Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mother-Fantastic Carnitas

A couple weeks ago I wrote what I thought was a pretty good post about Carnitas.

Then I spent a week's worth of evenings tweaking it, adding photos and superfluous semicolons, as I am wont to do.

Last Sunday I went in for one last edit.

I clicked the little "undo" arrow to remove one word of type.

The whole post disappeared.

The next millisecond, the fantastic auto-save feature kicked in.

So long words, and thoughts, and time.  Buh-bye.

FANTASTIC!  Fan-Mothering-TASTIC!!   (Dad, do you see what I'm doing here?  I hope so, as it's entirely for your benefit.)

Skip to today, several days later.

I hoped that time would make me a little less bitter.  I mean, this is really the definition of a first-world problem.

Whatever, still totally annoyed.

For the rest of my life this delicious, wonderful, amazing meal will be known as Mother-Fantastic Carnitas.  But I'd make them again.  They're that good.  Here's how you do it.

Buy some pork shoulder.  Rinse it and pat it dry.
Rub it all over with spices.
Put it in the crock pot with some onion, bay leaves and chicken broth. 
Warning: if you stubbornly stuff your crock pot this full you will have to keep your eye on it to remove excess liquid so that it doesn't boil over.  Save the liquid for day two.  The pork cooked up beautifully, so even though it's very full, it worked out fine.
After 10 hours on low, remove the pork from the pot and let cool before refrigerating overnight.  Save all cooking liquid as well.  The next day the liquid looks like this.
Eeewww.  But once you remove the fatty layer from the top...
Ew Ew Ew! You're left with some really great flavor to add back to the meat as it cooks a second time.

Break down the cooked pork, reserve onions.  Discard bay leaves, strings that held pork together, and extra bits of fat.
When you're done you'll have a gorgeous pan full of shredded pork that is now ready to become Mother-Fantastic Carnitas.
The transformation comes in the second phase of cooking where the pork turns into the crispy yet succulent bits of meat found in a true Carnita.  Pour some milk on the pork and stir before putting in the oven.  As weird as it may sound, the milk helps the pork get all brown and delicious.
As the pork cooks, add the warmed cooking liquid back to the pan, as well as some orange juice.  The OJ adds a great citrus contrast to the fattiness of the pork.
Now that is the perfect filling for the perfect taco.  All it needs is a warmed corn tortilla, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Pico De Gallo: onion, tomato, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cilantro, fresh lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper.
Fresh Cilantro
 Maybe you'll want one of these as well.
I ate this.  It was REAL good.  Some might even say, Mother-Fantastically good.

Mother-Fantastic Carnitas, Bonzo Bean style

Ingredients:  (cut this recipe in half if you don't want a TON of leftovers.  I planned it that way.  Stay tuned for Carnitas Tamales.) 

10 lbs pork shoulder
1 white onion, quartered
1 c chicken broth 
4 bay leaves

Spice Rub:
2 t garlic powder
2 t cumin
2 t chili powder
2 t thyme
1 t oregano
1/2 t celery seed
1/4 t cayenne pepper

Rinse and dry pork.  Rub with spices.  Put in crock pot with bay leaves and onion.  Drizzle in chicken broth.  Cook on low for 10 hours.

If you do the full recipe, monitor crock pot throughout cooking time to remove excess liquid and prevent a spill-over.  Save all liquid.

When pork is done and falling apart, remove to a container and let cool before refrigerating overnight.  Save all cooking liquid and refrigerate as well.  You can strain it if you wish, but it's not necessary.

On day 2, shred the pork, reserve onions, discard extra fat, strings and bay leaves.  Spread the pork out in a large roasting pan.  Heat oven to 325.

Pour 1 c of milk over the shredded pork and stir.  Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.  While pork is cooking, heat the liquid from day 1.  After pork has cooked for 30 minutes, add about 2 c of liquid to the pan and stir.  Cook for 30 minutes more.

Remove pork from oven and add 1/2 of orange juice.  Stir.  Cook for about 20 minutes until pork is brown, crispy, and succulent.

Heat reserved onions in a skillet until brown and crispy.  Fold Carnitas into a warmed corn tortilla, top with onions, pico de gallo, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.



  1. OLE! looks great, Kelly and here you got a jump on cinci d mayo,nice post. your wine guy @ the Q

  2. You *need* to try making your own corn tortillas, if you are already spending 2 days making this. Cross my heart, home-made tortillas are a billion times better than even the best store brands, and they are super easy. Really!

    Resistance is futile ;-)

  3. I'm down, got a good recipe?

  4. Posting for Constance:

    The recipe is simple- 1 C masa, 1/2 tsp salt, water to make firm dough (1/2-3/4 C, depending on humidity, etc.). Press into rounds and griddle cook. It's that easy.

  5. Posting my father's comments from an email he sent this morning, with his permission, as it totally made my day:

    "Good morning Bean. I'm proud of you. You might even say FAN-MOTHERING TASTICALLY PROUD. You are a good girl. Love you, dad."

    That's good stuff right there.