Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mi casa es su casa: A little bit of old Mejico

Whenever I get a hankering for comfort food, but the standard Sunday roast dinner doesn't excite me, I take it South of the Border and braise some pork for carnitas tacos. The meat is rich, greasy and crispy on the edges. Seriously, its porky goodness will rival even the tastiest bacon. What more do you need to know?

This is a recipe I concocted by mixing tried and true techniques culled from other places. I think every Mexican mama has her own secret voodoo for making carnitas absolutamente perfecto, but this is one gringa's humble attempt.

The nice thing about braising meat is, you don't have to be too exacting and you can throw in additional ingredients to spice or sweeten it up as you like. You can also substitute different kinds of broth, juice and booze to arrive at your own ideal combo. I usually buy about 3 lbs of meat for 2 of us 'cause it's great the next day. Just figure you'll need 1/2 lb of meat per person for the initial serving and add a few pounds to that if you want to enjoy it with your eggs the next morning.

Carnitas Ingredients

Pork butt or Pork shoulder (whatever size you like)
Orange Juice
Beer (I like to use a Mex brand but it doesn't have to be)
Chicken Stock (enough to submerge whole cut of meat--maybe 10 c)
1 lg white onion
Fresh cilantro–well washed!
5 Limes

Additional items for toppings
Jack cheese
Guacamole or avocado
White onion
5" size corn tortillas

Brown the meat in olive oil for a few minutes in a deep soup crock. Roughly chop the onion and add to the pot. Saute onions with meat for a few minutes so they begin to become translucent. In one big handful, tear the cilantro leaves from the stems and add the leaf to the pot. Cover (or almost cover) all ingredients with chicken stock. Add a beer and a cup or two of OJ, pot size permitting. Squeeze the limes into the liquid and toss the peels (leaving them in makes for a bitter taste). Add a LOT of cumin (this is the main flavor) as well as salt and pepper. Bring to simmer. The meat will simmer for 2-4 hours depending on the cut size.

As the liquid boils down, keep meat covered by adding more beer and OJ. The amounts don't matter as long as the meat stays covered and simmering. You'll know the meat is ready when you fork it and it pulls apart easily like pot roast. Once this happens, remove meat with a slotted spoon and spread over a cookie sheet. Put it into the oven on about 400 for 10-20 minutes. Just long enough to brown it and make the edges crispy.

Serve on warmed corn tortillas with whatever toppings you choose. We like jack cheese, guac, minced onion, cilantro and salsa.

Ay Dios Mio, es delicioso!


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