Thursday, July 7, 2011

Double Take: Carnitas

I'm very excited to share today's post with you. In fact, I've been excited about it since Cinco de Mayo but we had this one scheduled a little later than then on our calendar. Lucky for you, it'll be time for the Mexican Independence Day celebration on September 16th. Just pocket this recipe away til then and you'll be ready to party like its 1810...or celebrate the victory in 1821..however it works out for you. (In case you're wondering, 1810 is when the Mexicans declared Independence from Spain. They didn't gain independence until 1821 but they celebrate September 16 (the day they declared independence) as their Independence Day.)

I saw the carnitas episode on America's Test Kitchen earlier this year and was impressed but not yet won over. I'd never eaten carnitas. I wasn't sure what to expect. The next thing I knew, a friend came in from out of town and I wound up at a Mexican restaurant. Across the seat from me, Ruthann ordered carnitas. She wasn't overwhelming pleased with the ones there but said they were usually awesome. No joke, within the next two weeks, Melanie picks out not one but TWO carnitas recipes. At this point, I was like wow, apparently I'm going to be trying carnitas. I suggested the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. Their rigorous testing pleases the scientist in me but its typically more work than I'd want to go to on my own on a per recipe basis. Since they'd done the work, it seemed logical to me to try it their way. Mel was game so I was off on my journey to try carnitas.

The next thing I needed was a taste tester. It looked like carnitas could feed a small crowd. Heads really can. Be prepared to have a crowd handy or eat them for a week. This would not be one person eating them for a week either. Seriously 2-3 people could eat these for a week. But I digress, Becky was totally up for a little food themed celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

As I looked over the recipe, I realized it could use a little modification for your average joe grad student who stays at the lab way too many hours in a day. In fact, the same modification would work well for your average  Joe or Jill who works a long day on the job but wants a tasty dinner. Got a crockpot? You're in for a tasty treat.

Carnita ready to eat!

Crockpot Carnitas (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

Prep Time: 45 min to 1 hr
Cook Time: 6-8 hours in the crockpot, 30 min in oven (optional)



1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) boneless pork butt , fat cap trimmed to 1/8 inch thick, cut into 2-inch chunks (Pretty much leave the fat on there or it'll be dry meat.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion , peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
2 cups water
1 medium orange, halved
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper


18 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
  Lime wedges
  Minced white or red onion, can saute if desired
  Fresh cilantro leaves
  Sour cream
  peach and pineapple salsa
  grated sharp cheddar cheese

1. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large crock pot (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about 1/3 cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Set crockpot to either 6 or 8 hours and head off to work.

2. Pour juices into a pot on the oven. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy (heatsafe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 8 to 12 minutes. You should have about 1 cup reduced liquid.

3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes.

Crunchy flavorful Carnita meat from the oven


Tasty. I prefer my meat to be less crunchy. In the future, I'll just do the crockpot part and quit. Its an easy recipe to throw together and allow to cook for you while you work during the day. Simple is good in my book. Becky liked them too. Warning: This makes a ton of meat so having more than two people eating it will help a ton. I'd suggest 4-6 people could be fed easily. I think you could feed 8-10 with a side of gazpacho. The carnitas were a fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Check out how Mel reacted to the carnitas at Fabulously Fun Food.

1 comment:

  1. I served two big eaters and three normal eaters and continued to eat the leftovers for two more days. So yes, it could easily feed 8 people with a side dish! I just found out that I do have time to make this again before the move, so I'll let you know if mine turns out orange this time!