Sad to say, this recipe was pretty disappointing, so if you are looking for a great, authentic Mexican carnitas recipe, stop reading now. The recipe does have it’s benefits: it was easy, if lengthy, to prepare; it was not the cholesterol-and-fat-laden traditional carnitas preparartion; and, you did not have to go out and buy 3 pounds of lard. However… next time, I will probably buy 3 lbs of lard.
I’ve never attempted carnitas before, and hadn’t really thought about it; I simply had a small pork shoulder from Saturday’s farmer’s market, so I noodled around on some of my favorite sites looking for something interesting to do. I could have gone with my standard Chile Verde recipe (which was also adapted from Elise’s Simply Recipes site), which is fabulous, but, with temps approaching 50 degrees and all the land looking and smelling like Spring, I was looking for something a little different. Soft tacos, with yummy carnitas, corn tortillas, even some splurgily-non-local avocado & lime, seemed just the ticket.
Had I done a little research before I started in on this recipe, (will I never learn?) I might have realized that the braise-and-roast with the relatively lean piece of meat that I had on hand was not going to produce the tender-on-the-inside, crispy-brown-and-caramelized-on-the-outside carnitas yumminess. Traditionally, carnitas is made by a long, slow simmer of pork shoulder in lard (no wonder it’s so yummy!). I can think of ways to tweak this recipe, to up the yumminess factor, but.. at the end of the day, I don’t know that it is worth it. I may just have to go buy a whole lotta lard.
Adapted from Salsa Verde Carnitas by Elise at Simply Recipes
Chile Verde Carnitas
- one 2 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 lb pork shoulder (pork butt)
- one recipe Chile Verde Base, or 1 pint salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
- 1 medium yellow onion (baseball sized), diced
- 2 tsp cumin seeds (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds (or 1 tsp ground coriander)
- 1 tsp dried orgegano (or 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped)
- 3 cups stock (I used chicken)
- 1/4 cup lime juice (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- corn or whole wheat flour tortillas
- 3 large scallions, sliced
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
- pickled chile peppers, sliced
- chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- lime wedges
- Combine chile verde base (or salsa), spices, stock and optional lime juice in a medium Dutch oven. Add pork shoulder (cut into 2 or 3 pieces if needed to keep all of the meat below the braising liquid) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over low heat, turning occasionally, until meat is very tender and falling apart, 3 to 4 hours. Reserve liquid.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove pork from liquid to a large roasting pan. Tear meat into chunks with 2 forks. Spread evenly in the pan and roast, turning occasionally, until the outside of the meat is crispy and browned, about 15 minutes. (OR consider a quick crisp under the broiler or a pan-fry; see Options).
- Meanwhile, bring the liquid in the Dutch oven to a boil over high heat. Boil until sauce is thickened and liquid is reduced by half.
- Return crispy pork to the Dutch oven. Stir in fresh cilantro with the pork and sauce. Serve on torillas, as is or loaded with your favorite accompaniments.
Serves 6 – 10.
- Elise’s original recipe recommends trimming the fat off of your pork shoulder. If anything, I think the recipe needs more fat. Granted, I cooked a pretty lean pork shoulder but; I would leave the fat in. You’ll need it in order to caramelize the meat after braising.
- The lime juice & cilantro are optional because I did not include them in my recipe. I think some vinegar in the braise would help, for flavor and for meat tenderness. More cilantro can never hurt; but if you are cilantro adverse, use parsley.
- The roast at the end seemed only to dry the meat out. It did get crispy, but there was none of the caramelized pork goodness. I think it really needed more fat; next time, I would either try just a quick 2 or 3 minutes under the broiler, with added butter or olive oil (or bacon grease yum) if necessary, or a pan-fry in order to maintain the tender juiciness of the pork while adding some browning.
- Some recipes call for browning the meat beforehand. It’s worth a shot.
Up to 5 days in the fridge.
Year-round. Tomatillos are in season in late summer.
Oh, Lard, will we ever escape your luxuriousness? I’m sure this was delicious, but fat, as you say, definitely has its merits.
Fat & I are no strangers; you only have to search this blog for “bacon” to prove that. 🙂 But I don’t think I’ve ever deep-fried anything, let alone for hours and in lard. Could be an interesting experiment.
FWIW, the “carnitas” were improved when I turned the soft corn tortillas into hard taco shells with a little fry in (heart healthy) olive oil and a generous sprinkle of Kosher salt. (Then again, since when do fat & salt not improve things?) Add a little (heart healthy) avocado and (scurvy-fighting) lime juice and it’s practically wheatgrass juice. Practically.
Yes, fat=flavor, doesn’t it? My method is to cut an untrimmed (read fat) pork shoulder into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Place in a heavy pan and add water just until it comes to the top of the meat. Turn on the heat and cook at about low-medium until the pork is tender and the water has almost evaporated. Watch carefully and adjust the heat so it doesn’t burn. Stir and As the meat cooks, the fat renders. When the water evaporates all the bits become crispy. I believe this might be Diana Kennedy’s method. Salt sparingly while cooking.