Friday, September 11, 2015

Pork Carnitas

I am never doubting a 5 ingredient recipe again. I have always run like the plague from any dish toting to be "super delicious" and yet be composed of essentially nothing. THANKFULLY, one friend first told me of the amazingness of this recipe and then another went one step further and brought them to me on the stressful day my 3 year old daughter had surgery this past fall. We were still living with my in-laws during our crazy house selling and buying and remodeling adventure and all seven mouths present that night devoured this puppies. I mean DE-voured them. I immediately asked for the recipe and was so surprised to learn the dish consisted only of five ingredients. Ok, six if you count the salt. Which none of those "5 ingredient cookbooks" ever do. How could something so simple taste so incredibly good? Holy smokes! A little fresh orange juice, a squeeze or two of lime juice, garlic and cumin - these four things are heavenly in combination with a hunk of pork shoulder. But let's be real. This recipe technically contains 7 ingredients because, where would it be without with the pork fat. That succulent, meat-crisping pork fat that takes this dish from delicious to unbelievable. But we don't have to count it as an ingredient because it comes already attached to the meat. Like getting two for the price of one.

It is rare that the entirety of my clan is pleased by what I put on the table. In fact, the other night there was so much complaining that, in a moment of total awesomeness on my part, I threatened to quit cooking for them all together. My six year old nearly lost her marbles and began wailing in her seat, right then and there. I took it as a compliment. Was it my finest moment? Not exactly. But at least somewhere down there I was affirmed that she values my contributions to the table, even if the words coming out of her mouth certainly aren't saying it. Anyway, let me assure you that I am still cooking for my children, even though it sometimes means approaching the table with an imaginary shield to deflect their "opinions" about what I've prepared. We have rules about what they are permitted to say at the table but anyone who has ever been around children knows that having rules and following them are two separate issues. :) 

But I digress....what I'm trying to say here is actually that this carnitas dish is one that we all LOVE. I most recently made it for my middle child's "Night Before School" special celebratory dinner. In theory, the idea behind these dinners is that the child gets to select their own menu. That didn't exactly happen (it was more of a "Crap, I guess tonight is the night before school and all I have left to make in the fridge is tacos" sort of thing) but I talked it up enough that I got her excited. It was so nice to sit back and eat an entire meal without complaints from the peanut gallery! Or maybe it was just the margarita that was nice. Tough call!  

This recipe is great for those days when you're stuck at home for a few hours, maybe during nap time or when you're waiting to change over the laundry. It can easily be prepared ahead of time, the day before or the morning of and I have even frozen any extra leftover meat (when there is any!) to reheat at a later date or to put atop nachos. It essentially takes no special cooking skills beyond squeezing citrus and turning on a burner. Whatever you do, be sure you don't skip the final step where you ramp up the heat, allowing the cubes of pork to sizzle in the rendered pork fat. This is certainly what makes the dish! 

Pork Carnitas
(from Smitten Kitchen)

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 to 3 limes)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste

Corn or flour tortillas, for serving
Avocado slices, chopped cilantro, feta or grated cheddar and fixings of your choice

Place the pork cubes in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and enough water to just barely cover the meat. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for two hours. Don’t touch the meat.

After two hours, increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat. Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning pieces gently (they’ll be eager to fall apart), only as needed.

When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve on warmed tortillas with fixings.

Serves 6-8

1 comment:

  1. YUM! I made this tonight for dinner with 3 guests. We eat dinner while watching the debate. Everyone loved the carnitas. Thanks for the recipe!


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