Friday, June 14, 2013

Authentic Carnitas

My daughter decided, last minute, she wanted a Mexican fiesta for her graduation party. You know, to satisfy the ancestors. Sigh. I was prepared for a luau, had lots of recipes and great ideas. Now, how to feed a crowd? None of my normal recipes would be easy to prepare in large amounts, in a way to keep the table stocked and hot all day.

I decided on an authentic street taco bar - carnitas, carne asada, tortillas, rice, beans, and all the toppings. But, I have never made carnitas or carne asada before. I have made Kalua Pig in the crockpot, so I know how to cook pork until it falls apart for shredding. Now I just needed the ingredients to make it taste authentic, and a plan to give it that crispy edge when serving. This is what I came up with.

For the authentic flavor, I used the ideas for my ingredients from this recipe:

The crockpot is always the best way to cook meat in advance, and I knew that I could put a whole pork butt into the crock the night before and end up with meat that just falls apart the next afternoon. We can't get boneless pork butt here so it is very difficult to cut one up into pieces, and I know that the bone will pull right out when done this way.

Once the meat was done, I pulled out the bone, the bay leaves, and the orange, and kept the crockpot on warm. When I was ready to put out meat for tacos on the table, I transferred some of the shredded pork along with some of the liquid to a hot, dry pan. It only takes 2-3 minutes to give it a good, crispy charred edge.

Everyone raved about the meat, and even better, I have some left over in the freezer for another night.

Sheri's Street Taco Carnitas

1 large, 6-8 pound, whole pork butt (shoulder would also work)

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 orange, cut into quarters

3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano (I have a stash of this from Mexico - so fragrant!)
3 teaspoons freshly ground sea salt

1/4 cup lard or canola oil (I used the oil, but I will try lard next time)
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk 
1 1/2 cups water

Put the pork, fat side up, in a large crockpot.  Top with onion and garlic, pushing some down around the sides of the meat. Top with orange, bay leaves, oregano, and salt. Pour liquid ingredients over the top.

Cook roast on low for 15 hours. Remove orange, bay leaves, and bones. Can be refrigerated, frozen, or kept on warm in crockpot at this point. If setting aside for later, be sure to keep the juice with the meat.

To serve, heat a large, heavy flat pan over high heat. Cast iron would work best. Do not add oil or fat, the meat and juices contain enough to cook the meat with. Use tongs to pull meat to shreds and add to pan, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a little liquid from the crockpot, and cook 2-3 minutes, just enough to get a charred, crispy edge to the meat, while keeping the meat moist and delicious. Serve immediately with hot corn tortillas, pico de gallo, hot sauce, and your favorite condiments.

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