Things I really like: cinnamon, pork and Mexican food. Put these three things together and you have a trifecta of YES for my taste buds. I figured this out the first time I ordered carnitas at El Matador, my local Mexican joint, and quickly became a little obsessed. Yep, it’s gotten to the point where I’ll only order things on the menu that include the amazing, addictive cinnamon-laced pork. Except cheese dip. Don’t worry queso, I just can’t quit you.
However, it eventually occurred to me that I was spending a lot of time at El Matador and having also been the victim of surprise carnitas cravings more than once when the restaurant wasn’t open, I decided that I should learn how to prepare this meaty dish of delight myself. As it turns out, carnitas are basically just pork shoulder braised with chile powder and cinnamon sticks. Sweet. A little research revealed that David Lebovitz has a recipe up on his site, and, as I have a lot of faith in David’s recipes, I used it with only a minor adjustment here and there.
Oh my god. The result is an intensely flavorful meaty indulgence that threatens to send me into a gluttonous rapture. My new game is adding carnitas to pretty much everything. Three batches later I’ve racked up tacos (obviously), nachos (amazing), an enchilada breakfast casserole (very well received at brunch), mixed in with my go-to quinoa with spinach, and eating it straight out of the tupperware with my fingers.
How will you eat your carnitas?
- 4 to 7 lb bone in Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt, cut into large pieces, bone reserved
- 1 Tbsp Canola or Grapeseed Oil (or other high heat oil)
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1½ tsp Chile Powder
- 1 tsp Ancho Chile Powder
- ½ tsp Chipotle Chile Powder
- ¼ tsp Cumin
- 4 Garlic Cloves, sliced
- 3 Cinnamon Sticks
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon
- 2 - 3 Bay Leaves (3 if smaller)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Heat the oil over med-high heat in an oven-ready pot or braising pan.
- While the oil heats, trim excess, but not all, fat from the pork and slightly season with the salt.
- When the pan is hot, sear the chunks of pork on all sides so they get a nice crust on them, taking care not to crowd the pan. If necessary, sear the pork in batches.
- Once finished searing, arrange all the pork and the reserved bone in the pan and add enough water to come ⅔ of the way up the sides of the pork.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and transfer the pan to the oven.
- Cook the pork for 3 hours, turning the meat every 45 minutes or so.
- At the end of the 3 hours, test the meat to see if it pulls apart with little to no effort using two forks. If the meat is not quite there, let it cook for another 30 minutes. If the meat is ready, remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees F.
- Remove the meat from the pan and pull or shred it using the forks, removing any remaining clumps of fat.
- Return the meat to the pan so it is resting in any remaining liquid and fat and return the pan to the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the pieces of pork start to get crispy and dark and shiny.
- When the pork reaches your preferred level of crispiness, remove the pan from the oven and the pork from the pan. Drain the fat from the pork using a colander and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for later use.
2. You want to leave a little fat remaining on the meat, but not a lot. The fat will cook out of the meat and help it crisp up at the end.
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(Courtesy of Google Translate)
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