Carnitas (Shredded Pork Tacos)

Home cooks are always on the lookout for economical ways to make a meal.  When it comes to selecting meat, beef has become something I only buy on rare occasions, due to skyrocketing prices.  Pork and chicken prices have also increased over the last few years, but good deals can still be found.  Chicken thighs and leg quarters tend to be the least expensive cuts.  Pork loins and pork rib meat find their way into my shopping basket more and more, because of their affordability.

Country-style pork ribs are cut from the area of the hog where the loin meets the shoulder.   Country-style ribs are a blend of lean white meat and rich dark meat, which makes them a versatile cut of meat.

Carnitas are typically made from roasted pork shoulder, but they can be made from slow-cooked pork loin, too.  Since I chose country-style rib meat for this recipe, I chose to sear the meat in a pan and then gently stew, with broth and vegetables.

Homemade tortillas make this Mexican dinner even more special!

Ingredients:

2 lbs. marinated country-style pork rib meat

¼ cup cooking oil

1 medium sized onion, chopped

1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped

1 cup picante sauce (salsa)

1 cup chicken stock

Chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and onions (for the tacos)

1 lime, sliced

10 warm flour tortillas

Tapatio hot sauce

Directions:

I’ve got to confess that I forgot what I used in the marinade for the pork.  Most likely, I used a combination of tomato sauce, dark soy sauce, lime juice, dried onion flake, cumin powder, red chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and a pinch of turmeric.  A marinade will help tenderize the meat, but it’s not necessary, since the meat will be braised in a little stock and vegetables, until it becomes tender

Absorb excess moisture from the pork with paper towels.

Seed and chop the jalapeño.  Chop the onion.  Set these aside.

Add cooking oil to a cast iron skillet (or any other oven-proof pan).  Set the heat to medium/high.

Sear the pieces of pork on all sides.  Remove the pork and keep in a warm place.

Add the chopped jalapeño and onion to the skillet and sauté at medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Add the salsa to the skillet and stir for about 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock.

Return the pork to the skillet. 

Cover the skillet with aluminum foil at bake in the oven at 350º for 40 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil.  The pork should be fork tender.  If the pork is not tender, return to the oven for another 10 minutes. 

Shred the pork and mix with the braising liquid. 

Serve on warm tortillas and add lettuce, tomato and onion. 

Serve with fresh lime wedges and Tapatio hot sauce.

  • If you’re familiar with Tapatilo hot sauce, you might be wondering what looks different about this particular bottle.  The regular image of the sombrero-wearing Tapatio has been replaced by comedian Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias, along with Fluffy’s chihuahuas, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tapatio.

Carnitas (Slow Roasted Pork)

Sometimes I get a grandiose idea and I get all fired up and I spend hours and hours focusing on my goal until the plan reaches fruition.  And then there’s all those other days, when the grandiose idea fizzles like a flat soda. 

Welcome to Flat Soda Day.

My idea was inspired by a craving for gorditas.  Gorditas, which translates to “little chubbies”, are puffy corn tortillas stuffed with meats and sauces, or whatever else you might want to put in them.  When made properly, gorditas are wonderfully crispy, warm, corn flavored pockets full of savory bliss.  Like so many Mexican dishes, they instantly make me feel at home when I eat them, regardless of where I eat them.

Step number one for gorditas:  prepare carnitas.  Carnitas, which translates to “little meats”, is typically made with pork shoulder and is slowly roasted and then shredded.  I tend to think of carnitas as the little brother of barbacoa.  Carnitas are more gentle in flavor than bold, beefy barbacoa but, carnitas are probably more versatile. 

In fact, carnitas are so versatile that I completely abandoned the notion of making gorditas and I decided to use them in burritos.  That’s ok.  I had some carnitas left over and made gorditas a few days later.

I usually roast a pork shoulder when making carnitas.  The fat ratio in a pork shoulder is precisely what is needed for good carnitas.  This time, I had a pork loin, which is very lean.  I also had a few small pieces of leftover beef ribeye in the refrigerator.  The fat content of the ribeye was just what the lean pork needed.  I added a little lard, to further bump the fat content up, and then I roasted the meat for about 6 hours at low temperature. 

Ingredients:

1 Tbs cumin

1 Tbs oregano

2 tsp paprika

2 lbs pork loin

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup cooking oil

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeño, sliced

1 ½ Tbs lard

¾ lb beef ribeye (cooked to medium rare)

Directions:

Combine the cumin, oregano, paprika and oil in a small bowl. Mix together.

Coat the pork loin with the spices and oil.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large Dutch oven.  Add the pork loin to the Dutch oven. Cover and cook at 250° for 6 hours.  Remove from oven.  Shred the meat with two forks. 

Heat a cast iron skillet.  Add shredded meat to the skillet and sear for a few minutes, or until the meat begins to char.  Turn the meat and sear for another minute.  Remove meat.

Serve in any number of dishes.  Burritos, enchiladas, gorditas, flautas, chalupas, tacos…