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Pork has magical powers

It’s true. Molly said it herself. She said it because she had just eaten a pork taco made with the pork I crafted today. For the last two months, I’ve been working on finding a recipe for carnitas that would fulfill my pork dreams. I LOVE pork. I especially love it spiced, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and wrapped in a corn tortilla with white onions, fresh cilantro, and a little salsa or hot sauce. My goal has been to make a carnitas at home that would allow me cut down on trips to Chipotle and Taquiera la Fiesta. I think I’ve found it, and now I’ll share my special carnitas recipe with you. I’ve gone through at least 15 pounds of pork to get this right. Enjoy!

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Time: 2.5 hours (active time about 40 minutes)
Serves: Lots; lasts about 5-6 meals at our house with 3 pork eaters

Part One – The Boiling and Shredding
3+ pounds of pork shoulder (butt) roast, cut into chunks about 2″ x 2″
half a big white onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
some water
lots of salt
1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a stock pot, braiser or Dutch oven. I use the setting about 7 out of 10 on my stove. While the oil heats, chop or dice up the onion so it’s in little pieces but not tiny pieces. Throw it in the oil and spread it around with a wooden spoon so most of the onion is flat in the oil. Crush up your garlic (or pop 3 cloves out of the rockin’ frozen garlic from Trader Joes) and throw that in the pot too.

While your onion and garlic heat up, cut the pork roast into chunks about 2″ x 2″. You should remove the big chunks of fat but leave the little ones for flavor. As you’re chopping it into chunks, toss them in the pot. Once you have all the pork in the pot, stir the pot up and start adding water. Use enough water to just cover the pork. Shake salt over the pot until it makes a little salt layer near the top (you want the water pretty salty but not salty enough for all the stuff to float or anything). Add your two bay leaves. Throw in some black pepper if you like black pepper. Cover the pot, and turn up the heat to the max.

Once the water starts to boil, skim some of the frothy stuff off the top. Put the lid back on over about 2/3 or 3/4 of the pot, and turn down the heat. You want the water to bubble occasionally, a little less than a real simmer. Let the pork almost simmer, partially covered for about an hour and a half.

Your house should start to smell pretty good. You’ll probably start to get hungry just thinking about your rockin’ pork. After that hour and a half of almost simmering, turn off the heat and take off the lid. Grab a slotted spoon, a big Tupperware, two forks, and a cutting board with the little dents to catch liquid.

Using the slotted spoon, scoop a few chunks of pork out, and put them on the cutting board. Shred the pork using the two forks (hold them back to back, sort of scrape the meat away from one). Separate as much fat out as you can, and throw the shredded pork bits into your Tupperware. Keep shredding until all your pork is in the Tupperware. Then throw away the fat, and put the forks and cutting board aside.

You can eat the shredded pork if you like. Put it on pasta, eat it with vegetables and potatoes, whatever. Or, you can continue to Part Two and become really, truly happy. You put the pork directly into the Tupperware because most of it is going to go in the fridge. It’ll keep for about a week, and you can repeat Part Two every time you want some yummy tacos, burritos, whatever.

Part Two: The Frying and Assembling
Time: 10 minutes (all active time)
Serves: Many, fry enough to feed your hungry roommates

For the frying pan, you’ll need
Enough canola or vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan
Chili powder
Black pepper
Garlic salt

For each taco, you’ll need
A slotted spoonful of shredded pork
1-2 small tortillas (I prefer corn)
Half a handful of diced white onion
A couple pinches of chopped fresh cilantro
Some salsa or hot sauce (I like the green Tabasco)

Put the oil in your frying pan, and heat it up. I use a setting of about 7 or 8 out of 10 on my stove. While it’s heating, add chili powder, black pepper, and garlic salt. Add as much of each as you think you’ll like, but remember that pork has a lot of its own flavor, so you don’t need to cover it up with spices. I basically shake each spice over the oil back and forth across the pan. It probably ends up being about 1 Tbsp of each.

While the oil heats up, get your onion and cilantro out and on the cutting board. Grab the pork from the fridge (or the counter if you’re moving right from Part One to Part Two). When the oil is hot – hot like about to splatter but not quite – add 1 slotted spoonful of pork for each taco you want to make. If you’re making burritos or using big tortillas, add a little more. The pork with shrink a bit while frying.

Fry the pork until it’s a little crispy. Stir it up once in a while to coat it in oil and spices, but you don’t need to stir it constantly. You can tell when it’s done by the smell – after about 4-5 minutes, you’ll smell the first burned bits and know that your pork is done. It’ll be crispy on at least one side, and 3-4 shades darker than it was in the fridge.

While the pork fries, chop up your onion and cilantro. You want small chunks, about the size of the onion pieces you put in the pot with the pork. Heat your tortillas (I put mine between two damp paper towels and stick them in the microwave for about 15 seconds per tortilla). When you smell that pork (you really will be able to tell by the smell), remove the frying pan from the heat.

Spoon your pork onto your tortillas, top with onions and cilantro, and add a bit of salsa or hot sauce. Eat up!

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It’s so ridiculously good. Yes, it’s also that simple. In fact, my roommates and I decided we like it so much that we’re going to keep a constant supply in the fridge. Making dinner or a snack is really easy once you’ve gotten the pork shredded and into the fridge. We save the broth from the boiling pork to use in the frying if the pork gets too dry; you can add a little pork broth to the frying or even to your taco to make it more moist. I’m pretty sure Jason’s going to eat the pork broth with noodles or something too.


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