April 28, 2013

Pork Carnitas

I have the most amazing seven-year-old in the world. I don't often go completely gaga over my kids on here (or in public generally, it's just unseemly!) but I just have to share this afternoon with you. With everyone!! After church (where we stayed a bit late so he could help put away chairs) we came home, had lunch, and I sent the boys off for "quiet time", aka, Mom-needs-a-break/nap-time. Stephen was reading on the couch. Just when I was about to doze off... I hear clinking and chinking of plates from the kitchen. Getting all growly and annoyed and frustrated, I stalked out of my room, fully expecting to catch some kid red-handed disobeying some rule or other... I find Stephen unloading the dishwasher. Have I mentioned he's seven?? I ask, still a little fuzzy, "Um... what are you doing?" His face falls.

"It was meant to be a surprise! I was going to have to kitchen all cleaned up when you woke up!"

I'm a mom. What do I do? I cry, of course. And hug him like crazy. Then he asks if he can wash the other dishes, and I almost fall over. Nap forgotten (though still wistfully missed) I lay out some towels and show him the ropes.
He did an awesome job. All by himself.
Thank you for letting me brag. :)

Pork Carnitas (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
Printable Recipe

3-4 pound boneless pork butt roast
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper (fresh cracked is best!)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1 lime, plus the used halves
juice of 1 orange, plus the used halves
2 cups water

Optional toppings:
cheese (I recommend cotija, it's a crumbly, salty Mexican cheese, and went perfectly with this meat)
lime wedges
salsa or pico de gallo
sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower middle and preheat to 300 degrees. While preheating, trim any large areas of fat from the outside of the roast, and cut into large, 2-3 inch chunks. 
Combine all the ingredients in a Dutch oven or any oven-safe lidded pot/dish, including the used orange and lime halves. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered. (If using a container that is not stove-safe, bring it to a simmer in a large saucepan or pot, then pour it into your oven-safe pot/dish) Once it simmers, cover pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook about two hours, until meat is fork tender. Remove from oven and let sit 30-60 minutes, so the meat can rest. 

Line a rimmed baking pan with foil. Remove the meat from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon, to a large bowl or cutting board. Remove all other solids from the cooking juices and discard them. Place pot of cooking juices over high heat on the stove and boil until thickened, about 20 minutes. A spoon dragged through the liquid should leave a trail.

While the juices are reducing, use a fork or two to pull each chunk of meat into 2 or 3 pieces. When juices are thickened, add the meat back in and stir gently to coat each piece. Spread the pork back onto the foil lined pan and spread out into a single layer.  Turn on your broiler and place the pan in the oven, broiling for 5-8 minutes until the edges are browned and crisp. If you like, you can take a wide spatula, slide under the meat, and flip it all over, then brown the other side. (I didn't bother) Serve hot in a tortilla with your favorite toppings.
Ahhh, that gorgeous crispy caramelized meat!! With just enough sauce left over to make them nice and juicy, without making a mess all over. You could do the first cooking step in a slowcooker, just make sure you don't overcook it or it will dry out, then continue with the other steps. Are those other steps worth the bother? Absolutely!!
I love avocado. The Geologist loves cilantro. We both agree that cotija is the perfect cheese for these tacos (or burritos!) and limes are essential. He used some salsa, the boys wanted sour cream... you can use any toppings you want!
I was surprised how un-orangey it was. I was expecting more. I think it acted more as a tenderizer and a base for flavor, because I also didn't miss it! You get smokiness from the paprika, layers of deep flavors from the spices, the meat is meltingly tender and juicy, just a tiny bit of warmth... Sooo delicious!
And they make awfully good leftovers. If you want them crisped again, just re-heat under the broiler! 


  1. You do really have great kids! They impressed me the only day that I saw them!
    What is your secret to raising such nice kids? haha

    1. Aw, thank you!! I don't have a secret. Most of it they were born with, the rest I learn as we go, but my three favorites are: bedtime is for parents, not kids, never give a command you can't enforce (learned that one from dog training!) and imagination is AWESOME!! :) Oh, and never think you know everything and you've got it all down. They'll prove you wrong :)

  2. He's so, so sweet!! You sure have to treasure moments like that! And maybe ones of these days I'll make carnitas and impress Angel...

  3. These look good, April! Did you ever get to use the pie cutters I sent you?


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