Published May 1, 2008.
Like the best barbecue, Mexico’s version of pulled pork offers fall-apart chunks of crisp meat—but without the hassle of tending a fire.
Traditional carnitas, Mexico’s version of shredded pork, is fried in gallons of lard or oil. The results are tasty, but who wants to deal with all that hot fat?
We wanted to create restaurant-style carnitas—tender chunks of lightly crisped, caramelized pork, subtly accented with oregano and citrus—without the hassle of frying.
Our initial recipe for carnitas started by simmering the meat (taste tests proved boneless pork butt had the best flavor) in a seasoned broth in the oven and then sautéing it in some of the rendered fat. The flavor was OK, but too much of the pork flavor went down the drain when we discarded the cooking liquid. So we kept the liquid and reduced it on the stovetop (after the meat had been removed) until it developed the consistency of a thick, syrupy glaze that was perfect for coating the meat. Broiled on a baking sheet, the glazed meat developed a wonderfully rich flavor but also became super-greasy. The solution was to place a rack in a baking pan to elevate the meat and allow excess fat to drip off. The flavors in the braising liquid also need refining. We emulated the flavor of the Mexican sour oranges used in authentic carnitas with a mixture of fresh lime and orange juices. Bay leaves and oregano provided aromatic notes, and cumin brought an earthy dimension that complemented the other flavors.list of recipes