Carnitas, which literally translates to “little meats” in Spanish, are chunks of pork that are slowly simmered until crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. You may have enjoyed carnitas at your favorite Mexican restaurant but never attempted them at home.
How to make carnitas?
Ever wondered how to make carnitas at home? Pork carnitas can be prepared several different ways. The traditional method is to slow cook the pork chunks in lard. Although delicious, I just can’t bring myself to prepare this version of carnitas. It seems a bit heavy, and unhealthy for the today's home cook.
I’ve discovered two more modern approaches to preparing authentic carnitas. Both are delectable.
In the first recipe you braise the pork in a flavorful broth and then finish by roasting it at a high temperature for a few minutes to crisp the exterior. In the second recipe chunks of pork are simmered in a combination of water and orange juice until tender. Near the end of cooking you add a little brandy and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates and outside of the pork begins to crisp. Delicious.
How to serve pork carnitas?
Wondering how to enjoy your carnitas? They make a wonderful filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas and tamales and are especially delicious topped with tangy green tomatillo salsa. You can also serve your pork carnitas with rice, warm flour tortillas, and guacamole. Or place a couple of spoonfuls of carnitas, refried beans, rice and cheese into warm flour tortillas and roll them up burrito style.
Each of these recipes should provide 6 to 8 servings.
Pork Carnitas Recipe #1
3 - 4 pounds boned pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into large chunks
3 - 4 cups beef broth
2 cups tomato salsa, homemade or store bought
Salt to taste
2 – 3 garlic cloves, peeled
In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine pork, broth, and salsa. Add water until the meat is completely covered. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, until meat is fork tender and pulls apart easily, 3 - 4 hours. Add salt to taste if needed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove meat from pot and discard the liquid. Place the meat in a foil lined roasting pan and break it into small chunks. Roast meat until browned and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Pork Carnitas Recipe #2
3 - 4 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs
2 cups (or more) water
1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ cup brandy
Cut boneless pork ribs crosswise into thirds. Cut off any large chunks of fat from the pork and set aside. (Leave small pieces of fat attached to the pork.)
In a deep 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven, combine the pork, reserved fat, 2 cups water, orange juice, garlic, salt, and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until pork is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 45 minutes. (You will want the pot to simmer very gently, not boil rapidly, which will make the meat tough. )Add more water ¼ cup at a time if necessary to keep the pork partially submerged in liquid.
When the pork is tender, uncover and then increase the heat and boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in the brandy and boil until liquid evaporates and meat browns and begins to get crisp, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cool the meat slightly and discard any loose pieces of fat. Tear meat into strips and enjoy!
You may need:
A Microplane Zester for grating your orange peel. I love my Microplane Grater/Zester, which I have had for years. It makes grating zest, cheese, and chocolate a breeze!
A Tortilla Warmer for keeping tortillas warm and so much more!