Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Carnitas, Houston style


The last time I visited Houston, I arrived at midnight. I was exhausted, but my mom was waiting for me with a to-go container filled with my favorite restaurant dish: enchiladas verdes—corn tortillas wrapped around crisp, juicy cubes of carnitas, dressed with a green salsa thick with avocados, tomatillos, cilantro and onions. And while it’s not the most traditional of Tex-Mex dishes, it’s what I often crave as there is no finer combination of flavors than salty sweet pork paired with tart tomatillos.

Carnitas, which means little meats in Spanish, come in several guises. Some people serve it stringy, like pulled pork. Some people serve it in huge chunks, with bits of bone still attached. And some serve it in smaller cubes, perfect for popping in your mouth. Though no matter how it’s presented, it’s always succulent slow-cooked pork that’s tender on the inside and crunchy on the out.

The state of Michoaca, Mexico is renowned for its carnitas. And for good reason—they cook huge hunks of pork shoulder in oversized copper pots filled with lard. It’s a decadent eating experience as the pork is slick and smooth with just enough texture to keep things interesting. Of course, after eating Michoacan carnitas you immediately fall into a pork-fat coma and can’t get up for days. I adore the Michoacan carnitas and have even made them a couple of times when I have had pounds of lard on hand. This past weekend, however, I was a bit short on pig fat and decided to try another recipe to see if I could approximate their porcine excellence without going whole hog.

After experimenting with a host of recipes (and suffering a spectacular failure with milk-braised carnitas that ended as an insipid pile of mush), I decided to try Diana Kennedy’s method. She recommends cooking the pork shoulder in water until the liquid has evaporated. Because you haven't trimmed the fat off the pork, after the water is gone the pot is filled with rendered pork fat (aka lard!) that browns the outside to a caramelized crisp. It’s such a simple method that I had my doubts but figured it was at least worth a try.

Before I made carnitas Kennedy’s way, however, I decided to eat some proper Michoacan carnitas as a point of comparison to her recipe. Most of the Mexican restaurants in New York City are owned by Pueblans, but there is one in the Bronx called Real Azteca that is proudly owned by Michoacans. And on a recent rainy Saturday, I hopped on the 2 train and made the journey uptown to eat carnitas made the Michoacan way.

Real Azteca is located in the Longwood section of the Bronx, right off a colorful, bustling stretch of Southern Boulevard. It’s a small, clean restaurant with a few seats at a counter and tables in an adjoining dining room. Crowded with Mexican families on this Saturday afternoon, the only seat available was at the counter. But I didn't mind as this way I could watch the cooks press out tortillas and fry up quesadillas.

When I placed my order in Spanish, the man sitting next to me asked if I was aware that these were Michoacan carnitas. I nodded my head and said one word: “Manteca!” which means lard in Spanish. He laughed and said, “Si, si!” I must have made a good decision because two other people came up to the counter and nodded at the griddle saying, “The carnitas here are the best!”

The waitress handed me my plate. Nestled in the freshly fried tortilla were long strands of meat and melted cheese. I topped it with a bright green salsa and took a bite. The pork was silky with a hint of crunch that was balanced by the chewy corn tortilla and tangy salsa. And while I prefer my carnitas to be the more square and chunky version, these were still sublime.

My palate calibrated, I went home and fired up my Dutch oven. I threw in three pounds of boneless pork shoulder cut into two-inch strips. I barely covered the meat with water, added a healthy dose of salt and a bit of orange juice to help with the caramelizing of the meat. I brought the pot to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer, keeping it about 175 degrees. As the water gently bubbled, the fat was slowly rendered out of the pork. After a spell, the pork was no longer cooking in water but was instead cooking in the fat. I made sure it didn’t get too hot and after three hours, the meat was done—crisp on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

I was surprised at how juicy these were since they’d spent most of the time braising in water and not fat, but they were just as succulent as the Michoacan carnitas I’d eaten earlier. And yet because of the time spent in water, they didn’t put me over the pork-fat edge—I was actually able to function immediatly after eating them without taking a three-hour nap!

To make sure it hadn’t been a fluke, I made another batch the same way and they were equally as delicious. I could eat them in flour tortillas, I could eat them in corn tortillas, I could eat them smothered in green sauce or I could eat them alone. It didn’t matter—they were always just what I wanted.

I’m planning a trip to Texas in late August and while I’ll be hitting several cities I’m most looking forward to visiting Houston as I haven’t been there in over a year. And hopefully my mom will greet me again with a big plate of carnitas served in the form of enchiladas verdes. Though I can be patient since in the meantime I know that I’ll be simmering a few batches of these simple yet satisfying carnitas myself.

Carnitas (adapted from Diana Kennedy)
Ingredients:
3 pounds of pork butt, with plenty of fat
1 cup of orange juice
3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt

Method:
1. Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.
2. After two hours, turn heat up to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.
3. When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready (there will be liquid fat in the pan). Serve either cubed or shredded (pork will be tender enough that just touching it will cause it to fall apart).
Goes very well with a green salsas such as Ninfa's green sauce or this tomatillo salsa or this salsa verde with avocados and tomatillos.
Serves 4-6

Notes: The key to this recipe is that the meat has fat, so don't trim it! If there's not enough fat on the meat the recipe will turn out too dry. Whether to shred the meat like pulled pork or leave it in cubes I think is determined by what you're used to eating. Texas isn't a pulled-pork state so the texture isn’t as familiar as nicely done chunks. Likewise, I think the brilliance of this recipe lies in its simplicity. You can add as many different spices, herbs and aromatics as you like—but if you have good-tasting, happy pork why not let its flavor shine with just a bit of salt? Ultimately, however, making carnitas is a highly personal affair and so make them as they best suit you!

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167 comments:

lesley said...

Homesick Texan... me too! I ran across your blog looking for a kolache recipe. I've enjoyed reading all your entries. Your pictures are beautiful! Take care!

Frank said...

I love me some carnitas!
Hopefully one of those cities you visit in August will be Austin for the Hot Sauce Festival!!

Julie said...

