) and my hands down favorite-pork tacos.
Like most my experience with tacos never went past the extra spicy ground beef kind, either purchased from a fast food chain or made using ground beef and the kits that you got in the supermarket. Filled to capacity with meat, cheese, salad, tomatoes and anything else you liked, it was the Food Pyramid in a compact handheld meal. When I found a real Mexican restaurant that made real tacos I never looked back. The place I go to is colorful and family friendly and everyone is extremely nice. I have never sat down and ate there I always call my order in and I always get the same thing: two pork tacos with condiment containers of pico de gallo, salsa roja and a couple of lime wedges for squeezing over everything. When I pick up my order the restaurant is always crowded and the tables loaded with communal bowls of yellow rice, guacamole, warm tortillas and other items I can’t identify but look wonderful. I take my little to-go bag and promise to come back with my family to sit down and eat.
The making of carnitas, though not complicated, is a bit of a production. The meat is usually cooked in huge cauldrons of boiling pork fat and you have to know when to pull the meat out at just the right moment when it is fully cooked yet still juicy.
I learned to cook because I love to eat. I’ve also realized that I learned to cook because I don’t want to have to always go out to get the foods I like. So of course I had to find a way to make the best carnitas. I read food blogs everyday. They pop up in my e-mail on an hourly basis. Food bloggers and the food blogging community, support one another and learn from one another. Just when I’d given up on making carnitas, one day in my inbox there was a recipe for easy carnitas. This recipe is so simple I am urging all of you to make it now. You should have it perfected by Cinco de Mayo and then you can wash the carnitas down with gigantic pitchers of margaritas!
To go along with my carnitas or “little meats” I made a cool and spicy salsa that goes wonderfully with the hot meat. Ditch the flour tortillas and use real corn tortillas. I won’t go so far as to say you have to make your own tortillas, the ones in the supermarket are fine.
recipe: pork carnitas
Headnote:the recipe calls for a pork butt. I used a pork picnic shoulder because it has a layer of skin over the fat and meat that turns into crispy cracklins when fried. I like fried pig skin. If you don’t, use the pork butt it will still be delicious. Regarding the salsa I didn’t dice anything, I just cut everything into manageable pieces and threw it all in the blender and gave it a few pulses. For no reason other than I was lazy that day.
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons adobo without pepper
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup orange juice
Corn tortillas, for serving
Season the pork with the adobo and place in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the orange juice, lime juice and enough water to just barely cover the meat. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for two hours. Don’t touch the meat.
After two hours, increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat. Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning pieces gently only as needed.
When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve on warmed tortillas with fixings.
7 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small can chopped hot or mild green chili peppers
1 red onion, diced small
1 jalapeno seeded and diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients in a bowl big enough to hold and mix well. Adjust seasonings, depending on how hot you like your salsa.