Another taco recipe!
Carnitas in the very traditional fashion involves braising an entire pig until the water evaporates and it deep-fries in its own fat. This recipe approximates the results with a home-kitchen friendly pork shoulder (also known as a Boston Butt).
This is another recipe from the truly excellent Truly Mexican. The version I’m posting is with the adjustments I’ve made to the recipe, because if you want the original, well, it’s in the book.
I can tell how much I use this recipe in my copy because it’s covered in drips and drabs, highlights and notations, and the pages are coming loose from the binding. (It’s a well made book, I’ve just cracked the spine to that page a lot. I am not kind to cookbooks.)
This is another recipe that calls for Mexican oregano, so I will repeat my warning to not substitute regular Mediterranean oregano. It will make your dish taste Italian instead of Mexican. If you can’t find Mexican oregano then use a bit of dried majoram instead. (This recipe marks the first time I had to use Mexican oregano ever.)
But on to the food!
Not pictured here because my mise skills for photography are still weak (but at least I got some natural light on it this time!): two bay leaves, lard, and bacon grease. (Bacon grease isn’t pretty anyway.) You don’t have to be very precise with this recipe. In fact the measuring spoons are only there to contain the dried Mexican oregano.
Carnitas by Roberto Santibanez
Procs: Easily enough for a party of 8 Paladins or 6 Barbarians
Time: About 3 hours. This is slow cooked pork after all.
Difficulty: Slightly more difficult than falling off a log, but not by much.
- Ideally, a Dutch oven. But anything OVEN SAFE in the 6 quart capacity will do.
- 1 white onion – sliced
- 1 orange – halved
- 1 lime – halved
- 8 cloves of garlic – peeled
- About 4lbs of pork shoulder or Boston butt – cubed in 2 inch chunks
- 1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- kosher salt
- 1-2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk (this is the secret ingredient. It’s not optional.)
- 1/4 cup of lard (if you have an exceptionally fatty piece of pork you may not need as much)
- 2 tbsp of bacon grease (optional, but it provides a smokey flavor)
- About 2 cups of water (enough to come halfway up the ingredients).
- Squeeze the juice out of the citrus halves into the pot. Then add the juiced carcasses of the citrus to the pot.
- Add everything else to the pot.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil at high heat. Then uncover and reduce heat to a simmer. Do not add more liquid as it reduces.
- Simmer until the pork is very tender and starting to break apart, about two to three hours. Stir it occasionally so everything gets cooked. The onions and garlic will basically dissolve. The water should be cooked off, leaving the pork in bubbling fat.
- If the pork is very tender and the water has not cooked off, remove the pork to a bowl and keep the pot on the burner until the water evaporates. Return the pork to the pot and continue.
- Pre-heat the oven to 450. Remove the citrus peels and bay leaves.
- Put the uncovered pot in the oven and bake until the exposed pork looks Crispy, Brown, and Delicious (CB&D). This should take about 15-20 minutes.
- Use this time to heat the tortillas (I like corn for this recipe) and prep the toppings if you’re making tacos. (And why wouldn’t you be?)
- As soon as it’s safe to eat (the oil stops bubbling), it’s time to assemble the tacos!
The carnitas are very rich, unctuous, and a bit sweet. This is not the kind of taco that you want to load up with fatty toppings like cheese or sour cream. You need sharp tastes like spicy salsa and tangy and crunchy pickled radishes.
So looking at these pictures, it’s no wonder that I find cooking to be an experience that just emanates love and community. There’s a lot of tools that loved ones have given me here.
- KD Van Drie: My copy of Truly Mexican
- Sarah Windsor: The custom Cooking with Murloc tea towel
- Margret Speight: Cutting board
- Evan and Audrey Speight: Victorinox chef’s knife
- Nancy “Nanny” Hugo: Oven-rack-pullin’ stick
- The salt cellar is extra-special (although I’d wager just about everybody coming here from FB knows the story of it). I’ll talk about that one later because it deserves its own post.