I have to admit, I don’t cook very many Mexican dishes—but when I do, pork canitas is one of my favorites. Pork carnitas is slow cooked pork with lots of garlic, spices and citrus. It can be easily made on the stove top in a large pot or your dutch oven. After a few hours of cooking, you end up mounds of tender, juicy pork that fall apart with a fork. It’s full of flavor and perfect for tacos one night and a casserole the next.
I like to cook a pork roast about once a month. It’s easy to throw the ingredients in a pot on a Sunday and let it cook without a lot of fuss. The pork slowly simmers on the stove and I end up with enough for several meals (in our small family), plus more to freeze for another round of meals. It may sound like something that is difficult to do, but pork carnitas is actually very easy, and your family will be so happy with the delicious results.
Pork Carnitas Tacos are great to serve for Cinco De Mayo, in fact, I’ll be pulling my stash from my freezer just for the occasion. Serve your tacos with homemade pico de gallo and, some shredded cabbage and corn tortillas and you have yourself a delicious, authentic Mexican meal. Another delicious way to use this pork is for breakfast like in this roast pork eggs Benedict with cilantro hollandaise.
Btw…be on the lookout on your grocery store shelf for La Tortilla Factory Hand Made Style Yellow Corn Tortillas. They are drastically better than the ones I’ve purchased before. They don’t fall apart, yet still have that delicious corn taste.
Using a dutch oven or any large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and add the oregano, cumin, onion and garlic. Saute for about 8 minutes, and then place the pork on top. Add enough water to just cover the meat. Add the jalapeno, bay leaves, lime juice and squeeze the orange juice into the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Uncover the pot and continue to cook on medium-low heat, at a vigorous simmer another 1 ½ to 2 hours. Skim the foam or fat off the top as it cooks. When the pork is tender and much of the liquid has evaporated, use 2 forks to pull the meat apart in the pot (you can leave big chunks at this point). Increase the heat to medium-high and cook another 20 minutes, letting the liquid evaporate and the meat caramelize and brown in the fat left in the pan.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the bay leaves. Shred the meat thoroughly and discard any large chunks of fat.
I’ll say it now. I’m not a big fan of tacos. My husband loves them. So does my mother. My son will probably love them when he’s big enough. They are good, but they don’t blow me over. I prefer to eat them with a fork off my plate after they have fallen apart, because they usually do.
Maybe I’m just not doing it right.
My experience with tacos so far has been a few authentic taco joints, dry supermarket tortillas and taco bell. I lived in California for 5 years and had some pretty delicious Mexican food, but the emphasis was always on huge portions. I used to call my usual burrito, “baby burrito”, because once wrapped in aluminum foil; it felt like I was carrying a very warm, infant-sized package for my lunch. I’m sure if I had handmade tortillas easily available filled with handmade (with care) anything, my perception would change.
My perceptions changed slightly with this recipe for smoked salt Padron pepper and goat cheese tacos from the Bojon Gourmet. This is a sophisticated, delicate taco. My mother brought the recipe over, along with all the ingredients except the smoked salt, which I have. She had received a carton of Padron peppers in her weekly organic produce delivery.
With a little research, I found out that Padron peppers aren’t Mexican at all. They come from Spain. They are mild and sweet (with the occasional rebel), despite their appearance. These little peppers have a unique flavor and are usually served lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil as tapas. We ate a bunch of them on their own and they were delicious. You eat them whole, stem end and all. Charred in a skillet, and sprinkled with smoked salt, they are a delicious treat.
Sprinkle the chopped tomatoes with salt and place in a strainer to let them release their juices.
Mix together the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice and some salt in a small bowl. Taste and season some more if you prefer. Set aside.
Cut the stems off the peppers, leaving the crown end intact (this is edible). Rinse the peppers and pat dry with a towel. Using a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering hot. Add the peppers to the pan and cook them, tossing every few minutes, until they are blistered, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with smoked salt.
Using your oven or another skillet, warm the tortillas on both sides until soft. Place the tortillas on plates and build the tacos, using the ingredients in the following order:
cilantro lime crema
Top with a sprinkle of smoked salt and cilantro. Serve while the peppers are still warm, with lime wedges for squeezing.