I discovered carnitas when we moved to the Bay area 3 years ago. Before then, Mexican food was a rare treat, often misinterpreted and maligned in further flung cultures where we lived, where at best you could find skimpy versions of nachos or the ubiquitous fajita. Now that we live in California, taquerias dot every neighborhood, burritos are the alternative to a burger and inspired Mexican cuisine plays a prominent role in our local restaurant scene.
I don’t prepare a lot of Mexican food at home, but I enjoy making Pork Carnitas. Pork Carnitas are the perfect intersection of traditional home cooking and festive interactive food, great for families and casual parties. Braised pork is cooked until falling apart tender, then shredded and quickly roasted to get a crispy texture. It’s then arranged on a fresh tortilla, and heaped with fresh tomato salsa, cool guacamole, spiced black beans and crispy lettuce. It’s the best kind of finger food, requiring two hands and everyone participating in assembling their own food. Napkins recommended.
Pork Carnitas Soft Tacos
During the season of fireside dinners and slow cooking, try serving these spicy, festive tacos for a little extra heat.
3 lbs. pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut in 3″ pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dark beer
1 cup orange juice
1 yellow onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
Fresh flour or corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 300 F. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a deep pot or Dutch oven. Add pork in batches and brown on all sides. Transfer pork to plate or bowl. Add beer to pot and deglaze, scraping up any dark bits. Add orange juice. Return pork to pot. Add onion and garlic. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Remove pot from oven and remove pork. Discard onions and garlic. Boil braising liquid until reduced by half.
While liquid is boiling, shred pork and discard any fat or gristle. Toss shredded pork with a few tablespoons of reduced braising liquid. Arrange meat in one layer on a baking pan. Broil until meat begins to caramelize and crispen on the outsides. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, wrap tortillas in foil and warm in oven. Arrange some of the pork on a tortilla. Add garnishes such as salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, fresh lime juice.