in the kitchen: tacos de carnitas
We’re suckers for a good taco around here. While I don’t discriminate between chicken, short rib, fish, or just about anything else as my main taco protein, John’s all-time favorite is carnitas. And his very own carnitas recipe is pretty amazing, so there have been some frequent “Taco Tuesday” cravings in this house lately.
He uses pork butt from Whole Foods and browns it in a pan before braising it for about 4 hours. I must say, braising pork covered in spices for several hours produces some stubborn cooking aromas that require a good bit of airing out…but it’s worth it.
We’re not taco purists by any means (read: we add cheese to everything and don’t exactly make ours in the classic Mexican street food style). I detest cilantro, so that knocks off a few authenticity points right there. The beauty of making these at home is that we can enjoy them exactly the way we like them: cilantro-free, cheese-topped, and encased in warm, soft corn tortillas. Our fixins below are just a peek into our favorites…assemble yours however you like!
John’s Tacos de Carnitas
3 lbs pork butt, trimmed and cut into large chunks
vegetable oil and/or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large scallions (green onions), chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
couple of ounces of beer…preferably Mexican
hot peppers of your choice, to taste
2 bay leaves
32 oz beef stock
handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
seasonings – we use cayenne, paprika, garlic powder and cumin
salt and pepper
our favorite taco fixins
6-inch soft corn tortillas
scallions (green onions)
cheese – we use a mix of cheddar and cotija
various hot sauces from John’s collection
fresh lime wedges
1. Trim fat off pork and chop into large chunks (the pork, not the fat). Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, or whatever combination of Mexi-licious flavors floats your boat.
2. Heat some vegetable oil and/or butter (about 2 turns of the pan) in a large, heavy saucepan. Place the pork in the pan and brown over high heat for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. To the same pan, add the chopped onion, scallions and celery. Saute until translucent and add a swig or two of beer (use Mexican beer! We usually have Corona around), the bay leaves and a few whole hot peppers. Choose whatever you like depending on your desired heat level and what’s available. We grab our peppers from a stash of red hot chilies that my parents sent John from a trip to New Mexico:
4. Let the veggies hang out in the pan for a couple more minutes, then place the meat back in the pan. Add the parsley or cilantro, and all of the beef stock. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and braise for 3-4 hours. The longer you cook it, the juicier and more tender it will be. Here’s ours right before being covered:
5. When the meat is tender and has cooked for several hours, skim any fat that has risen to the top. Remove the pork from the pan and pull it apart with a fork.
6. When you’re ready to eat, toss the meat into a hot frying pan with a little bit of the cooking liquid, and fry for just a minute to get it nice and crispy.
7. Heat up some soft corn tortillas in a pan with a touch of oil or cooking spray, until heated through but not too crispy. Add the pork, dress up your tacos with whatever accoutrements you like, and enjoy!
Patience is key with carnitas…you’ll want to uncover the pan and start eating immediately, but let them cook slowly for several hours and you’ll be rewarded!« quickie tv stand upgrade i’m on a boat! »