I'm SO glad you posted this recipe. After I read your tweet about the milk-braised disaster, I said to myself "I hope she posts a recipe for really good carnitas on the blog..." and low and behold, you have granted my wish. Thanks!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Swoooooon... What a recipe, what a mother! I love your idea of "research" ;-)

And oh my, Texas in August!

Anonymous said...

Please, oh please share with me the restaurant in Houston where you order enchilada verdes. I'm a Houstonian/foodie living in Seattle for 10 years, and I visit my Houston-based family frequently. I'd love to know your E.V. source.

I oh so love reading your blog.

Thanks!
Wendy in Seattle

Austin Girl 78704 said...

I can not wait to try this!!!

growler said...

Lisa:

I'm so going to try this. Question, though -- I haven't seen tomatillos at the Greenmarket yet this season, yet I want that green sauce. Is there an acceptable, or at least passable, store-bought version of that green sauce you know of?

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try this!..It looks so good

Kevin said...

Those carnitas look really tasty!

Alanna @ A Veggie Venture said...

Aii yai yai and the butcher closes at 6pm so this must wait til the weekend. Hmm. Perhaps I should first calibrate my palate. I'd love to know the Houston source too, get there occasionally to visit my sister.

SO SIMPLE!

persis said...

Ahhhh!! You are going to help me make The Boy fall hopelessly in love with me. haha. Thank you thank you for the recipe.

blackirondude said...

I have no will power when it comes to Carnitas. Give me some gooood corn tortillas and some crispy juicy pork and salsa verde and I'm gone.

I think I'll be hitting the taco cart for a "palate calibration" myself.

Love that phrase...

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Hooray for Diana Kennedy! Her books have taught me most of what I know about Mexican cooking.

Anonymous said...

Another request for your recommendations for Carnitas in Houston. I can't find good ones here for the life of me and I've lived here 10 years. Maybe I spend too much time eating all the other great tacos.

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Oh my goodness, that piece of pork sure does look scrumptious! I'm aching for a taco right now.

I've tried a couple of different recipes for carnitas, and I'll be trying this one.

Wow. I'm heading into a carnitas-induced trance right now just imagining sinking my teeth on your taco.

Plum Texan said...

Oh my God, do I love carnitas. Did the ones from your mom perhaps originate from a 24-hour place that also has the best carne guisada in the city?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Extremely scrumptious! A great and droolworthy dish!

cheers,

Rosa

kkryno said...

This a bit off topic, (okay, ALOT off topic!) but being a lost New Mexican in Alaska, I had to let you know that they carry Ro-Tel in Anchorage!!! Husahhhh! I can actually find semi-decent green chile flavour to some degree here in the Last Frontier! I might just survive the few years of exile here until I can manage my way back to my beloved South West! Just thought you'd like to know. Even though our culinary tastes are not exactly the same, they are somewhat similar. Tex-Mex and New-Mex are both missed on our family table. When I can prepare something with a semblance of home, it's like a bit of Heaven! I love your recipies and photos and your blog in general. Thank you for sharing.

mrsb said...

I can't wait to try this recipe. I've been using your tortilla recipe for quite some time. As a fellow expat Texas (living in NJ, of all places), I love finding a recipe like this one! Thanks for sharing!

Amy C Evans said...

Aw, geez, now you're speaking my language! You had me weak at the knees with the fried pies but carnitas?! I'm a Houston girl and miss my beloved Tex-Mex haunts more than anyone will ever know. Thanks for this recipe. It will be used posthaste! Cheers from Mississippi, Amy

Homesick Texan said...

Lesley--Welcome! And I hope you enjoy the recipes.

Frank--That's the plan! See you on that Sunday!

Julie--I'm glad I was able to post it as well--the milk-braised carnitas disaster was very discouraging, but I'm happy that I found a way to make them the way I wanted them.

Just a Plane Ride Away--I'm a Texan, I can deal with the heat!

Wendy--I used to always get them at a place called Amalia's when I was growing up--it's in Cypress. I enjoy the ones at Los Cucos, too. I don't go to Houston enough to have a favorite carnaceria yet (those Mexican meat markets that are now in every strip center) but the ones near my mom's house are very, very good. Here's what the Houston Press likes.

Austin Girl 78704--Enjoy!

Growler--If they're not at the market, I'd use canned tomatillos to make my salsa--homemade with canned tomatillos will still taste better than bottled. But if you want a bottled tomatillo salsa, I like Herdez.

Anon--Enjoy!

Alanna @ Veggie Venture--I highly recommend calibrating your palate--I need to do that more often! As for the carnitas, we always ate at Amalia's and Los Cucos, and they're very good. Here's what the Houston Press likes.

Persis--You're very welcome. Glad to help the boy fall hopelessly in love with you!

Blackirondude--I have little will power myself--I actually ate the whole batch by myself.

Lydia--She knows her stuff.

Anon--I like Amalia's, Los Cucos and the meat markets (don't know the name, sorry) by my mom's house. Here's what the Houston Press likes.

EatingClubVancouver--Hope you like them!

Rosa--Thank you!

Kkryno--Really? That's awesome news for those in Alaska! One of the number one questions I get asked is "Where do I find Rotel?"

Mrsb--You're very welcome, and I'm glad you've enjoyed the tortilla recipe. These go very well with it!

Amy--Nothing says Houston Tex-Mex more than green salsa with meat!

Lisa said...

Wow! That looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing all of the details. Lately, I have been craving meat like I remember it from Texas but I hardly know where to begin preparing it.

Larry said...

Boy, did you get my attention with this one. Ihave tried numerous times and just cannot duplicate what I get in a couple of my fave Mexican places here in the Charlotte area.(or in Mexico)
Will be trying this one tomorrow and will let you know.
Just a little OT - I learned how to get a taco the way I want it - always carnitas or carne asada - here you order "Mexican Style" and it comes on soft corn tortillas with only onions and cilantro. Usually accompanied with a separate salsa made with arbol chiles (so red, not green) but one place calls it salsa tomatillo - go figure??

LeftyMama said...

I've been afraid to cook with pork roast, having unpleasant childhood memories of my mom's dry & gristly version which I consumed only under duress (less awful at supper than cold for breakfast, right?). But gosh, your carnitas recipe seems so simple & delicious, you've given me the confidence to give it a try! Yum, yum, yum, meat market here I come.

