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Friday, November 14, 2008

Foodie Friday - Carnitas

There is a lot going on in blogland right now. So, don't forget about Way More Homemade Holidays coming up NEXT FRIDAY!!

You can grab the code underneath the button over on the side bar and just drop it into an html gadget on your side bar. And what a cute button it is, no? Many thanks to Sarah at Real Life Design.

I really am looking forward to it and think it's going to be some fun.

And oh, I may need to start working on my own post. Whaddaya think?

I do know of one recipe I'm going to share. It's from my man's family and it's something they look forward to every year. If I don't stop myself now, then I'll just write my whole post about that dish, when I really have something else in mind



By a show of hands, who out there likes Chipotle?

Oh we do. We, all four of us (six if you include the dogs), love it. We've been going there for years.

It was first introduced to me as a decent alternative to Freebirds.

"What is a Freebirds?" you ask. Well, it's a really good Chipotle.

Freebirds is little divey spot on Northgate just off the A&M Campus in College Station. I'm honestly not sure where the first one appeared, but it really took off both in C.S. and in Austin. You know... lots of food for not much money. Perfect for the starving college student... who still had really high metabolism and was walking miles between classes every day. It's one of those places that you must visit when you go back to your college town. And we'd look forward to it any time we went.

They have expanded since the "old days" and within the last couple of years, a Freebirds opened here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Now there are 5. But alas, there is still none anywhere near my house.

So, with a location at every major shopping hub in town, Chipotle it is.

I have a usual. We all do. Kind of like Pei Wei. We all usually get approximately the same thing. Mike will either get a burrito or a bol (contents of the burrito in a bowl... just spelled weird) with rice, ranch style beans, barbacoa (spicy shredded beef), pico de gallo, hot sauce, cheese, and lettuce. I vary a little more than him... maybe a burrito or a bol or a salad... it depends on how good I'm being. I'll get chicken or barbacoa, black beans, roasted corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. We learned early on that the carnitas (shredded pork) is the least spicy of all the meats. So we usually get that for the kids in the form of soft tacos.

I have experimented at home some over the last couple of years and come up with a pretty good version of barbacoa. I haven't made it recently, so I haven't written it down. I'll do that sometime soon for you.

However, my good friends at, you guessed it, Cook's Illustrated have done it again. An incredible recipe for Carnitas was in the May/June 2008 issue. I made it this week and WOW. Good stuff. And easy, albeit slow. This isn't a throw together in five minutes meal. but it's not a lot of muss and fuss either.

Here it is (along with some of my own notes in italics)...

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

1 3 1/2 - 4 pound boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmed to 1/8 think, cut into 2-inch chunks (My grocer didn't have boneless. I trimmed a bunch of meat off and left a bunch on the bone and cooked that right along with everything else. The rest of the meat just fell right off the bone with no problem.)
Salt and pepper
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
(I think next time I'm going to add a minced seeded jalapeno to the mix just to see what happens)

Heat oven to 300 F. Combine pork, salt, pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (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. (I failed to get an orange at the store, so I just used 1/3 cup orange juice from my fridge and added some dried orange peel from my spice cabinet for good measure.) Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking. (Flipping during cooking... yeah, right. I put this bad boy in the oven then left the house for two hours. It was fine. Some of the pieces were a little stuck together, but they came right apart.)

Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. 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) (that's your disclaimer for the day, ladies and gentlemen) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy (heat safe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 8 to 12 minutes. You should have about 1 cup reduced liquid. (My pork rendered more liquid than probably normal because of the bone and extra fat and meat. My sauce never got to the thick and syrupy stage. I dont' know how crucial this is... in my oh so humble opinion... it's no biggie.)

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 entire surface) (And if you're me, you may cover the entire surface twice.) Place on lower-middle rack of oven and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5-8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, slip pieces of meat and continue to broil, looking for the same results. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes.

Ideas for serving & garnishes:

Warm flour or corn tortillas (Do you know how to warm corn tortillas? Spray with Pam and wrap in foil and place in the oven for just a little while.)
Lime wedges
Pico De Gallo (tomatoes, onion, cilantro & jalapeno chiles)
One Minute Salsa
Slices or chucks of avocado
Rice (flavored with some fresh cilantro and lime juice)
Use as stuffing for enchiladas or tamales (and if you make your own tamales, please come and see me!!)

Now, go make some carnitas.



Lolly said...

The recipe looks great. I am lazy these days when it comes to cooking, so I will just drive down the street to Chipotle. One of our weekly favorites. (I think the last time I saw ya'll was at Chipotle). My favorite combo is a fajita bowl, with rice, chicken, peppers and onions, cheese, guacamole and corn salsa. I love the corn salsa.

Lolly said...

Hey Donna,

I left you a comments regarding your comment on my blog. I didn't want to put a "scandulous" comment on your blog :)

Tiffany said...

Looks similar to the Chalupa recipe on my menu this week. We love it and it is very easy to make in the crockpot. Yours has orange though, that sounds yummy!

Kim said...

Sounds yummy! I'm going to print this out for my binder. I would think you could do the first part in a crock pot, no? Until we get a new gasket for the oven door, I can't use my oven.