I just love Mexican food. I love the richness of the gooey cheese, the complex flavors, and the spicy goodness of it all. One of my favorite Chef is Rick Bayless. He makes every Mexican dish look so damn good, but he also loves the people and the culture of Mexico so much, and often shares his inspirations for the dishes he makes from some tiny cantina in Mexico. It brings the whole story to life, and I just love a good back story.
When my children were little we use to do an International night, I would let each of them take turns to create a meal of their choosing and we would research the culture and history of that country. When we first Mexico for International night, we did simple beef tacos. As their palates became more accustomed to different flavors and spices, I started to look for different ways to make food fun, but also I loved experimenting with food as a Chef. Now I am not a big lover of pork, of course that does not include bacon, because, well bacon is life! I will make pork chops for my family, but they are not my favorite at all. I do however, love me some pork carnitas, or a good roast pork. Totally different taste all together in my opinion. I like to use a Pork butt, commonly known as a Boston butt, or Pork picnic, for carnitas, tamales, or a roast pork. The delicate balance of fat and meat makes the carnitas so moist and flavorful. It’s just orgasmic. The best part of this is it can be made in the slow cooker and you don’t have to worry about it once you put that lid on. The meat, spices and your slow cooker take the guess-work out of it. When its done you are left with a succulent, full on flavor, pork roast that shreds perfectly with two forks.
When I make my carnitas I usually have leftovers which are just enough for the perfect pork tamales. Pair this with my killer, spicy black beans and rice and you have a full on Mexican meal that I think Rick Bayless would himself enjoy if he were chowing down in my kitchen! These carnitas are simple street tacos like you would get in Mexico, and not like the typical shredded lettuce and a tomato laden taco you may think of when I say taco. I like to serve these in a corn tortilla with some Queso Fresco cheese which is a mexican cow’s milk cheese similar to feta or ricotta salata, my boys don’t like the taste of the Queso Fresco so I use a mild Monterey jack or pepper jack.
I make homemade guacamole for it and a squeeze of lime and that is all I put on it. It is so balanced from slow cooking that you do not need to mask the meat, simple is better here, and the taste is sublime.
I hope you give this a try. I know you will be pleasantly surprised.
** Full disclosure, I ran out of oranges and orange juice this morning. I used the juice of half a grapefruit, mixed with some brown sugar to balance the acidity and two grapefruit slices with the pork and the flavor was superb. I think I like it much better. It’s not traditional Mexican, but it is Mexican by design! This dinner tonight was banging!
Perfect Pork Carnitas
A Mexican Classic, that's slow cooked to perfection, and can be ready by the time you come home from work!
If you could smell how insanely good my kitchen smells coming home to my slow cooker of Pork Carnitas you would want a Margarita and a taco ASAP! I could cry it is that good!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- 4-5 lb. Pork picnic, bone in please
- one onion finely chopped
- 1 orange thinly sliced
- Approximately 1 tbsp. of unsweetened coco powder for dusting the meat.
- 1/2 lime thinly sliced
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1 thinly sliced garlic clove, *think Goodfellas and the razor sliced garlic
- 2 tsp. of the following: chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chili powder
- 1/4 cup of orange juice
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 of chili in adobo
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Queso Fresco for the finished tacos
For the Guacamole
- 2 whole ripe Haas Avocados
- 1 glove of garlic
- 1/2 of a red or spanish onion
- small tomato cut up
- bunch of cilantro
- juice of one lime
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
To do: In a blender or food processor, (I like a semi-smooth guac).. add all of the ingredients, pulse until desired consistency is met. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Spicy Black Beans and Rice
- One can of black beans I like Goya
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 large jalapeno diced
- 1 tbsp. of white wine
- 1 1/2 tsp. of the following: chili powder, cumin, and Chipotle chili powder
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable shortening I use Crisco in the tub, yes it’s bad for you, but I don’t use much and it is healthier than lard which is used in Mexico for most cooking.
- 1 package of white or brown rice (I use Success boil in bags for this) I used brown rice tonight.
For the Carnitas
- Cut the pork carnitas into 3 inch cubes, cutting as close to the bone as you can. I know this is counterproductive to cut the bone and why not use boneless, flavor for one thing, and taste for another. Generously salt and pepper the meat, then dust each piece with some cocoa powder, this helps to caramelize the meat but also gives intense flavor. Much of Mexican cooking involves using chocolate for depth of flavor. Set aside. ** Don’t worry about the meat tasting like cocoa, it will not be detectable as chocolate, it just imparts a complex layer that the perfect balance for this dish. Promise.
- In a large Dutch oven heat shortening over medium, high heat. Begin to add the pork chunks, leaving them to brown nicely on each side. Work in batches if you need to so as not to crowd the area, you want nice caramelization. Remove pieces to a plate. To the same pan, add the onion, garlic, pepper, lower heat to low, saute one minute or so, then add in the orange juice, water, orange and lime slices and the cinnamon sticks. Add back the meat, and mix well. Transfer all to the slow cooker. Let simmer on 250 degrees for high 4-5 hours or 225 degrees for low 7-8 hours.
- Check meat periodically to ensure there is enough liquid and to check the tenderness of the meat. When meat is falling off the bone, you can shut off slow cooker. Reserve about 1/4 of a cup of the cooking liquid to pour over shredded meat.
- Place meat on cutting board and begin shredding with two forks. Place in pan for the oven. Set oven to 350 degrees. Add meat to pan and pour about 1/4 cup of reserved liquid from slow cooker over meat. Cook to crisp up for 10 min. You can skip this step but I think it is more authentic with the browned crust, but to each her own.
- Remove from oven, and serve immediately on a warmed corn or floured tortillas a dollop of guacamole and a generous sprinkling of Queso Fresco cheese. Delish!!
For the Spicy Black Beans
- Cook rice according to package directions, fluff and keep warm.
- In a saute pan add a tablespoon of vegetable shortening on medium high heat
- Saute onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper until translucent
- Season with salt, pepper, chili powders, and cumin
- Add drained black beans, and about a 3/4 cup of water
- Let cook for about 20 minutes on simmer.
- Finish with a squeeze of lime and a garnish of fresh cilantro.
- Serve immediately over cooked rice.