I keep trying shortcut ways to make Mexican carnitas, but they just don’t work. In this case I used 2-inch pork cubes and baked them at 250° for 1 ½ hours, as one (of my many) recipes advised. (before the heat wave!).
Although the meat was not too lean a cut, and did not appear overdone, it was, to me, too firm, and had no crispiness to it. Next time, I’m broiling it!
Or I’ll just go back to what I used to do, and buy a whole pork butt, and cook it in large hunks. But then I forgo the crisping step in the broiler, as it seems like too much trouble to transfer the meat to a broiler-proof pan. With the crock pot, there are juices, too, which I do love. Of course, if I do that, I have tons of leftovers, and that is something I’d hoped to avoid this time.
In spite of all that, with some green salsa and guacamole, and heated corn tortillas, it was still tasty. I just wish the pork were more succulent. Picky, picky, picky.
By the way, I found the following recipe in my files, from the New York Times, March 24, 2009, and I can tell this will be a delicous version.
Tacos de Carnitas
Adapted from Tara Duggan, The San Francisco Chronicle Time: 2 1/2 hours
3 pounds pork shoulder, either butt or picnic 7 strips orange zest 5 garlic cloves, minced 1 large onion, chopped, plus finely chopped onion for garnish 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela 2 bay leaves 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried oregano leaves, preferably Mexican 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 24 small corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped cilantro and salsa for garnish
1. Trim any thick fat from surface of pork. Cut meat into 1-inch cubes, discarding any that are pure fat. Put pork in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches, orange zest, garlic, chopped onion, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, bay leaves, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the cloves.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on surface. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, until pork is very soft; add water if necessary to keep meat submerged. Season with salt, then continue to cook until water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Cook a little longer to fry meat slightly; cook even longer if you prefer crisper meat. Stir often and add a bit of water if meat sticks or seems about to burn.
3. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Spoon a few tablespoons of carnitas onto each tortilla. Top each taco with cilantro, finely chopped onion and salsa. Serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.