Carnitas, literally "little meats," is a dish of Mexican cuisine originating from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes three or four hours and the result is very tender and juicy meat, which is then typically served with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and diced onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and refried beans (frijoles refritos). (Wikipedia)
My love for great Mexican food dates back to the late 1960s. As I've mentioned in previous posts, my grandparents had a beautiful beach house in Leucadia, California and every summer my family would make the long drive down I-5 from Central California to visit for several blissful weeks. Highlights of those memorable vacations are forever engrained in my mind. We enjoyed long days at the beach, playing in the chilly water, building sandcastles, and hunting for sand dollars. There were day trips to Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park, where I remember savoring a warm homemade corn tortilla from a historical exhibition at the Museum of Man.
We gazed out the large picture windows that spanned the full length of the house, watching for whales, and occasionally spotting a pod of dolphin riding the waves with the surfers. And of course, there were always the breathtaking sunsets. We dug for sand crabs to use as bait when we fished from the shore and jigged for bait when we went to the pier up in Oceanside. We sneaked jelly beans and gumdrops from my grandfather's candy jars and learned how to play Mah Jong with our North Carolina cousins. The one thing I don't remember is eating out anywhere other than Tony's Jacal in Solana Beach. I think it was at Tony's that I tasted my very first taco, enchilada and guacamole dip. I've been in love with Mexican food ever since.
Oh, my. This picture. So many, many memories of sitting in this back room... my grandmother's memorial lunch was held here. I ate here with my parents, my grandparents, my first husband... my baby girl.
Best rice, beans and enchilada sauce ever.
This past month, my daughter's Instagram feed (yes, you really should follow her!) has been full of tantalizing meals at Mexican restaurants in the Dallas area, making me drool with envy and hit the cookbooks in search of more recipes to add to my repertoire. I have an old recipe for carnitas, which requires simmering a pork roast on the stove top for several hours. In an effort to use my slow cooker as often as possible, I was excited to find this recipe in, yes, you guessed it, The Skinnytaste Cookbook. I made the carnitas a couple of weeks ago and dinner turned out great! Of course, a taco is merely a vehicle for the transfer of guacamole, but these tacos were seriously good. I used the leftover meat for quesadillas later in the week and they were just as amazing.
Slow-Cooker Mexican Pork Carnitas
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
6 garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (or more if you like it spicy)
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Season the pork all over with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add the pork, and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
For the dry adobo rub:
In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the cumin, the garlic powder, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper.
Using a sharp knife, insert the knife into the pork about 1 inch deep and insert the crushed garlic, rubbing any excess over the pork. Rub the pork all over with the dry adobo rub.
Pour the chicken broth into the slow cooker and add the bay leaves, chipotle peppers, and the pork. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. After 8 hours, transfer the pork to a large dish. Discard the bay leaves. Shred the pork using two forks and return it to the slow cooker with the juices. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin and the 1/4 teaspoon salt.
This recipe made enough for 6 tacos and 2 large quesadillas. If I'm going to make this for a group, I'll definitely want to use 4-5 pounds of pork. The roast I bought was 4 pounds, so I cut it in half and put it in the freezer for future use. I was worried that 2 pounds wasn't going to be enough for a couple of meals, but there was plenty. However, I think next time, I'll just double the recipe and freeze the cooked meat for tacos, quesadillas and burritos.
I didn't use the garlic and the meat still tasted flavorful.
I've never cooked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and I wasn't sure how spicy they would make the meat, so I decided to just use one pepper. I didn't dice it up, either; just set it in the broth and stirred it around. I'm not sure if I'd bother with it next time around. Maybe some cayenne added to the rub would be sufficient for a little kick.
After shredding the pork, I decided to throw it in a hot skillet to make the meat a bit more crispy. I didn't have to add any oil or fat since the pork is already a little fatty.
Serve with warm tortillas, shredded jack & cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, guacamole and sour cream. Don't forget the Negra Modelo!
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I'm also participating in Trish's Cook it Up! Cookbook Challenge. Click on over to see what she has going on!
Welcome to the Seventh Edition of Cook It Up! Feel free to join in the challenge at any time, any month. The idea is to pull those cookbooks off your shelves and use them. These can be cookbooks that you already own or cookbooks that you’d like to check out from the library (or borrow from a friend?). You can cook from one cookbook over the course of the month or pick and choose recipes from different cookbooks. And feel free to make a dozen recipes or just one. You make the rules!