I was craving Mexican food recently. I wanted little soft tacos. I had a pork shoulder in the freezer. Idea: make tortillas, slow cook pork shoulder, make salsa, and have pork carnitas. Turned out to be a pretty good idea.
Carnitas means “little meats” in Mexican. Don’t be fooled; it’s big on flavor. The ingredients are simple enough, but you need time because you’ll be slow cooking it for a few hours to make the shoulder tender.
Tortillas are easy enough to make. They take only the basic bread ingredients, minus the yeast. However, the secret to good tortillas handed down by generations is the addition of fat. Not just fat, but the RIGHT kind of fat…lard. I had rendered pork fat in a jar (just another reason to start saving drippings!) and used that. The aroma from the dough was enough to dig in already.
After simmering in the juices, the pork is rendering its fat and caramelizing. Some of them got a little burnt as I was distracted. Oh well, just a little extra caramelization.
Small, tasty, and full of flavor. Carnitas are a great party food or they can be a regular dinner for those who have odd cravings like me.
1 pork shoulder, about 3-4 lbs (boneless is ok too)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 t sea salt
Cut shoulder into 2″ cubes and trim away any excessive fat or skin, if it’s on your cut. If you choose to use a bone-in shoulder, you can shred the meat after the bone pulls away from the meat around it. In a large pot like a Dutch oven, heat everything on medium high heat so that liquid just comes to the top of the meat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer meat for 2 hours, uncovered.
Increase heat to medium high and cook another 40-45 minutes, when only fat remains and the juice is boiled away. Turn pieces occasionally so both sides brown well. Once browned well, season with salt/pepper if needed and keep warm for serving.
2 cups All-purpose flour (can use masa for corn tortillas)
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 T pork lard
3/4 cup cold water
Mix flour, salt, and baking powder until combined. Mix in lard with fingers and squeeze together until flour becomes coarse and crumbly, but not as clumpy as pie dough (butter results in clumpier dough). Add water slowly and mix between additions to prevent adding too much. Dough should just come together, but not be too slimy. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two. Divide into 12 equal pieces and form into balls.
Roll out each ball as thin as possible. It should result in a circle (or somewhat circle) about 6-7″ in diameter. If you can roll it thinner, it’s not thin enough. Flour will puff up in the oven so make it as thin as possible.
Heat oven to 400 F. If you have a pizza stone, use it. Once preheated, toss a few pieces of dough onto the stone and close the oven. When bubbles form in a minute or two, flip over and repeat. It should take 4 minutes or so for each batch of tortillas. If you like the charred spotted look, leave them on longer. Keep tortillas warm for serving.
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