Carnitas are the epitome of Mexican comfort food in my book. The slow braising process fills your kitchen with a gorgeous aroma that will have everyone excited for supper. The pork is quickly seared, slow braised to fork tender, shredded, and added to a baking dish for a quick roast in the oven. The residual fat left in the meat cooks off and crisps up the meat into delicious little morsels. Yum!
I opted to serve the carnitas with corn tortillas and a zesty lime and cilantro coleslaw (Recipe here) The favors were a perfect combination. Fragrant, savory meat with crispy, tangy slaw. Simple and delicious.
- 4-6 pounds pork shoulder (cut into 2-3 large but manageable pieces and trimmed of fat)
- 1 quart beef stock
- Juice of 1 orange
- Peel of 1/2 orange (large pieces that can be easily removed)
- 6 cloves garlic (smashed)
- 2 dried California chile peppers (or medium heat dried chile pepper of your choosing)
- 1 onion peeled and quartered
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
- Rub pork with salt and cumin
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat
- Brown pork on all sides one piece at a time
- Discard all but 1 teaspoon of rendered fat from pot.
- Return pan to heat, and deglaze with beef broth
- Add remaining ingredients to the broth, and return pork to pot. (pork should be about 3/4 covered with broth)
- Bring liquid to a simmer
- Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until pork is fork tender
- Turn meat halfway through cook time and add water if needed
- Remove pork from broth and transfer to a large baking dish
- Shred with 2 forks discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle
- Return pork to oven at 375 degrees for an additional 15 minutes (any residual fat will render and crisp up the shredded pork morsels)
- Separate liquids and solids from pot, and reserve liquid
- When pork is crispy and golden on top remove from oven and spoon some of the reserved braising liquid on top (reserve remainder for re-heating if desired)
- Serve with tortillas, slaw, and lime
This is a great recipe to make on a Sunday. Shredded pork is super versatile, and reheats really well. A platter of carnitas can easily become pulled pork sandwiches, enchiladas, tacos, any thing you can imagine. I like to make a very large batch of this early in the week, freeze half in small 2 serving batches for later use, and plan my weekly menu around the rest. It can go straight from freezer to microwave! Endlessly cheaper and yummier than takeout.
Pork shoulder is a very inexpensive cut of meat, that goes on special pretty often at my local market. I frequently buy large roasts for less than $0.80 a pound. This is a perfect way to turn a very cheap cut of meat into something special. Perfect for feeding large groups on a budget.