Carnitas (a.k.a Mexican Pulled Pork)

Carnitas (a.k.a. Mexican Pulled Pork)

Carnitas (a.k.a. Mexican Pulled Pork)

It has been a great summer for vegetables.  Our farm share has produced a tremendous amount of delicious fruit and vegetables that we have been eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day (okay, maybe for breakfast only 2-3 days a week).  That is why so many of our summer recipes have been veggie-focused.  We want to make sure everyone knows what to do with all the great produce.  Once in a while though, you just want some meat.  Sure, you can have a side of veggies, or maybe use them as a garnish… but sometimes, even in the summer, meat has to take center stage.

Working on the pork butt

Working on the pork butt

This is definitely that kind of dish.  Ever since my friend Chrissy passed me this recipe more than a year ago, it has been hovering at the back of my mind whispering things like “Kelly, make me” and “I am both crispy and meltingly delicious, you won’t be able to resist.”  We recently had the chance to purchase a whole pig from this great farmer and with a beautiful pork shoulder in our possession, I knew those whispers couldn’t be ignored any longer.

How the sauce should look once it is reduced

The sauce is ready

Of course, as soon as I had my first bite, I wondered why the heck I had waited so long.  The pork, which is braised and then broiled, is fall-apart tender with crisp edges.  The braising liquid is reduced to make a flavorful glaze that gives the pork a rich taste with overtones of orange and cumin.  This is not a complicated recipe, but it does take some time.  Now that the weather is cooling off a bit in the Northeast, it is the perfect time to take on a recipe like this.  Make it for Sunday dinner and enjoy with the lovely late summer tomatoes and corn.

Spread with sauce and ready for the broiler

Spread with sauce and ready for the broiler

Carnitas

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:

1 3.5 – 4 lb boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 1/8″ thick, cut into 2″ chunks

1 tsp ground cumin

1 small onion, peeled and halved

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tbls freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)

2 cups water

1 medium orange, halved

To Make:

Position oven racks to lower middle slot and preheat to 300F.  In a large Dutch Oven (make sure it is stove top and oven safe), combine pork, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste, and water.  The liquid should just barely cover the meat.  Juice the orange into a bowl, discarding the seeds, add to the Dutch Oven along with the orange halves.

Bring the Dutch Oven to a simmer on the stove top over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the whole thing is simmering, cover the pot and toss it into the oven.  Cook until the meat is tender enough to fall apart when pierced by a fork (about 2 hours).

When the meat is ready, remove the pot from the oven and set your oven to broil.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat to a bowl, discard the orange halves, bay leaves and onions.  Put the pot over high heat (remember, it was in the oven for two hours so use pot holders).  Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and reduce until it becomes thick and syrupy, stirring frequently.  A wooden spoon or heat proof spatula should leave a trail when it is dragged through the simmering liquid.  It should take 8-12 minutes and leave you with about 1 cup of goodness.

Meanwhile, shred the pork by sticking the middle with two forks and pulling each piece apart.  Fold the reduced liquid into the pulled pork.  Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.  Place the pork on the wire rack in one layer.  Keeping the oven rack in the same lower middle position, slide in the pork into the oven.  Broil until the tops are well browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Take it out, turn the pork pieces over (think big pancake spatula), put it back in for another 5 to 8 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve warm, in burritos, as tacos, on a plate, etc. with garnishes such as salsa, lime wedges, sour cream, guacamole, fresh cilantro, corn and black bean salad.  Use your imagination.  Serves 4-6 as a main course.

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1 Comment

Filed under Dairy-free, Dinner, Gluten-Free, Meat, Recipes

One response to “Carnitas (a.k.a Mexican Pulled Pork)

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