Today's recipe is a classic old-school rendition of carnitas prepared traditionally: cooked slowly in lard. You can find lots of recipe online using this method. Here, I've been inspired by my dad's preparation of carnitas and by this recipe from a video channel that I really love here. This is also the second carnitas recipe here on 'Confessions' and it is a bit more work than the previously posted one but oh my! Are they glorious!
Chunks of trimmed pork butt (aka, pork shoulder) are cooked slowly in a good amount of pork lard that has had a cup of water added to it. The water keeps the oil from getting too hot, allowing the pork time to cook before browning. As the water and added orange juice evaporate, lots of tiny bubbles break the surface. By the time the water has fully evaporated, the inside of the pork is cooked and it's time for the lard to work it's magic on the outside, giving the carnitas their familiar, gloriously golden brown crust. The combination of tender moist pork encased by a crunchy, bacon-like exterior is by far my favorite taco filling. Actually, truth be told, this is probably my favorite meat period.
Lard has gotten a bad rap over the years. But like all things, when part of a balanced diet low in processed foods and sugars, a little lard now and then adds similar amounts of good fats as does say a serving of avocado or olive oil. A Washington Post story cited that if it's part of a healthy diet, it's good. If you have a bad, unhealthy diet, then adding lard is definitely not a good thing.
Adding the oranges is very much like braising pork Cuban-style for the traditional cubano sandwich. The milk acts as a tenderizer, a secret I learned while growing up watching dad make his carnitas which, by the way, were always exceptionally tender. The beer gives the pork another layer of flavor, while the cinnamon, which pairs so well with pork, adds warm, earthy tones.
Removing the pork first to a strainer then onto a paper towel lined plate will help pull out excess lard.
Look at these tender bits of meat. So yummy with their crunchy outsides. Don't be afraid of this recipe. If you are craving good old-fashioned authentic carnitas, this is the recipe to try.
AUTHENTIC MEXICAN CARNITAS
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
adapted from howtocookmexicanfood
adapted from howtocookmexicanfood
2 pounds pork butt
2 pounds pork lard
1 cup water
2 medium oranges, washed and halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled
½ medium onion, peeled
1 large stick Mexican cinnamon stick or 2 small regular cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried whole Mexican oregano, crushed between palms
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup evaporated milk
½ cup beer (nothing too hoppy)
16 corn tortillas
1. Trim excess fat from pork butt then cut into 3 inch chunks. Set aside.
2. Add lard and water to a cold stock pot or dutch oven. Turn heat to medium high.
Once lard has liquified, carefully add meat.
3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges directly into the pot of meat; add the spent oranges to the pot.
4. Simmer on medium, uncovered, for one hour. Stir the meat every 15 minutes to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
5. Add the garlic, onion, cinnamon, bay leaves, salt, oregano, thyme, milk and beer to the pot. Stir well to combine. Continue simmering on medium heat, uncovered, for an additional hour. Stir meat at least every 20 minutes to make sure it's cooking evenly.
6. Use a slotted spoon to remove meat to a strainer, then place on a paper towel-lined plate to cool enough to handle.
7. Once cool enough to handle, rough chop meat.
8. Warm tortillas, fill with meat then add a squeeze of lime over the meat. Add optional garnishes.
Until next time my friends! Hope you have a great week and plan on making these carnitas this weekend. You won't regret it!