Monday, August 13, 2012

Carnitas! Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder with Citrus and Spice

I was told "good things come to those who wait." Not sure if it's an old proverb, lyric or something my mother would just repeat to her impatient children who wanted a snack before dinner. Those are the most painful dishes... the ones that you smell all afternoon while the flavors fall reluctantly in love with one another.

My mom loves playing Cupid. And to her credit, it's worked out a few times. I love playing cupid with a few ingredients- pairing them up. And with the right environment and enough time, magic happens.

It's kind of like that kid "Mike" you met at summer camp that you thought God brought to you... but really it was just a combo of July heat and a week of concentrated hormones that made you think he was the one. (haha... whatever happened to that kid?)

This is better than camp. This is CARNITAS! There is something so wonderful about slow cooked pork... Done right... The real way (so I was told). Thanks to my fellow joyful blogger, the joyful kitchens. This is the kind of recipe that makes you think "Dang, I can really cook!"

CARNITAS!!! (Little warning: prep done 24 hours in advance, but the rest is a cinch!)

1 (3 ½ lb to 4 lb) boneless pork shoulder, fat cap trimmed to ⅛ inches thick, cut into 2 inch chunks

1 yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

1 orange: the juice and the zest

1 lime: the juice and the zest

For Taco:

Flour tortillas

Fresh Pico de Gallo


Cotija cheese (Mexican cheese)

Lime wedges

So about the meat. Let the butcher in you emerge! 2 inch pieces. A good amount of fat on there still.

I loved the advise from the joyful kitchens. They really convinced me to get out of my skin and chat it up with my meat man. Completely platonic relationship... but it's an important one. I've gotten to know Robert at my local Nugget. We talk seafood, meat cuts, marbling, the Olympics... it's great. Anyway, I told him I was making carnitas and he directed me right to the pork shoulders and picked out a nice one with the right amount of fat. He said you used to work in a Mexican restaurant where they would cook it with orange and lime, I reported proudly that I was doing indeed just that! Robert nodded and said "Ahh Carnitas... so worth the wait."

So I got home and added all my ingredients together into my oven safe pot.

I rolled out my citrus to get the maximum juices out.  It's a must.

Put all the ingredients in.

Sometimes I get on auto-pilot. Exhibit A: original recipe calls for larger chop so you can fetch the onions out later, but I ended up leaving some of them in which only added to the end product. Also, I zested the fruit as opposed to just throwing the shells in. Oh well... More fruit! I did both. And I would do it again!

Something I might do next time: add a jalapeno chile for some heat.  The flavor is there for sure, but a little heat wouldn't hurt!

Stir ingredients to cover the pork. Let sit in fridge overnight.

About three hours till dinner, heat oven to 300 degrees, and move your oven rack to the lower middle position.

Add two cups water to the pot and bring to a boil on the stove top. Cover with lid and into the oven for 2 hours.

The instructions had said specifically to remove the limes after 1 hour. I thought this might be because limes can get bitter while cooked orange can get sweeter. The lime had done it's job... out it goes.

Back to the oven to complete that original 2 hour mark.

When finished, the meat should be super tender. Turn the oven to broil and set the pot on the stove.

Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and shred it . Just look at that loveliness!

Meanwhile, remove any large chunks of fat, oranges, bay leaves, and onion (I left some of the onion in there). Bring mixture to a boil, then turn to a simmer. Let it reduce uncovered for about 15 minutes until it's about 1 1/2 cups worth, with a thicker consistency.

Spread the pork out on a jelly roll baking sheet. Cook sheet for about 5-8 minutes, just until the top bits of the meat start to crisp, not char.

Using a spatula, flip the meat and repeat to brown the other side. You may have to do a few batches, whatever works best.

I know it seems impossibly irresistible at this point. But just wait... good things are to come!

Reunite the meat with the sauce. Oh the ingredients! Once strangers, now lovers! The aroma is out of control! Get the tortillas!

This dish is seriously magic. I can confidently say it's one of the best meat dishes I have posted for you in the last year. You will not be disappointed. Can't wait to hear what y'all think!


  1. Sound yummy, but I'll wait until after this heat wave is over, thank you, before tackling it.

    1. definitely acceptable! haha... maybe it will cook outside if you leave it in the sun all day?! time for some lemonade.

  2. It is now the middle of winter, and I am trying this! :)

  3. OMG - i tried this last night. My seasoning was almost the same, but everything else I did just like this. SO good! I put on lettuce tacos, but one a plate with a fork is good too! This is my go to recipe from now on, THANKS!

    1. KC, I'm so glad you enjoyed these. They really are so delicious. It brings me such joy when you report back! Keep on cookin' on!

  4. I love this gotta try it. I wish I had read this before I went to the store today. 60 round trip.