Olivia said...

Love that green tomatillo and cilantro salsa, mmmmm.

I would love to have this right now, my mouth is just watering like crazy! Seriously, I have to go find the good Mexican restaurants in NYC. Maybe you can publish a list?

San Antonio Rose said...

Thank you! Pork is on the weekend shopping list for sure. I've tried various methods, but have never added OJ, will definitely try it. I've also found that a really good carnitas taco needs carmelized onions too:-)

i-heart-(fill in the blank) said...

No blog has ever left me so hungry! This is a great recipe -- thanks for giving this a try for the rest of us ! If you're in Austin, a really great place for pork carnitas is Torchy's on S. First. {Green Chili Pork Taco-slow roasted pork carnitas simmered with green chili’s and topped off with queso fresco, cilantro, onions, and a wedge of lime served on a corn tortilla with green sauce}

Mime said...

I was eating while blog surfing... the thought of canitas has made me push aside my ham and potatoes casserole (traditional Utah food... bleh) I now have to make a trip to betos ...

Paula said...

Carnitas are my absolute, most favorite meat of all time. I did not know the connection to the Michoacan region, but it all makes sense as the Mexican restaurant we frequent to get carnitas is call La Flor de Michoacan! My children learned Spanish at school, and they love to talk with the restaurant staff who speak very little English. You can bet I'll be trying this recipe over and over and over again!

Karina said...

I love the idea of this method for carnitas. Fabulous post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful carnitas recipe!

Amalia's is one of our favorite restaurants (we live in Cypress). Amalia is usually on site and actually comes by to check on the food and the service. Their green sauce is superb (slurp, I could just drink the stuff!). I only regret that I have been ordering the enchiladas verdes there with ... chicken... now WHAT was I thinking??? Anyway, I will remedy that situation right away.

Thanks for mentioning this great restaurant and furthering my education on the virtues of carnitas.

Tomorrow means a trip to Fiesta for the authentic ingredients... I just know from eyeballing the recipe that it's a winner. Thanks for the great blog, Lisa.

Regards,

madcook
in Cypress, TX

Julie said...

A trip to the Bronx to calibrate your palate sounds like a fine way to spend an afternoon. That's my kind of project.

Your carnitas looks delicious and you describe it so deliciously.

AT said...

You are awesome. Only you would find authentic carnitas in NYC, and then travel out to the Bronx to eat them.

Just now saw the note re the fried pies from last time. Jo's eh? I may have to check that out this weekend. I can always eat a fried pie!

If you're passing through Austin in August, I'm buying you a margarita, missy.

Jeff said...

I've had carnitas a ton of ways as well, and I wish I knew which region of Mexico refries the meat in lard after it's been roasted, to give it an even crispier skin. The Tacqueria Agave in my hometown about 45 miles southwest of Houston does it that way. Amazing stuff.

persis said...

Finally, I gave this recipe a go! Added 2 tsp of sugar at the end to edge the caramelizing a bit. Flatmate and fiance loved it - first time English people had tacos! Thanx from across The Pond. Persis x

Jerry said...

In all my years in Texas, I never and I mean NEVER had a carnita. I feel like I have deprived myself and as I have now relocated to N.C. I find myself without tex-mex and mexican food. I'll have to try this and visit the taqueria to see if I can get one. Hope all is well.
J

Terry (aka) Big Daddy said...

That looks awesome...I enjoy your post, you do a great job.

B.D.

LeftyMama said...

Just made the recipe. Oh. So. Good. Nom nom nom nom.

One little detail: be sure to ask for "boneless pork butt." I didn't realize I was going to be getting a giant pelvic bone through the middle of my meat and that made my cutting (especially as an inexperienced pork butt cook) a lot more challenging.

I was surprised at how well the fat & connective tissue melted away in this preparation. The final result is tender & juicy, not over-the-top greasy. Reminds me of barbacoa, but only pork instead of beef. Yum!

Tace said...

Sheesh, you have a way with words....I'm so fricking hungry! We don't even hardly eat meat any more and you still have me craving pork carnitas....

Annie K. Nodes said...

I can not, NOT read your blog at 5PM. It simply makes me want to have dinner immediately, and I have to get home first. Those look and sound delicious.

Rev. Biggles said...

OH man. Sigh.

I used to get such carnitas here in my neighborhood. Their method was the lard way, but after all was done, they pan seared the pork hunks to lend caramelized bits.

But it seems that many of the Mexican taquerias have been replaced by people from El Salvador. No carnitas and no burritos. Embracing the new hasn't been tough though, ah well. Viva la papusa!

Biggles

Lisa said...

Yes! Carnitas! I discovered those a while back and have been meaning to write about them. I have lard around right now, so the doing them with lard is tempting. Must make tomatillo sauce to go with. That would take it to a whole other level!

Kim said...

Wow, carnitas are one of my favorite mexican dishes. Yours is the best I have ever seen. I could eat this for breakfast.

Homesick Texan said...

Lisa--Thanks! It's great to make in the summer because it doesn't generate too much heat in the kitchen.

Larry--Yep, we have the same kind of tacos here, too. Ours usually come with two corn tortillas and enough meat that you can make two tacos out of one!

LeftyMama--It's pretty hard to dry this one out, since you're cooking it in both liquid and fat. Hope you like it!

Olivia--Well, that's the problem with NYC--there are some good places, but trust me, most of them are nothing like home! There are neighborhoods I'd suggest exploring: Sunset Park, Jackson Heights, Spanish Harlem. And yes, I reckon that is a good idea to publish a list!

San Antonio Rose--The OJ not only adds flavor but also helps with the caramelizing of the meat.

I-Heart-(Fill in the blank)--I'll have to check TOrchy's out next time I'm there. Thanks for the tip!

Mime--I don't know, ham and potatoes casserole sounds pretty good!

Paula--That's great that your kids get to practice their Spanish! And I hope y'all enjoy the recipe.

Karina--Thanks! It's simple and good!

Madcook-Hey! Someone who knows Amalia's! I love that place and can't wait to eat there again!

Julie--I just wish I could find time to go on "field trips" to calibrate my palate more often!

