Saturday, May 5, 2012

Carnitas Tacos with Roasted Pineapple Salsa

Apparently my easily influenced pea brain is so susceptible to suggestion that one mere mention of Cinco de Mayo (well, there were photos too) and I'm adding taco shells to the grocery list. All I can say is, these tacos were so delicious that being strong willed is overrated. Score one for the wishy washy (we're way more fun at parties when there's a hypnotist).

Makes 24-32 tacos

4 pounds fatty pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups water
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, cut into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons pork lard or vegetable oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled
2 teaspoons fine salt or 4 teaspoons kosher salt
24-32 taco shells

1.      Put all the ingredients in a wide 6-to 7-quart heavy ovenproof pot (don't worry if the pork is not completely covered) and bring to a boil, skimming the surface as necessary. Lower the heat and simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until the pork is fork-tender and the liquid has completely evaporated, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Discard the orange pieces and bay leaves. [If the liquid hasn't evaporated after 2 hours, transfer the pork pieces to a bowl and let the liquid continue to bubble away, stirring often, until the excess liquid has evaporated and only the fat remains.]
2.      Preheat oven to 450° F. Transfer the pot to the oven and brown the pork, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes. There's no need to stir.
3.      Transfer the pork to a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred or pull off chunks with a fork. Serve in taco shells with roasted pineapple salsa.
-Carnitas keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days.
-If you want to make half a batch, cut the amount of pork, salt, and oregano in half, but use the same amount of the remaining ingredients and water. You will need to use a slightly smaller pot.

barely adapted from Epicurious, April 2011 (from Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode)
This was the smallest pork shoulder at the
store (it weighed in at a whopping 7.2 lbs.).
Because my pork shoulder was so large,
I doubled all the other ingredients.
I really pushed my pot to its limits, but managed to
keep my eye on it and prevent any boiling over.
2 hours later (obviously I needed to cook it
longer too, so I left it in for about 3 1/2 hours).
braised pork shoulder
Reducing the liquid left in the pot.
I used a slotted spoon to strain out the solids and leave
just the oil behind. The disgusting brown gunk is full of such
intense flavor, I called it carnitas pork base and couldn't bare
to throw it out. So I used it to make pork fried rice.
oil left behind
(plus what's stuck to the bottom of the pan)
pork shoulder back in the pot
after 25 minutes in the oven

For some people, that might be a
touch overdone, but I like a little char.
shredding/pulling off chunks
carnitas in taco shell
carnitas taco with roasted pineapple salsa

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