Carnitas

The New York Times Cooking section is maybe not the first place you’d think to look for a good and/or authentic carnitas recipe, but I thought this was delicious (and easy!). While my cooking time was longer than the recipe suggested, it was mostly hands off, then I got to make my own bastardized Chipotle bowl! Via NYT.

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, either butt or picnic
    • [The only shoulder available from my Whole Foods was on the bone, which is tough because the recipe wants you to cut the meat into cubes. You can cut the pork off the bone–with some difficulty– but if you can find boneless shoulder, I recommend it.]
  • 7 strips orange zest
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped, plus finely chopped onion for garnish
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons crushed dried oregano leaves, preferably Mexican
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 24 small corn tortillas, warmed, for serving [optional]
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish [optional]
  • Salsa for garnish [optional]
  1. Trim any thick fat from surface of pork. Cut meat into 1-inch cubes, discarding any that are pure fat. Put pork in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches, orange zest, garlic, chopped onion, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, bay leaves, oregano, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and the cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on surface. Simmer uncovered for 1 ½ hours, until pork is very soft; add water if necessary to keep meat submerged. Season with salt, then continue to cook until water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. [For all the liquid to evaporate, it took more like 2 ½-3 hours for me total. Don’t be afraid of overcooking it or that the water won’t evaporate. It did for me; it just took longer than expected.]
  3. Cook a little longer to fry meat slightly; cook even longer if you prefer crisper meat. Stir often and add a bit of water if meat sticks or seems about to burn. [Mine was sticking so just watch it and add a little water here and there, but this step does add a killer crispy-ness.]
  4. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick. [What this recipe doesn’t tell you is that the meat will still be cubed at this point. I had to take two forks and break apart the meat so it had that signature carnitas look. I would do this even in step 3 so it gets crispy easier.] 
  5. Spoon a few tablespoons of carnitas onto each tortilla. Top each taco with cilantro, finely chopped onion and salsa. Serve.
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