AT--I'll let you know when I'm coming to town and I'll definitely take you up on that margarita offer!

Jeff--Would that be the Michoaca region or is there another one that does that?

Persis--You're very welcome--glad y'all enjoyed it!

Jerry--Oh no! And now you're stuck in NC--another homesick Texan! My cousin goes to school there and agrees the situation is dire. These are pretty easy to make, however.

Terry (aka) Big Daddy--Thanks!

LeftyMama--Yay! I'm glad the recipe worked for you. And what an excellent tip--no bones makes the job all the easier.

Tace--Thanks!

Annie K. Nodes--Lordy, that's high praise! Sorry to make you hungry, but I reckon I'm just doing my job!

Rev. Biggles--Viva la papusas, indeed! I need to learn how to make those.

Kim--They make an awesome breakfast taco.

Paula said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, and we did have the carnitas. Oh. My. Gosh. It was amazing! By the way, I've given you an award on my site. :-)

Melissa said...

I have a Boston butt on top of the stove now. I've been craving these since reading your recipe a few days ago! My cut of meat had the bone in and I didn't want to lose any meat so I tossed the bone in the pot too so that list bit of meat can cook off.

Thanks for posting this recipe. I'm cheating and using a canned salsa verde because my local grocery was out of tomatillos canned or fresh, bummer but this canned stuff doesn't look bad.

Sheila in Ohio said...

I think you have the process right on the money. I wish I had caught up on blog reading before I made carnitas this past weekend! I paid for a huge shoulder bone, unfortunately, which means I left it whole and covered it with water. LOL No way that was cooking down. Now I know better for next time. This was the first time I've tried it with the water; always before (even when in TX) I roasted it, which makes it very dry. I've tried the OJ before also and I'm not sure I care for that flavor with it, but have seen many such recipes. I do add onion and garlic to the cooking process. Next time I will try your (Kennedy's) recipe pure and see if I like it better.

Quasi-Question, though. I've always heard to use 'pork shoulder butt' and I'm not sure if that is different from plain 'ol 'pork butt.'

Thanks for your blog and your way with words. You've captured the essence of carnitas perfectly.

John in Houston said...

I love carnitas and have tried various ways of cooking them. My favorite from a restaurant in tiajuana is to simmer the pork shoulder (untrimmed) in half water and half coca cola for an hour and half to two hours (until falling easily off the bone). Then i dust the inch to two inch chunks in Fiesta brand fajita seasoning and throw the chunks into my fry daddy (using peanut oil) for 30 seconds. This recipe provides a semi-sweet meat that is juicy on the inside and very crispy on the out. Other recipes i have seen called for broiling or grilling the meat for a minute to crisp up. The deep fry version did a better job crisping and kept the meat much juicier on the inside than the broiling/grilling version.

Meg said...

Ah, carnitas. After reading your post, I think we need to have them again, soon. I roughly use Kennedy's method as well (I use garlic, and sometimes tomato paste, in the liquid)- it's hard to believe that something so simple could be so fantastic, isn't it?

San-Man said...

Argh! I just attempted to make this and all was well until the part where you turn up the heat to medium high...There was still a good amount of liquid in the pot but not more than 3-4 mins later I had a burnt mass on the bottom of my pot!!! (fyi - I was using an enameled cast-iron dutch oven on an electric stove)...Any ideas what went wrong??

-Drew

Homesick Texan said...

Paula--Thanks for the award! And glad y'all liked the carnitas!

Melissa--Canned salsa verde is better than no salsa verde!

Sheila--I'm pretty sure that pork shoulder butt, pork butt and pork shoulder are all the same thing, though I could have been misinformed. And I hope the recipe works for you!

John--I plan to try the Coca Cola method sometime, with Mexican Coke, of course.

Meg--I know! I was amazed that it took so little to make something taste so great!

Drew--Oh no! Either there wasn't enough liquid or your stove's medium high is really, really hot. If you try it again, turn the temperature down lower and add more water if it starts to burn too fast--there should still be liquid at the end of the cooking process, though it will be fat at that point.

Megan said...

I would of neveer thought to add the O.J. I have a huge pork roast in the freezer just waiting for this recipe. Thanks!!!

KMDuff said...

I just made this and it was delicious.

I did have a similar problem as Drew, also using a enameled iron dutch oven on an electric stove.

The water was gone, and there was liquid fat, but the bottom burned black and I decided not to wait for the meat to brown anymore, it was already tender and delicious and breaking apart, but only the bottom of the pot burned. So either I didn't stir enough in that phase or I stirred too much? I'm not sure.

Either way the meat was delicious and I'll be doing it again. Yum!

Lara said...

I made them... the hardest thing was NOT stirring the meat! I have been making a very similar thing but in the crock pot and with bbq sauce for my kids. Tastes great.
thank you for all the recipes, I'm here in Dallas and hope you have a great visit to Houston! (love Houston)

danni said...

Holy Carnitas Batman!! I just made these yesterday...correction; my wonderful Husband made them as he is a teacher and on Summer break at the moment, and they are to DIE for. We had a bunch of people over and everyone agreed that they were the best Carnitas they have had. Keep in mind this is a big claim considering we live in Santa Cruz and there is a taquiria on every street corner. Thank you so much...I love your blog and envy your lifestyle!

Jules said...

Enchilada's Verde is my absolute favorite dish. When I was a kid, my dad would go down to Mexico and friends would send back tomatillo sauce and fresh tortillas so we could make our own. I've always had it with chicken.

Aaron said...

I am SO Making these this weekend. Being in the central valley of california, we have plenty of mexican restaurants. And I could live on carnitas tacos! Some of the best here are found in small tortilla factories.

D said...

Hi! We are not exactly carnitas experts, but what we do know is moist vs dry and so far, we've not run into a great place for carnitas here in Plano, TX. BUT! When we lived in Philly, we would make the 30 trek to Delaware for the best Carnitas we have found in a LONG time! La Tolteca at 202(Concord Pike) and Silverside. (Specifically this location.) MOIST and sumptuous. The rest of the menu is good, but almost everytime we went we wished we had stayed 100% with the carnitas. Visiting every three months or so for 2 years - always consistant. Address:
4015 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE
302-478-9477

Also, as a opposed to PA, you can purchase alcoholic beverages here!

