Carnitas, a Taco’s Dream
Last weekend, as you might have heard, it reached around 90 degrees F here on the East Coast. Ninety degrees!! Good grief. As much as I am not quite ready for that heat yet, it did get me in the mood for some warm weather food, and one of the things B and I love to eat as the sun grows warmer on our skin is tacos. I had picked up a pork shoulder from Kingbird Farm last weekend at the farmer’s market, and I knew it was time to make carnitas.
I use a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and method for the carnitas, which really couldn’t be simpler. The pork is cut into chunks, seasoned with salt & pepper, and placed in a heavy Dutch oven with an orange (juice squeezed into the pot first), bay leaves, an onion, dried oregano and cumin. As with any braise, you add enough liquid (in this case, water) to come about halfway up the sides of the meat.
About 2 hours in the oven renders the pork lusciously tender, so tender you can just pull it apart with your fork. The juice left in the pot is reduced down and tossed with the pork chunks to moisten them a bit, and then comes a neat trick: you want to transform the soft chunks of pork into tidbits that are soft on the inside but crispy and brown on the outside, so you spread them out on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and broil them for a few minutes. What emerges is ultra flavorful, with equal parts of deliciously crispy brown bits and soft, tender pork.
We tucked the carnitas into warm corn tortillas along with some red cabbage, cilantro, and local goat’s milk feta. As always, I’d recommend buying good quality, grass-fed pork from a local farm if you can — makes all the difference in flavor! The Bitten Word has the recipe in full posted on their web site, so I’ll send you there since I follow it pretty closely, and stay tuned later this week for the dessert that ended this meal (hint: it’s cold, creamy and dairy-based….and I scream for it!)