carnitas

June 14, 2006

carnitas

Slow cooked pork, simmered for hours in spices, brown sugar, chipotle peppers – and coca-cola? It isn’t anything Thomas Keller will ever serve, and it may not exactly adhere to the traditional methoda, but it works. Carnitas is braised or simmered pork that’s browned, cooked over low heat for several hours, pulled or cut apart and then (glory be) fried till  crisp. You scoop a greasy pile of it onto a hot corn tortilla, add a little cilantro, some chopped onions, and squeeze a wedge of lime over the whole mess. It seems that there are as many ways to cook this dish as there are tortillas to serve it on, but this is what we’ve found works for us. It’s pretty simple – the only trick is to cook the pork as long as you can at low temperature. Make sure you use enough liquid in the beginning and resist the urge to keep opening the pot lid to check on it.

carnitas:
3 lbs. pork shoulder
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs salt
1 tbs ground pepper
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 large dried chipotle peppers
1/2 can coke
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs brown sugar

Trim the fat and silverskin from the roast and cut it into a few manageable pieces. Preheat the oven to about 250 degrees. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep, heavy stock pot (with a lid) for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. While it’s getting hot, mix in the spices together on a plate and roll the pork in them. Gently place the pork chunks in the hot oil and sear all sides until browned. Cover, plop it into the oven and cook for an hour. Add the brown sugar, coke, milk, garlic, bay leaves and chipotle. Continue cooking for about another hour. It’s done when the pork starts to fall apart when poked with a spoon. Remove the meat from the stockpot with a slotted spoon and shred it into smaller chunks. Remove any solids (peppers) from the pan and heat the remaining juices over medium heat. Fry the meat in this until it begins to crisp, and all the liquids are gone. Serve with warmed corn tortillas, chopped fresh cilantro, wedges of lime, and diced red onion.

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