Sunday, July 6, 2014

Carnitas

For the 4th of July, I made some Carnitas sliders with guacamole, and am posting the carnitas recipe by request.  This is adapted from David Lebovitz with a few changes:

  • 4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks, extra fat removed (the original recipe calls for larger chunks, but smaller chunks lead to better seasoned carnitas in my experience
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of saindoux (lard)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced
1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. 
2. Heat the lard in a dutch oven set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.
3. Once all the pork is browned, pour in about a cup of water and a bottle of a strong brown ale (I used Chimay bleu), scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.  Add more water if necessary to almost cover the meat
4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
5.  Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.
7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 1 1/2-2 hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
8. Before serving, heat the pork in a bit of lard and shred the pieces with a spatula.
For the sliders, I made a batch of guacamole and grilled the buns with a bit of butter. If there is leftover carnitas an original spin is to cook it with homemade spaetzle, delicious!

Stove Top Version
I had bought pork for carnitas using J's recipe and invited friends over to share them when there was a major problem with my oven. The baking coil died. I did some quick research and it turns out that carnitas can easily be cooked on the stove top and they are still great cooked that way.
Heat the fat in a large dutch oven and while it is heating salt the meat. Brown the pieces of meat over medium high heat on all sides. You will have to do that in batches because you don't want to crowd the pan. When all the meat has been browned, put all of it in the pan and add the seasonings, sprinkling them over all the meat and then stir. Next add all the liquids with enough water to almost cover the meat and stir again. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to keep the liquid bubbling but not boiling. You want the heat level to be higher than a simmer because you want all the liquid to evaporate. That will take about 2 hours or longer. When the liquid is getting low watch the pot carefully because you don't want to burn the carnitas. They will be nicely crispy around the edges at the end because when the liquid is gone they will be cooking in the fat. When the carnitas are as crispy as you like enjoy them in a taco or on a slider with a good beer to wash them down.
Joan