D said...

Homesick Texan - You write beautifully! Just found your Blog and will be back often!

starving scholar said...

I love carnitas, and I love this recipe. I have now made it twice, and have been extremely pleased both times! The second time I added a little more spice and some onions and tomatoes near the end. Good no matter what!
I have written about it on my own blog, and linked back to this post.
Thanks for a wonderful recipe!!

Anonymous said...

I made this last night with a 6 lb. butt roast and it was fantastic. Everything went the way it was supposed to, although since I had so much meat, it shredded by the time the fat was rendered to the bottom. It was still wonderful and my husband couldn't get enough of it. Has anyone tried this same recipe with beef?

frieswiththatshake said...

I made this last night and it is amazing! I also used your flour tortillas recipe. I love your blog so very much! I too have written about it on my blog and linked back to this post.

manywaters said...

I've been making this since you posted with 6-9 pound chunks of boston butt, and keeping it packed in the fridge. It's become a staple. We shred it, and when we're ready to serve, warm it up on a tray in the toaster oven so it crisps up. I usually add a tablespoon of Cholula seasoning to the meat when I'm packing it for the fridge for some extra flavour. Going to try it in the crockpot next week!

Jen and Ed said...

This is possibly one of the most amazing dishes I've ever made. Not only is it so incredibly simple, but it's so, so good! Made it for a bbq this weekend and was getting rave reviews even the day after. One person said it was the best pork he'd ever had. I did have to add more water at the end b/c the meat wasn't tender enough and repeat the braising/cooking down steps, but that was probably a high altitude thing (Denver). It was AMAZING. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You write wonderfully about great food and I enjoy reading your blog regularly. I made your carnitas tonight for myself and my Cajun girlfriend (who is the world's greatest cook!) and we were both blown away by how great this was. And I should say we live in San Francisco, home of really good carnitas! I made it with really good pork stew meat that we had in the freezer and added some really good bacon toward the end to supplement the fat. I also had some blackening of the pan at the end, but figured that it was the sugar from the oj burning after the fat got absorbed by the meat. Whatever it was didn't affect the outcome, which was that these were the best ever! I also made your Ninfa's green sauce and that was a big hit too! THANK YOU HOMESICK TEXAN!!!

female.math.professor said...

For those Houstonians who live in the inner loop and love carnitas: try the carnitas at Hugos restaurant (Westheimer and Mandell). It is pricier than your average meat market tacos but their carnitas are to die for. Also, don't try the carnitas at the Ninfa's on Kirby (they are dry and aweful)!

Anonymous said...

If you live in the inner loop in Houston and love carnitas, try the carnitas at Hugos (Westheimer and Kirby). They are to die for!

cruzer said...

Your carnitas saved my life! I'm a native Californian living in Sweden and have been dying for real taqueria style carnitas. I followed your simple plan and it was delicious. Thanks and look forward to trying your other receipts.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Texas --living near Chicago-- and I miss Bean and Egg Taquitoes soooo much.
I know it sounds silly but I crave them.
Also....Carne Guisada.
I've never even seen Carne Guisada on a menu in these parts... ever.
I look every time we go someplace new.
Your Carnitas recipe sounds good for the soul.
I'm going to make it tomorrow...Thank You.

Anonymous said...

FINALLY, a REAL carnitas recipe! People just don't understand that the fat is part and parcel of this recipe. I had to wade through 20 recipes of so-called carnitas before I found your excellent real-style. In Richmond, California there is a truck that sits on Macdonald Avenue just before the bridge near 23rd street, and they serve the ding-dong best durn carnitas burritos and tacos you've ever tasted. BRAVO ON YOUR RECIPE - making it tonight.

waterlilysage said...

so, SO, good. made this last night and stopped just short of fully cooking off liquid and starting the browning. finished up this am before football game and by the time we were ready for eating the meat was a wonderful, luscious mix of browned bits and juicy bits.

so simple, and so tasty.

thank you!

Georgia said...

Oh I have to ad to the chorus of YUM's - in Australia we struggle to find any good Mexican so I haven't ever eaten carnitas but boy where they good!
Thanks and love love the blog

Georgia

Leslie said...

I live in Baytown, 25 miles east of Houston, the only place I find Carnitas around here are Hectors in Crosby on hwy 90 or Las Brisas 2 miles south of Kemah on hwy 146. I don't find them in many resturants around Houston. Both these places have excellent home style Mexican food.

enjoy

ken said...

Oh my, this was very good. I have tried a couple of carnitas recipes at home that did not involve using lard. They were ok but this recipe rocks! I thought there was too much liquid after 2 hours but that was not the case. The liquid cooked off just like you said and then the lovely pork shoulder browned vey nicely--heaven. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how excited I am to have found your blog. (I'm also a native Texan living in exile.) I did a Google search for carnitas and, lucky for me, it was one of the first ones to pop up. I can't wait to try this and your many other recipes (particularly the sopapillas, which bring me back to my childhood like no other food on the planet). I was wondering, though, if there's any way to make these ahead of time; do you think they might store in the fridge for a day or so? I ask because I only have one large pot and I'm cooking for 15, so I would have to do it in batches...

- Elizabeth

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Elizabeth, you can make them ahead of time, just reheat in pan with a bit of water.

suzanne said...

so...

THESE WERE THE BEST FRIGGIN' CARNITAS I HAVE EVER HAD!!! EVER!!!

i was taking dinner to a dinner party (you know, a "if you clean your house, i'll cook dinner" party) and went in search of a recipe for my beloved carnitas. i have been eating them for about 25 years, ever since my favorite restaurant "miguel's cocina" in coronado, cali got me hooked. my mama will make them every once in awhile (that is a standing request for my visits home). but holy moly! these blew every carnita i have ever eaten out of the water! and served with ninfa's green sauce? heaven.

i had to make a few modifications as i was cooking a 9 lb butt. i doubled the oj but only put 1 1/2 times the amount of water. i cooked it for about 1 1/2 hours (i didn't get started on time), then drained the leftover liquid, put the pork on a sheet pan and baked it on 400 for about 10 minutes.

i will dream about this dish tonight! thanks SO much!

dad in up said...

i have just found the reason God invented the internet.recipes for real food.we left the houston area 15 years age,after my daughter and her family, we miss the food the most. like the person from alaska,we have no deacent food up here. living in yooperland(upper peninsula of mich.)there just ain't no good food. these people eat pasties for goodness sake.yuk!!we can also relate to the ro-tel syndume.we have shipped the contents of our luggage home in order to bring back avacado's, ranch beans, wolfe brand chili,etc.a note to visiters to houston, try the donkey in pasadena on spencer hwy. the green sauce they serve is drinkable.and as afr as bottled salsa, try la sabrozita. my poor daughter has to mail this to us every year along with cajan power sauce.thanx again.

