When I think of slow-food, I think of braised meats. Beautifully marbled and muscled cuts of meat tenderized over hours of low heat to sublime perfection. My favorite version of braised meat is carnitas, pork shoulder that is slowly simmered in an exotic array of spices. It is simply divine.
This version of carnitas was based on a recipe from Homesick Texan, which was adapted from Diana Kennedy, but I kicked it up a notch with the addition of several of savory Mexican spices from David Lebovitz's recipe. The method of braising on the stove is less conventional but it's efficient in rendering the fat, and most importantly, it yields excellent results. As a friend noted, this is like preparing "pork confit" from south of the border.
SEVEN CARNITAS RECIPE
- 4-5 lbs pork boneless shoulder
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 3 cups water
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho (or smoked) chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- Place the pork shoulder fat side up in a large pot, such as a 7 quart dutch oven. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil before lowering the heat to a gentle simmer for 4 hours. Do not cover the pot.
- After 3 hours, turn up the heat to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (roughly 1 hour). Using a tong, move the meat cuts a few times to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.
- The meat will be done when the surface has a nice caramel brown color.
Serve the carnitas either cubed or shredded over soft corn tortillas, with a dollop of guacamole, and garnished with shredded cabbage and cilantro. Cubed pieces should measure roughly 1/2 inch per side. To shred the braised pork, using a fork hold down a cut of meat on a plate, and using another fork pull it across the meat in the opposite direction. The meat should fall apart effortlessly.