Carnitas. Little bits of meat. Little bits of tasty,beckoning crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside meat. Up until recently, I only made Carnitas an average of once per year. It wasn't something that I actually vocalized, but I think it was due to the fact that traditionally, Carnitas are cooked in lard. And I always made them in the "traditional" way. I don't have a problem with lard...in moderation...hence, the once a year special. That once a year was usually Super Bowl. Don't ask my why. It just happened like that. I think waaaaay back in the beginning of our marriage, Mexi asked me to make them on a Super Bowl Sunday...and it just sort of stuck. Sure, he'd hint at them throughout the year, but I always held off. We might occasionally pick some up from the Mexican market. Esposo grew up with the butcher and he makes them every weekend...still, not often.
Well my friends, all that is about to change. This method of making Carnitas produces the same glorious, unadulterated pork taste without any added lard. It steams a bit to begin with, wrapped in foil and then the foil is removed, then water evaporates and all that is left is the rendered lard. High heat and a couple of turns in its own fat and juices produces the same additive outer crunchy bits while trapping moisture inside. Seasoned only with a good sprinkling of kosher salt, this is a plate of little bits of meat at its best. Carnitas: they're not just for Super Bowl anymore!
Slow-Roasted Pork / Carnitas de Puerco
adapted from Rick Bayless
serves ~8 (~3-3½ lbs. finished Carnitas)
~6 lbs. Country-Style Pork Ribs (or pork shoulder cut into ~2" slabs), boneless or bone-in
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut each slab of pork in half and lay the pieces in a baking dish without crowding them (use one or two 13x9" dishes or one larger). Liberally sprinkle with salt on all sides. Pour 1/3 cup water around the meat (make it ⅓ in each pan if using more than one) then cover tightly with foil. Bake for one hour.
Raise the oven temperature to 450° F. Uncover the meat and cook until the liquid has completely reduced and only the rendered fat remains, ~30 minutes. Continue to roast, carefully basting the meat with its own rendered fat until lightly browned, ~20 minutes longer, basting with its own rendered fat twice during this time. Break the meat into large pieces and serve on a warm platter, sprinkled with salt.
While it's almost impossible not to walk by and pluck a chunk off the plate and into your mouth, most of it did mange to mange to make it to the table. We stuffed our Carnitas into warm corn tortillas with big dollops of guacamole, a drizzle of salsa verde, some cilantro, and a side of cabbage salad (of which I also put some into the taco). Carnitas also make an amazing Torta filling and are drop-dead delicious when smothered with molé. Just sayin'.