Anonymous said...

Just found yall, and I gotta say I love it. My choices for Tex-Mex seriously suck here in Mobile, AL. Grew up eating at Doneraki and Ninfas on Nav. man I miss that place. Thanks for the recipes. And remember, to those still back home "you might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars your in Texas"!

Anonymous said...

I tried your recipe this weekend. Carnitas came out great. I made a few changes though, I added onions and garlic to the first step. After the carnitas were done, I caramelized some onions and added the shredded carnitas to the onions and stirred fried them together in a large wok for a few minutes. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

They sound so delicious. With my hectic schedule, I was wondering if you or has anyone attempted to cook these carnitas in a slow cooker/crockpot?

Anonymous said...

This recipe is fantastic. I've over/under/poorly cooked my pork shoulder nearly every time. Thanks so much!

I added Guajillo and Ancho chile powder to the braising liquid, to great effect.

Stephen said...

Amazing recipe. So glad you posted this. Tried it this past weekend to great success. Carnitas are all the rage here in Los Angeles (I never actually ate them when I lived in TX) and I wasn't sure how they were made. Now I know and this recipe will forever be in my arsenal, thanks to you!

Anonymous said...

I made your carnitas over the weekend...so good! Right before the last boiling...we added some garlic and onion seasoning. I served it with refried beans, homeade rice salsa, corn tortillas, and guac! Thanks for this recipe!

Storm said...

Looks like a pretty authentic and yummy recipe. My grandfather used to make it with halved oranges, lard, and milk (instead of water). For health reasons, I've made modifications similar to the ones in your recipe, but have never quite been able to recreate the tenderness that his recipe produced... Thanks for the post.

BillyBobSA said...

When you have leftovers (if you have leftovers)...Carmelize an onion (I used a 1015 Texas Sweet) Once it is brown and beautiful, move it to the side of the saute pan and add some carnitas. Add a good shot of beef broth and let that reduce down to almost nothing. Put all these goodies on a toasted torta roll with some creamy Ninfas sauce.

Casey said...

I just used this recipe for Carnitas and was blown away... I don't think I ever want to eat pork any other way again.

I wasn't a huge fan of the Ninfas sauce though. To me, it tasted simply like a blend of guacamole and sour cream, which is respectable enough, but I wasn't blown away by it.

I think I ate a half pound of the pork by itself while I was getting the rest of the meal ready.

Anonymous said...

The first couple of times I made this, I got a mass of dry pork strings embedded in a black-bottomed pan. Then I figured out that you have to turn the heat DOWN when the liquid is almost evaporated, watch carefully, and barely stir at all or the pork will shred (in fact it's better if you carefully flip rather than stir).

Having realized this, your version of carnitas is now an indispensible part of my dinner rotation. I made them tonight and OMG, I am in hog heaven, eating as I type. THANK YOU for the recipe!!

Anonymous said...

I made these last night and they were awesome! I used a pork roast and it didn't have enough fat so I had to add a little more liquid towards the end of the cooking. In addition, I spiced the meat with salt and a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. When the liquids were browning on the bottom of the pan I deglazed with a splash of vinegar to prevent burning. The meat was tender, sweet, spicy and tangy! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I made tacos with the meat, but I can think of so many tasty ways to serve this dish. I will be making this again and again! Thank you for posting!

Laura said...

Woooow. So I checked this recipe out a few weeks ago and tried it AT FIRST with a pork tenderloin. Not amazing... kinda dry, the water burned off way too fast, etc etc. I bought carnitas from the corner store (living in seaside, california means there are awesome taquerias everywhere!) and needless to say, it couldn't even compare. So I tweaked the process a bit, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, changed my cut of meat. Boy, did it make a difference! I actually tried it with pork ribs (not like a rack of ribs, but big separated chunks, bone-in). Instead of cooking it over the stove, I put three in my crockpot on low for about 8 hours with water just barely covering the meat. After that, I dumped it all in a big pot on the stove where I cooked the water off. HO-LY COW! What a difference! I could actually see the rendered lard at the bottom, and it came out PERFECTLY crisp, almost buttery good inside, and at the end I added minimal seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic and chopped onions) and it came out INCREDIBLE! It's a way to make a delectable, tender meat that sounds like it takes a ton of ingredients and effort, super easy and relatively healthy! Hey, if you can avoid adding five pounds of lard and keep it JUST as good (seriously, can't tell the difference except in how shitty I feel after I have the real stuff) then why not?

Anonymous said...

Not sure how I found my way to your blog but this recipe is DELICIOUS! 1/2 way through I was not sure (boiling pork doesn't smell too good!) but man was it worth it.

And so easy!

I also enjoyed reading the post!

Karen said...

When I first read the recipe for these carnitas and saw how simple it was, I have to admit I doubted how good they might turn out... but, after following your recipe exactly, they were fabulous! My family loved them. I'll definitely be making these many more times. Thanks for posting the recipe!

maggie bam boo said...

this was delicious! i added some garlic powder and they turned out amazing! thank you so much for posting this recipe! =)

the wicked noodle said...

Not sure how I've never arrived at your blogstep before, but now that I'm here, I'm happily going to invite myself in - and I might just stay forever!
I had dinner at my friend Angela's last night, where she served these amazing carnitas! I begged for the recipe and she pointed me here. She made your green sauce, too, and sent me home with some of it; it was extremely challenging not to drink it on the way home.
Can't wait to make both of these fantastic recipes myself!

Shana A said...

