Carnitas are delicious! That said, my experience with them at restaurants was hit-or-miss – sometimes they were good, and sometimes they weren’t. The delicious experiences stuck with me, though, so I was excited when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted about Homesick Texan Carnitas.
This recipe appealed to me because it had a short list of ingredients, and the cooking was largely hands-off. Take a boneless pork shoulder/butt and cut it into pieces; the recipe says 2-inch pieces but I both trimmed fat from mine and cut mine smaller. Put in a pot and add orange juice, lime juice, cumin, garlic, and salt (my juice and garlic was bottled, not fresh); top with enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 2 hours. Next you’re supposed to turn up the heat, evaporate the liquid, and fry the pieces in rendered fat from the pork shoulder (which is a fatty cut).
I have a gas stove, so I didn’t turn down my heat enough. The meat is apparently all supposed to still be covered while it cooked, but all my liquid disappeared by two hours since my temperature was higher. At this point, I stirred the pork, not caring if the pieces fell apart. I didn’t get a good sear on any of the pork – in fact, stirring it probably prevented a sear from happening, so be gentle if you stir your pork. I made these twice, in fact, to try to get a better finish on the meat, but I made the same mistake twice – higher heat with faster cooking times, plus I stirred the pork.
I didn’t mind trying it twice, though, because it was delicious both times! Since pork shoulder is fatty, it’s a very forgiving cut. The carnitas were moist and tender from the long cooking time, even though the pork finished faster with higher heat. The pork had a great citrus flavor. I didn’t have any cilantro the second time I made these, and I really missed it. I preferred eating the carnitas with rice rather than tortillas; I’d ideally serve them with guacamole, cilantro, and a green salsa.
This is a good recipe, perfect for those weekend days where you have the time to cook a dish for a long time, but you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen.