All time favorite thing EVER – A L E R T.
I present to you Carnitas, Mexico’s answer to pulled pork. My answer to life goals.
Moist and succulent bits of pork (carnitas literally translates to “little meats”), slowly…magically, cooked down in a hot tub of garlic spiked citrus flavors until the fat is rendered and they fry up and get all crispy yummy on the edges with that fatty crunchy thaaang that is just SO amazingly satisfying to bite down onto……I mean really. Truly.
This is just a plate full of delicious.
Barely adapted from the site of one of my all time favorite food bloggers smittenkitchen.com – this is an amazing recipe that is so easy and so worth the bit of babysitting time that it does require. Nothing too difficult here, but you will need to be IN THE HOUSE while it simmers on the stove for a few hours. Safety first, I say…..you don’t want to burn anything down just to get your carnitas on.
The journey to hog heaven all begins with the meat, and for this application you are going to be making use of a pork butt. Right. Now don’t get all goofy and think we are talking about the rear end of anything; a pork butt is actually just the butt end (widest part) of the shoulder cut. This is a relatively tough customer, layered with fat and connective tissue. It ain’t no pork chop…let’s put it that way. However, it is the perfect cut for a slow and steamy cooking method like what we have got going on, which will break down all of the fibers, melt down the fat, and elevate the whole she-bang to sumptuous perfection. But first you gotta cube this guy up as best as you can.
I know, I know….. raw meat is not particularly delightful to look at, especially when you’ve just hacked it apart but this shows how much fat I had to physically remove as I was cutting my pork into cubes (ish). Now I am the fat nazi, and I am pretty picky about how much I’ll let squeak by but keep in mind a decent amount of fat is necessary for the success of your carnitas. Just remove the really obnoxiously fatty white fat, you’ll see there is quite a bit. Whew! This takes some time and is actually the hardest part…..the rest of this practically cooks itself! So relax, all smooth sailing from this point forward……
Into a large Dutch oven (just a heavy-duty soup pot) goes your cubed pork. Squeeze in the juice of an orange and a lime. Toss in a crushed clove of garlic (just give it a whack with the side of your knife, no need to chop, even)………a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a liberal dose of fresh cracked pepper. Pour in enough water to just barely cover. Doesn’t look too pretty, does it?
Well, you just wait. Prepare to be amazed.
Bring this up to just barely a boil and once you get it there reduce to barely a simmer. You do NOT want this bubbly boiling, or you will end up with the formation of scum on the top (however if that should occur, just skim it off, not to worry), just keep it gently simmering with no lid for about two hours.
You can see the progression as time goes by……..it cooks itself down and becomes dryer and dryer…..
and the meat turns a richer deeper brown as the fibers melt down and the fat begins to release into the pot. Don’t stir it, as much as you may want to (I know I did). Just let it cook without disturbing it. After you get it to this point, increase the heat to medium high and then you can give it an occasional stir. Be gentle and try not to break the pieces apart too much. It will still be wet but as it begins the rapid cook down the liquid will evaporate, and the meat will crisp up in the rendered fat.
Now is the time to pay better attention. Heads up! You gotta be all over it at this point, or risk burnt instead of browned! Be diligent in these last few minutes, gently turning and frying, and you will be rewarded with this……
perfectly carmelized, crucially crispy, salty citrus kissed porky perfection. Oh yeah, you’ll be dipping into that pot risking third degree burns to snag a taste or two…….
But hold up, Nellie! Before you nosh this down to nothing left, crank open a can of refried beans….(yes, you heard that right, let’s make life easy, shall we?), heat ’em up and spoon some down onto a plate. Fan off a few velvety slices of avocado. Top that with a heap of those crunchy carnitas, and you don’t really need much else. Maybe a little salsa on top if it moves you.
OR……how bout some green chile sauce? I just happen to have some from where we made it (here) in my last post. Slather some of that over those beans.
This day just keeps getting better and better.
- 2-3 lbs boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into roughly 1-1/2 inch cubes
- the juice of one orange (or 1/2 cup if you are pouring it out of a container)
- the juice of 1 or 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
- 1-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed*
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Some re-fried beans, your brand of choice
- Avocado slices
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Super Simple Hatch Green Chile Sauce
- Place the cubed pork into a large heavy pot. Add the orange juice, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper and then add enough water to barely cover the meat.
- Bring the pot up to a boil and then reduce the heat down to a simmer. Keep this on a low simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Don't touch the meat. Make sure to check on the meat every so often just to be sure everything is under control (I did not do this one time and the heat was up too high and I burned and ruined EVERYTHING and I don't want that to happen to you)
- After the two hour mark, increase the heat to medium high and while giving an occasional stir, continue to cook for 30 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated leaving only rendered pork fat. Let the meat sizzle around in the fat, turning gently to crisp up on all sides.
- Once everything is browned, it's good to go! Give it another pinch of salt, and serve it up.
- Most folks serve carnitas wrapped in a tortilla (a great option, for sure) but I happen to like my pork butt - butt naked so I just slap it down onto a plate with some re-fries or black beans, some avocado and maybe even a side of salsa. Of course a slathering of green chile sauce, although completely optional....never, ever hurts.
- * I used only one clove and it was perfect. If you are nutz for garlic you can always add more, I will not even try to stop you.