Carnitas (the word translates as “little meats”) are wonderful morsels of boiled/fried pork that are crispy on the outside and chewy-tender on the inside. In Mexico, they are traditionally cooked outside in huge copper or stainless steel pots over an open fire, but this smaller version is easy to make at home on a regular stove, making it much more practical for the everyday home cook.
Carnitas are tasty eaten with a fork, accompanied by a nice, fresh salsa, or as a filling for tacos, tortas, burritos, or flautas. (The number of servings made with this recipe will, of course, vary widely according to the use you give to the meat.)
- 2 tablespoons lard (or vegetable oil) for frying
- 3 pounds boneless pork (shoulder or butt, in one piece)
- 1 quart broth (pork, beef, or chicken; enough to cover meat)
- 5 cloves of garlic (peeled)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 medium white onion (peeled and quartered)
- 3 cups orange juice
In a large, heavy pot, heat two tablespoons of the lard or oil. Brown the meat, turning to brown on all sides.
Take the pot off the heat and add the orange juice. Pour in enough broth to cover the meat. Add the garlic, the bay leaf, and the chunks of onion. Place the pan back on the stove and bring the liquid to a boil.
Turn the heat down and let the meat simmer, covered, for about 2 and1/2 hours. At the end of the cooking time, take off the lid and turn up the heat to help evaporate the excess liquid.
When the liquid is gone and just the meat and fat are left, remove the bay leaf and any remaining pieces of garlic or onion. Use tongs to break up the meat into smaller chunks (golf ball-sized or smaller) and allow them to fry, adding a little more lard or oil when necessary. Sprinkle salt on the meat as you fry it to season your carnitas and help keep spattering fat to a minimum.
Your delicious little meats are ready when the edges of the chunks of meat become browned and crispy. You can serve them as-is (in larger chunks), or you can remove the pieces from the pot and chop them up into smaller morsels—or even shred them—to use as a filling for tacos or burritos.
Store any leftovers well covered in the refrigerator; reheat slowly in a pan on the stove (they will probably not need any more oil added) or in a microwave oven.
-Edited by Robin Grose