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Taqueria-style Carnitas

Monday, August 26, 2013

Note:  This is not health food! Don’t defat the meat. The fat is necessary for both flavor and browning. You’ll get rid of some of it at the later stages of the recipe.

Serve with well-seasoned whole pintos, salsa verde (see recipe below), crema or sour cream, and the freshest tortillas you can get.


INGREDIENTS:

1        pork butt or shoulder, tied (4 to 5 lb.)

2        onions (1 lb. total), unpeeled and quartered

4        stalks celery (including leaves), rinsed and cut into chunks

3        medium unpeeled oranges, sliced

1        head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half across the cloves

2        tablespoons ground cumin

2        dried bay leaves

2        teaspoons dried thyme

1        teaspoon cinnamon

1-½    teaspoons dried coriander

1        teaspoon salt (more to taste)

½       cup milk

½       bunch cilantro, chopped


INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rinse pork and put in a 6- to 8-quart pan. Add onions, celery, orange, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water to cover meat.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is very tender when pierced, 2 to 2-½ hours[2]. With slotted spoons, transfer pork to a 9×13-inch pan; reserve cooking juices. Discard string, and use 2 forks to pull meat into large chunks. Pour milk over meat.
  3. Bake pork in a 325° oven until drippings are browned, about 1 hour, stirring and scraping pan occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, pour reserved juices through a strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids; discard residue. Skim and discard fat. Return juices to pan. Boil over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 45 minutes.
  5. When pork drippings are browned, add 1 cup of the reduced juices; scrape drippings free and stir meat, breaking into smaller pieces. Bake until juices have evaporated and drippings are browned, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Repeat step, using remaining juices, and cook until meat edges are crisp and browned, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt.
  6. Mix chopped cilantro into meat.

Salsa Verde

Note:  Make this while the pork is in the oven to allow the flavors to fully develop.

INGREDIENTS:

5        medium tomatillos (preferably fresh, canned if necessary)

1        medium serrano chili (more or less to taste)

3        cloves unpeeled garlic

½       lime, juiced

2        teaspoons mayonnaise

½       medium onion, minced

½       bunch cilantro, minced

1        tsp kosher salt


INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Peel the husks off the tomatillos and wash thoroughly. Score the bottoms of the tomatillos with a knife (if using fresh – if canned, drain and rinse).
  2. Preheat broiler. Lay a piece of foil on a baking sheet and place onto the rack and turn up the edges to prevent juices from running off. Place the (fresh) tomatillos, chili and garlic on the foil and broil until the skins charred. Flip everything over and char the other side.
  3. Remove baking sheet from the oven. Let cool enough to handle. Remove the core and excess char from the tomatillos and mince with a sharp knife. Mince the chili and garlic and add to a bowl with the tomatillos, adding juices from the foil. Stir the mayo into the lime juice, add along with onions and cilantro. Season to taste with salt.


  1. Pork can be either bone-in or boneless – bone-in adds more flavor, but go with what’s available and cheapest. You can also use boneless “country-style ribs.”
  2. You could easily do up to this stage in a slow-cooker, 8-10 hours on low
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