Friday, April 20, 2007

Hellloooo Carnitas!

I'm a big Mexican food fan. I love all the flavors of the new world; corn, tomatoes, chilies, cilantro/coriander, cumin, oregano, all of it. I especially love carnitas, Mexican roasted pork. I had never made it until this week and it will now be on my list of Sunday supper specials because it was just about the easiest Mexican taco dinner to be found.
The desire to try to make carnitas started at the Whole Foods market. They had pork butt in their meat department. I know, pork butt, sounds off-putting to say the least. But if you know your cuts of meat you know that this is the rich succulent cut that when cooked long and slowly will turn incredibly tender and tasty. Besides, it was only $5.00/lb, so I bought a small piece and decided to look into carnitas.
So, the trick is to think of carnitas as Mexican Pork Pot Roast. You know how to make a roast, right? Brown meat, add some vegetables and a bunch of liquid, perhaps some spices and then cook in the oven for a few hours. Magically when you open up the pot you'll find meltingly tender meat full of flavor. But wait you say, carnitas has a crispy chewy texture when I have it on a taco! Yes, you are right, the trick to the crispy texture is to pull the meat out of the liquid, shred into desired chunks on a shallow roasting pan and then bake in the top of a hot oven for about 10 minutes until desired crispiness is achieved. Warm a few corn tortillas, slice an avocado and a few green onions, and you have the easiest taco dinner ever. And any leftovers will be even better in a day or two - and you can remove a lot of the fat if you chill it while in the liquid and before crisping it. So make a double batch and only crisp up what you are going to eat. MMMMMmmmm good.

Vickie's Basic Carnitas

1.5 lb Pork Butt Roast
salt and pepper
2 Tbs Canola Oil
1 large onion diced
3 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
1 can Rotel Tomatoes and Chiles with Lime juice
1 chopped chipotle chile en adobo (from a can I keep in the refrigerator)
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 quart no salt chicken stock
1 beef bouillon cube

Salt and pepper the pork. Heat a large roasting pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the pork and brown on one side. Turn the pork over and add the onions and garlic around the edges. When the pork is browned on the other side, add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and cook over very low heat for 2 hours. Check for tenderness and continue cooking until the meat falls apart when pulled at with a fork. Alternately you may put the pan in a 350F oven for the 2 hours.
Turn the heat up to 400F. Remove the meat from the liquid and place on a shallow roasting pan. Shred the meat into chunks or shreds as you desire, removing any sinew or extra fat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chunks from the cooking liquid and spread them over the shredded pork. Bake on the top rack of the hot oven until crispy (5-10 minutes).
Serve with salsa, avocado slices, green onions, lime wedges and cold beer!

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