Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Carnitas ~ Little Pieces of Browned Pork

Carnitas ~ Little Pieces of Browned Pork
As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate

I've been making this dish for well over 30 years, it is one of my all-time favorite Mexican foods and a much requested recipe in my family. It is difficult to believe that three ingredients (pork, water and salt) cook into such a satisfying and delicious dish. If I could only eat one Mexican food for the rest of my life, this would be it. If you try it, I hope it becomes a favorite of yours, too.

Carnitas are a popular snack in central Mexico, served with a fresh tomato salsa and wrapped in a warm tortilla (I prefer flour tortillas for this recipe) they makes a most delicious snack. Usually served with additional condiments such as chopped cilantro, sliced radishes, avocado (or guacamole), chopped onion or scallions, sour cream, etc.

3 pounds pork shoulder, butt, or boneless country-style pork spareribs, etc.
Cold water to barely cover
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

This dish requires some fat on the meat in order to make the finished meat succulent and juicy, if you are looking for a low-fat dish you would be better off choosing something else.

Cut the meat, with the fat into strips about 2" x 3/4", or 1 1/2" to 2" cubes. Place meat in a large pot and barely cover with water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat (don't cover the pot.)

When pot boils lower the heat a bit and allow to cook briskly until all liquid has evaporated; the meat should be cooked through but not falling apart. Lower the heat once again and continue cooking until the fat has rendered out. Continue turning the meat until it is lightly brown all over and slightly crisp. this usually takes between 45 to 70 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

-No need for an expensive cut of meat, you want cuts with a fair amount of fat so the meat browns properly later.
-The meat will cook more evenly if the pot is large (and rather shallow if possible)
-Do not add too much water at the beginning, or the meat will fall apart when frying later
-If the meat is still rather firm when water has evaporated then add a little more water and continue cooking.

Recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy's "The Cuisines of Mexico", an excellent resource.
I highly recommend.

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