Amazingly delish!! Thank you sooo much for posting the recipe!!

Alec said...

i accidentally bought pork shoulder, bone in. can i still use it to make carnitas?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Alec--Yes you can. Just cut the meat off the bone.

Beth said...

My husband is from the Dallas area and always orders carnitas tortas and tacos and burritos here in Boston. I've been trying various recipes and it was this one that sold both him and me. He hated it when I did big chunks of meat, but loved the small, almost shredded pieces you recommend. I, however, did not have any orange juice on hand, so I used the juice of one lime and a tablespoon of brown sugar, which is probably far from authentic but it facilitated the channelization of the meat and smelled divine.

Your blog is beautiful.

the erratic epicurean said...

i tried this recipe over the weekend - fantastic!!

Andrea said...

This is the first time I have ever made Mexican food in my adult life! i live in LA and I never really saw the point of my gringa ass working too hard to screw up something that an actual mexican will sell me for one dollar. But secretly I always wanted to make my own.

Thanks you for this spectacularly simple and delicious recipe. We made 2.2 lbs and I figured we'd have lots left over between two people. NO such luck! Delicious!!

Bob said...

Lisa,

It is joyfully serendipitous that I discovered your blog the other day. Simply stated, I love everything about it. The prose, the photography, and most especially, the food are all skillfully and lovingly presented. Obviously, you are passionate about what you do.

This carnitas recipe is a wonderful example of how good your food is. It is simple to make, and yet its flavors are subtle and complex at the same time: crispy exterior yet a tender and moist interior, tangy/sweet with a hint of saltiness. In a word - succulent and awesome. Yes, that's two words but this is too good for one word. The concept of browning the meat in its own rendered fat (i.e., lard) works like a charm. I made your version of carnitas last night along with your Ninfa's green sauce recipe (anybody who doesn't try it is really missing the boat - what an incredible treat). I also tried your Mexican rice recipe (also very good). My family went crazy. So I made three dishes from your blog and all three rocked. That almost never happens when trying new recipes from any recently discovered food blog. You grasp a fundamental concept that escapes many people: cooking should not just be something that you do - it is something you experience. Cooking is sensory and creative. Cooking evokes memories while it produces opportunities for new ones. I enjoy your stories and your photos. You "get it." Love it - love the blog. Keep up the good work.

dingbatdc said...

I found your blog through a Google search for rendering lard, and have enjoyed cooking a number of the other recipes(lemon chess pie, pinto beans...). This carnitas recipie is fantastic!! I recommended it to a friend and she called as soon as the pork was done. She was also amazed that such a simple recipe could turn out pork that was so good. Keep up the good work!

asriel said...

This recipe is amazing! I happened to have a big hunk of pork shoulder in the freezer, so we made carnitas tonight and they were unbelievable. I didn't even use the orange juice. I kept staring at my plate and thinking that they must have come from a nearby Mexican restaurant, but nope, these carnitas were all mine!

MsJess said...

I made carnitas this weekend and oh dear lord did it taste good! I ended up fiddling with the recipe and adding in a little bit of cola, and some extra cumin. the smell was heavenly. I would note though that since I doubled the recipe and so chickened out of cooking it long enough to render the fat. Next time I make it, I will cook it a shade longer so it gets a little crispy!

Teri said...

I made this last night and it was really wonderful, even my son who says pork is always dry loved it!

I had four lbs of meat so I increased the liquid by one cup. I used two cans of beer, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of o.j. and threw in a handful of garlic cloves. It was a little painful for me to not trim the fat off the meat but it worked out just as you promised. Thanks for sharing!

Phoo-D said...

We made this tonight with a bone in pork shoulder. Instead of cutting the meat in strips I let it cook on the bone and flipped the cut a few times in the pan. I then shredded it once it was finished. The meat was superb in a corn tortilla. Such a simple recipe with very delicious results. Thank you Lisa!

Sarah said...

Made these for dinner tonight - absolutely delicious! This will be my go-to recipe for carnitas from now on.

nathancooksandsingsanddances said...

This is my first comment on your blog, I suppose, but I've been reading it for almost a year now. I'm a fellow Texas expat who realized (about a year ago) that I couldn't get good Tex-Mex unless I learned how to make it myself, and you and Robb Walsh have been my go-tos on my road to discovery. Thanks so much for all your fantastic experimenting and sharing of wonderful results!

As for the carnitas, I convinced a friend to make these to go along with a pie-cake she was baking (long story) and they turned out amazing! Another non-Texan converted to good Tex-Mex. Thanks so much, again!

jeff said...

gidday!i overcooked the carnitas,and they were still great.one piece did explode out of the pot with a loud bang,however.so this recipe is entertaining as well as tasty!

Gregory Walcoff said...

I am from Houston living in LA. I discovered carnitas here and just learned how to cook it in a slow cooker. I am cooking it this weekend and somebody told me to crisp it in oil rather than in the oven as the recipe called for. I entered carnitas in my cell phone browser hoping to find some tips and find this amazing blog. I can't wait for Sunday. By the way, if anybody wants to know where the best carnitas are in LA, it's a place called Chico's in Highland Park.

Kristen said...

I just made this tonight and it is amazing! Only thing I did different was to add about 5 cloves of sliced garlic to the liquid. The garlic completely disintegrated by the end. So good!

Jennifer said...

I made this last night. I hadn't realized how long it would take, so I ate at 10:30 after everyone else went to bed with margaritas in their bellies. Let me tell you. I didn't even care! It was so good, I had a beer with lime and a tortilla with these scrumptious carnitas filling it....and I was the happiest little girl in all of Texas! I order carnitas here often (I live in Texas) and they are either SO expensive or SOOO fatty! (or both) But these were affordable and delicious and....sigh....beyond my expectations for such an EASY recipe!!! You are awesome...AWESOME I TELL YOU! I can now make one of my favorite meals to order out...at home...with my pretty new RED cast iron ceramic pot. *happysigh* I'm thinking leftover carnitas for breakfast! :P

Jen-

lupemctavish said...

I have made these for ages now, and I just need to weigh in to say how stinking delicious they are. Please keep your website up, because I refer to it regularly!

Anonymous said...

