Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carnitas heaven...

(click the above photo at your own risk. You might be wiping drool off your keyboard though)
Ok, so I know it might be a bit weird to post a pork dish right after a vegetarian sausage recipe. It's how I roll. We don't eat much meat, and I generally prefer "faux meats" to the real thing. In the case of carnitas however, there's no substitute. I had this idea in my head that hours of slaving away were involved when making carnitas. This recipe completely blew me away! It's basically 2 hours of inactive cooking time (then maybe 20-30mn where you actually need to pay attention), and minimal ingredients!
I saw it on Homesick Texan, and it's DE-LI-CIOUS! I also wanted to mention that this recipe isn't particularly "south of the border". So, if you wanted to forego the tortillas, and just serve it with the rice you have on hand, you've got my permission. Or, you could serve it lettuce wrap style, with some shredded carrots, etc. It's really flavorful, so it doesn't really need anything actually. The husband and I ate the leftovers straight outta the fridge, with our fingers. Yeah, we're nothing but class around here.

You can adjust this to whatever size piece of pork you can get your hands on, but you're gonna want to make extra. Trust me. 

Carnitas (adapted from Diana Kennedy)
3 pounds of pork butt (shoulder)- the better the quality of the meat, the tastier it is
1 cup of orange juice
3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt

-Cut the meat into 1 in. strips
-Put the OJ, water and salt into a large pot
-Add the pork
-Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer
-Cook for about 2 hours - don't stir
 -The liquid will start to reduce, and will look like brown gravy
-Turn up the heat (medium on my electric) and let the "gravy" cook down until you are left with just the meat and the rendered fat
-The meat will start to fry in the fat (this is a good thing) and you'll want to stir it occasionally to keep it from burning, but not so often to where you don't get the carmelization!
-When you've got the meat nicely browned, turn off the heat and tilt the pan a bit off the burner with the meat at the high end. This helps drain all the fat away from the meat, so it's not sitting in a puddle.

I'm going to warn you, when it's just boiling away, it doesn't smell that awesome. I was worried I had done something wrong and was tempted to add aromatic spices, but resisted. You should try it this way at least once. I have yet to change it up because this is so simple and tasty. But, I have been dreaming up a couple different adaptations, so I'll share those when I get the guts. It's the perfect way to use up that last glass of OJ in the fridge. Also, this is usually a pretty cheap cut of meat and one that's on sale a lot. So, it's budget friendly! accompany this amazing dish, you CANNOT just use corn tortillas from the store (ok, maybe you've got a Mexican market that sells homemade tortillas nearby)! I discovered about a year ago how easy it is to make corn tortillas, and I haven't looked back. They are a completely different thing than the ones of the grocery shelf! These don't crack or dry out, and remain a little fluffy! Plus you can make them as big or little as you'd like. Not to mention the ones from the grocery store have a bunch of weird stuff in them to make them shelf stable, and that freaks me out. So, I'm going to show you how easy it is.

Start with this:

There's a handy chart on the back:

I usually make enough for 8 tortillas, because they're talking small tortillas here. So, combine the masa, and the salt in a bowl, add almost all the water called for and stir it up. I like to start with less and add more because I don't want it too wet. Then when it gets to about the consistency of the first photo, gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead it just a little to make sure the dough is soft enough, sort of along the lines of playdough, if not a little less dense feeling in your hands. Then grab pieces between the size of a walnut and a golf ball, and roll it into a ball with your palms. I line a plate with parchment (silicone coated! It's magical.) put the ball on top, and fold the paper over it. I use two plates that completely fit together, but it will work with two cutting boards as well, or anything flat. Then PRESS like can lift the paper and check how thin it is. You don't want them too thin or they will tear when peeling them from the paper, or when you've stuffed them with your lovely carnitas. It might take a couple tries, but the beauty's dough, so all is not lost. Just scrape your dough ball back together and start over! I press as I go, and just place the cooked ones in a tea towel. I use a little cast iron skillet, but use what you have. Over medium heat, get the skillet nice and hot and cook on each side for just a few minutes. You don't want it to really brown per say, it's more like baking it in a pan. They soften up a little from the steam while hanging out in the towel party with their buddies.

I prep my other additions while the carnitas are still boiling, but I like to keep it simple. I just sliced some green onions, garnished with hot sauce, and topped with some lettuce. good.


  1. I have tried and occasionally failed at this one. I have heard that a marinade of cheap beer and orange juice is best, but I like lime juice and...Cheap beer.

    The most successful attempt on my part yet was completed the day you published this post. I had had a rather large pork shoulder going in the crock pot for at least twenty four hours in a salt n' beer bath. Most of it went into red beans n' rice. But the rest I broke apart with a fork, seethed in yet further beer and lime juice, dash more salt, and pan fried the result. Oh dude, yum.

  2. Sounds amazing! I just don't always have the patience for slow cooking. Sometimes I just want it NOW! This is a really easy and great recipe, you should try it, seriously....just as it is, just once. It's one of the only recipes I actually follow.

  3. These look scrumptious! By the way, I just cooked the most AMAZING salmon using your Rhubarb Chutney! YUUUUM!