I've been wanting to make pork carnitas since I tried my aunt's recipe when my husband and I were in LA in September. I had the pork in my freezer and I finally was ready to tackle a Mexican dish after a particularly bland attempt at enchiladas. I did a lot of research online to find a recipe that didn't require a slow cooker and that didn't cook the meat in orange juice. Why orange juice? Does the acidity break down the proteins in pork and make it more tender? If anyone knows why, kindly let me know in the comments section of this post.
I came across an interesting recipe from another blog. Although it called for orange juice (there was no escaping it!) I substituted it with beef stock. For best results, think "low and slow." I cheated a little bit, but the results were delicious.
Pork Carnitas adapted from it's for dinner
4 lb. pork shoulder (sometimes called "pork butt")
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tbs. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup low sodium beef stock
2 cups water
1 small onion chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado sliced
hot sauce to taste
Cut the pork shoulder in large chunks, about 2 inches big. Be careful while cutting if the shoulder contains bone. Cut around the bone and discard it.
Mix all the spices and salt together in a large sealable plastic bag. Throw in the pork cubes and shake the bag till all the cubes are evenly seasoned.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a large Dutch oven or oven-ready lidded pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Brown the pork cubes on all sides. You may have to work in batches to not overcrowd the pot. Set aside the pork.
Deglaze the pot with the beef stock. Return the browned pork cubes to the pot and add two cups of water or enough water to submerge the pork. Bring to a boil.
Stir the pork and cover with the lid. Place in the oven and let cook for one hour before stirring the pork again. Cook for another 2 hours in the oven, making sure to stir every hour.
You could also raise the oven temperature to 325 after the first hour. You'll know the pork is done when it easily shreds with a fork.
Remove from the oven and place the pork on a cutting board to cool slightly. Keep the liquid in the pot and place on the stove top over medium heat and let reduce for about 10 minutes.
Set the oven to "broil." Tear the pork with your fingers, discarding any fat or gristle. Return the pork to the pot, uncovered. Place in the oven and let broil for about 5 minutes per side or until pork begins to caramelize.
Serve with tortillas, chopped onions and chopped cilantro. Don't forget a squeeze of fresh lime, hot sauce and maybe even a slice of avocado.