Anybody hungry? Cuz I have one of the best recipes to share with you today. Imagine succulent pork slowly braised in the oven then quickly crisped up served with cilantro, creamy guacamole, and fresh salsa. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Here is my take on a Mexican favorite: Real Deal Carnitas.
Carnitas literally means “little meats.” It’s a traditional Mexican dish that involves slowly braising or roasting a pork shoulder, butt, or leg roast until the meat is so tender that it shreds easily. It is then pan-fried or sauteed until crispy. It can be eaten alone or as a filling for tacos. I like to serve it with lettuce cups, kale guacamole (Yes! I said kale guacamole. Have you tried it?), fresh cilantro, and spicy salsa.
What does a Finnish girl know about carnitas?- you may ask. Even though I didn’t grow up eating anything remotely similar to Mexican food, I have lived in California for many years, enjoying the rich culture and foods of the Latino people. I have also traveled extensively all over Mexico and Central America eating my way from country to country. Even though your tour books may advise against it, I have eaten at my fair share of street vendors serving traditional foods like El Pastor and Carnitas. I love the rich spices, the fresh cilantro, and the zesty lime.
What I really love about carnitas is the it reminds me of sitting in a hot, tropical place, dressed in shorts and flip flops, drinking a cold beer with lime. Yes, I am a travelaholic. I inherited the travel bug at a young age as my folks traveled the world with 3 kids in tow. I’ve been to Spain, England, Italy, Sweden, Germany, and many more. And as I got older, I began to explore more tropical places like Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and even India.
I have taken both of my children traveling as much as I can. I want them to experience life outside of the privileged bubble that we live in. I want them to see the diversity that exists all over the world. And I want them to enjoy all the beautiful flavors and foods along the way.
OK, back to the carnitas.
This is the REAL DEAL CARNITAS recipe here. I seasoned it just right. Just enough to bring out the flavors of the pork. I then used a heavy dutch oven to braise the pork until it was tender enough to shred into bite-sized pieces. Instead of pan-frying, I quickly crisped it up in the oven to finish it off. It was perfect!
So, if you want to create an authentic Mexican meal, this is it. You can use a pork shoulder, butt or leg roast. Don’t trim too much of the fat off. That’s part of the beauty of this recipe. The pork cooks in it’s own juices, breaking down the meat so it is succulent and tender. I hope you enjoy it!
Real Deal Carnitas
- Preheat oven to 325’F
- Place pork pieces into heavy dutch oven (like this) and sprinkle salt, cumin, and chili powder on top. Give a little mix to evenly coated and arrange pork in a single layer in the pan.
- Add bay leaves, orange juice, lime juice, and garlic. Then add just enough water to cover pork pieces about 2/3 of the way. (Do not totally submerse.)
- Cover pan and place into oven for 2 and 1/2 hours, turning the meat once.
- Remove pan from oven. Carefully pull pork pieces out of pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove bay leaves from pan and bring the remaining liquid in the pan to a boil on the stove top. Simmer until you have about a cup of liquid left. (Mine took about 8 minutes)
- When pork is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces and arrange single layer onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Pour the remaining liquid from pan over shredded meat and place back into oven until crisp and brown to your liking- anywhere from 8-15 minutes.
- Serve with a bit of kale guacamole, fresh cilantro and spicy salsa. Heaven!