Carnitas (Mexican Slow Cooked Pork)
Added by jenfuchigami | Tue 12 Mar 2013 @ 22:16
Taco trucks in Los Angeles are the king of fast, cheap food on the go. I canít tell you how many late nights after the bars, Iíve stumbled to one of these taco trucks for a late night snack of street tacos. My local taxi company actually had my address saved in their system as the location of a taco vendor because thatís where they would usually pick me up!
BTW, for those that donít know: Mexican street tacos are small palm-sized fresh corn tortillas (not flour!!), filled with meat and served simply with a wedge of lime, salsa and possibly a few small garnishes like cilantro, onions, cheese, radish.
Of all the taco choices, Iíd say you have not lived until youíve had Carnitas tacos. Although, eat too many of them and you may not live long as itís not the healthiest choice. Carnitas is like a Mexican version of pulled pork that is cooked Ďslow and lowí until falling apart tender and then usually deep fried to give it some crispy bits.
For many ex-pats in London, the lack of authentic Mexican food is a very emotional subject. Rather than despair, I decided to figure out how to make Carnitas for taco night. Turns out, it just takes a few ingredients and a little time to cook up some of these tasty little pieces of meat.
This is the recipe Iíve settled on after a few trials. Traditionally, itís cooked in a big vat of lard but since I donít have a need or want to keep that much lard around Iíve opted for a technique where you simmer the pork in water and juice and then render the fat cap attached to the cut of pork to get the crispy/fatty effect.
2.5 lbs (1 kg) of pork shoulder, bone-in with thick fat cap*
1 cup (240 ml) of orange juice, no pulp
3 cups (720 ml) of water
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
*Note: Be sure to get a piece of pork shoulder from the Ďbuttí section, or upper part of the shoulder with a thick piece of fat, this is essential to the recipeē Traditionally Carnitas are cooked in lard, but in this case the pork will cook in itís own rendered fat at the end giving it that deep fried texture and taste.
1. Rub pork with salt.
2. Add pork to a large casserole pot and add orange juice and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered for 3 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.
3. Once pork is falling off the bone tender, remove it from the pan and use 2 forks to break the meat apart into large pieces (roughly 2 inch chunks). The meat should easily shred with little effort. Discard the bone, but keep the big piece of fat!
4. Put all the pieces of pork back into the pot of liquids along with the big piece of fat and turn the heat up to medium high and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
5. Once the liquid has evaporated, the fat cap will start to melt. Continue cooking for ~45 minutes until all the fat has rendered. Stir the pork occasionally with a large wooden spoon to keep it from sticking from the bottom of the pan.
* This is the magic part: the melting fat will essentially fry the pork in itís own fat resulting in crispy edges to the pork chunks while the inner parts of the chunks will be juicy and tender.
6. Serve on fresh corn tortillas with lime wedges to squeeze on top. You can also serve these tacos with some salsa and garnishes like cilantro, onions, radishes, guacamole.