Lynda Balsev: Getting piggy with carnitas
Now that it’s summer, it’s time to dig into spicy, meaty, two-fisted pork carnitas. Carnitas are perfect party food. They are easy to assemble and messy to eat, best washed down with a cold beer while eaten outdoors. What could be more fun?
The key to carnitas is to let the meat cook low and slow until it’s fork-tender. In this recipe, the pork braises in a smoky, citrus-infused beer broth that imbues the meat with flavor and spice. The cooking process takes several hours, but it’s relatively hands-off, simply requiring the occasional turn. The biggest challenge will be the wafting aroma of the simmering pork, which will surely test your patience. Hang in there. You can do it.
The final step is optional but highly recommended. Once the meat is shredded, arrange it in a baking dish or grill pan, toss with some of the basting juices and grill or broil at high heat until the meat begins to caramelize. Pile the meat on tortillas with salsa, guacamole or your favorite fixings, and you are good to go. (Just remember the napkins.) If you have any leftovers, use the meat in sandwiches or loaded on homemade nachos the next day.
The pork can be grilled, which will keep the heat outdoors on a warm day, or it can be cooked in an oven. If using a grill, brown the meat on the grates before transferring to a deep grill pan or grill-proof Dutch oven with the braising liquid.
Chipotle Beer-Braised Pork Carnitas
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: about 5 hours
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (4-pound) boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed but intact
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup Mexican beer
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Warm flour or corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro, sliced green onions
Heat the oven to 300 degrees (or prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium-low heat, 275 to 300 degrees).
Mix the cumin, paprika, chili powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate for up to 24 hours, and remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.)
If using the oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the pork and brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 8 minutes. Remove the pork and pour off the fat. (If using the grill, brown the pork over direct medium heat on the grill grates, and pre-heat a grill-proof Dutch oven over indirect heat while the pork is browning.)
Add the garlic, onion, beer, orange juice, chipotles, lime juice and brown sugar to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits if on the stovetop.
Add the pork to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to the oven (or transfer to indirect low heat on the grill). Braise the pork until fork tender, about 4 hours, turning every hour or so.
Remove the pork from the braising liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool while you reduce the sauce. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat. Place the meat in a baking dish or grill pan.
Boil the braising liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to a sauce consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the sauce, and drizzle some of it over the shredded pork (the pork should be lightly coated but not wet).
Grill or broil the pork at high heat until the meat begins to caramelize, 2 to 4 minutes.
To serve, spoon some of the pork in the center of a tortilla. Top with guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro and sliced green onions. Roll up and eat.
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