Hope you didn’t get enough of Mexican food this past weekend because I have a great carnitas recipe to share. After reading Gina’s carnitas pizza and Adrianna’s mulitas posts last week, I decided that I needed some meat to nourish my body as I haven’t had any in more than two weeks. I’m not a vegetarian, but I find the meat sold at grocery stores kind of gross. First of all, they are not fresh and it makes me sad to think of the way these poor animals are treated for meat production. It was a big disappointment to find out that even most of the meats sold at the local butcher shop are still from the big industrial companies. There is a very meager selection of good meats from real farmers that they sell. Also, meat is expensive so I rarely buy it. Anyway because my body was asking for meat (and I felt bad for poor DFJ being meat-deprived), I stopped at the butcher shop on my home from work last Friday and got my hands on whatever local meat I could get, 3 pounds of pork loin.
Handling the raw pork reminded me of why I don’t like dealing with meat very much. However, after it turned out into these wonderful carnitas it was all worth the effort!
Tender, juicy, flavorful carnitas, with hints of sweet, sour and a little spicy kick. The combination of cumin, hot spices (cayenne and paprika) and bay leaf; orange, lime, and the pork’s own juices; and the onion slices that melt into the meat will turn the pork cubes into taco truckesque deliciousness right in your own kitchen!
I used a slightly different method for cooking these carnitas because I don’t have a Dutch oven. Instead of cooking it in the oven at a steady temperature for a long period of time, I first cooked it in a glass baking pan and then moved it into a pot on the stovetop and cooked it on medium low.
CarnitasAdapted from More Best Recipes, From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated
Spices:1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, as much as you prefer
1 bay leaf
1-1 ½ pound pork loin, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup water
juice of 1 medium orange (about 1/3 cup)
juice from 3 key limes
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp salt
pepper, as much as you prefer
Mix all the spices in a small bowl.
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Cut the pork loin into one inch cubes and move into a glass baking pan. Rub the spice mixture onto the pork cubes. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic into the pan. Stir together the water, fresh orange juice, and key lime juice in a small bowl and pour the mixture into the pan. Put the pan in the oven and cook for an hour. Halfway through cooking time, remove the pan from the oven and flip or stir the pork cubes and return to the oven.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown. Add the onion slices and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Season with salt and pepper.
After an hour, turn off the oven and take the baking pan out. Move the pork cubes and all the juice into the pot of sautéed garlic and onions. Turn the heat down to medium low and let cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, covered. Stir every 10-15 minutes. After about an hour, almost all the juice will have evaporated. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, pound the meat pieces with a wooden spatula. The meat should be soft enough to fall and tear apart into strands. Turn off the heat and continue to pound until the meat is torn into shreds.
Serve on warm tortillas with queso fresco (I used feta, it’s great), guacamole, salsa, what have you! I even heated up leftover carnitas in a skillet with veggies (broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, and tomatoes) and served it with rice.