I just made these last night and HOLY CRAP they were good. Good as carnitas, but would also have been good on a buttered, toasted bun with barbecue sauce. The men in this house swooned. And smelling that porky scent while it was cooking, and watching their reaction to it, made me wish I could bottle the smell and sell it. Seriously.

R'Becca said...

Live and learn. And then make some authentic carnitas. And I have done all three this very day. MOST DELICIOUS, I will never make them another way.

Susan said...

I just found your blog and I love it. I am a TEXAS girl - grew up in Marshall,TX, went to Baylor, lived in Dallas and Houston and then we moved to Omaha, Nebraska about 12 yrs ago. I love Omaha but I do miss TEXAS and everything about it. I can't wait to try some of your recipes.

Cat said...

I had the burned-on-the-bottom issue, but solved it by putting the surviving meat and fat in a casserole-type pan and putting it in the oven at a 350-degree broil for a few minutes.

Once everyone had eaten their fill, the yummy caramelized bits were all gone, but I've been re-heating the leftovers on my flatmate's cast-iron griddle to make it crisp on the outside.

On a side note, if you are a tiny white girl, the gentleman at the Carneceria counter will ask you 3 times if you're sure you want an entire pork butt before selling it to you. Then he will smile, sigh, and put a hand to his heart when you tell him it is for carnitas.

Thanks from me and my flatmates for the amazing (and amazingly simple!) recipe.

Thomas Rocha said...

I made these for my wife and I yesterday, and we loved them so much! I am amazed that so much flavor could come out of so little work and spices.

autumn said...

transformative. there seem to be a lot of complicated recipes for carnitas out there, but i can't imagine them being better then this.

Susannah said...

oohhhh I'm so glad I found your blog. As a displaced Texan in Kansas City, there are many foods I miss. THis is one of them. I made it tonight and it ROCKS. I added just another about 1/2 cup of orange juice right at the end - it was perfect. Enjoying with some fresh tortillas (luckily we do have that here), tomato, avocado slices and thinly sliced onion. That's all it needed. My kolache dough is rising as we speak. I'm having a totally homesick weekend :)

Anonymous said...

Lisa,

This was the absolute best carnitas ever! I've never made it before becuase I had always thought you had to use 3 lbs of lard to get the carnitas to not only be tasty but also "authentic". Uhhh..... I was wrong wrong wrong!!! Your recipe ROCKS. Who knew 4 ingredients could yield such a fabulous result! I think I ate half of it before it hit the table for the rest of my crew. I made an avocado jalapeno salsa a la Pollo Regio (roasted chicken chain in Texas) to go on my tacos. YUMMY!
Thank you...thank you.. thank you..

-Judy in the Big D

Anonymous said...

Native Texan in Houston here. Great blog ... so glad I found it (biscuit search got me here) Made these on Sunday and it came out pretty tastey - I'm still eating the leftovers. It was just a little dry but I'm pretty sure it was my execution. When you said to turn up the heat and stir - it didn't take much for my meat to fall to pieces. I guess I overstirred. :o\ Nonetheless, I was determined to get some yummy caramelized crust and I guess I overdid it a bit.

I also think my butt may have been a bit on the lean side as not much fat was rendered (or I just don't know what I was looking at). Next time will definitely go with no bone for more uniform strips.

I think I like butts better as carnitas than smoked ... and I love pulled pork. This is so MUCH less work to make!

Grady

jenny said...

awesome recipe. I've been looking for a good carnitas recipe for years and this is simply the best. thank you so much. i made this last night and my hubby has requested an encore ASAP!

kristine said...

hi lisa
hope you are well! hey just wondering, i have bought a pork shoulder ( butt) for this recipe but in australia it comes with the skin rolled around it- ( i know.. chicharones!! hehe) but did yours have skin on it?
thanks
k

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kristine--No, mine does not have skin on it.

angie said...

I just made these, and I can only describe the result as wonderful, tender, pork-flavored candy. Perfect.

Kristin said...

Thanks for the recipe! I'm planning on making it for my bday party next week. Any chance I can use pork loin roast instead of pork shoulder? There's a sale on the roasts...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kristin--While I've never done it with pork loin, I wouldn't advise it as that's a very lean cut and you need a fatty cut for the recipe to work.

Mimi2six said...

I live in Houston and I have to agree, Mexican carnitas are the best. I always order them when I go to the hole in the wall Mexican restaurants that I like to frequent. Oh my goodness, I am starving, I think I am going to have to go and buy some pork and try your recipe. Thanks for sharing, this is some great stuff. Those that haven't tried them before are in for a treat.

A Plain Path said...

I am a new follower! My husband found your blog and made your Carnitas yesterday. Oh my....delish!! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just found the blog a few days ago and made the carnitas for tonight's dinner. My wife, son, his friend & myself loved them. We went for the pulled pork style & served them with on corn tortilla shells with queso fresco & salsa. Great & very simple recipe. I can't wait to try some more. --Cherry Hill, NJ.

Anonymous said...

I found you're blog awhile ago and finally tried this recipe along with the recipe for tomatilla salsa. Absolutely wonderful!!! The best carnitas that I have ever eaten!! thank you for posting!!! Coeur D Alene,Idaho

Esperanza said...

Thanks a lot for this wonderful recipe, I made it once and it was to die for , so I am making it again for guest tomorrow, I can not wait.

Esperanza

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe. I love Carnitas, but have never made it at home. This was my 1st time and I was so happy how easy it was to do. I did not get the same results with the water and OJ, so I put the chunks it the oven for 30 minutes at 350 and I was so happy. Thanks again for the tip. Hayward CA.

Derrick said...

Lisa,
You must be ready to burst with excitement with the pending release of your book. I am going try this again. I used a pork blade roast for my first attempt, it had plenty of fat and was marbled like Kobe beef. It was about 6 pounds. It came out delicious, in my opinion, nice and juicy. The flavor was unique, in a good way, and amazing for a recipe that has only 4 ingredients. For the other guests they found it yummy but a bit too fatty. Like some of posts above, mine stuck too, but I think it was a combo of the heat (my mom's stove which I am not used to) and the fact that it was 6 pounds of meat. This time a 3 pound pork shoulder with bone, I will toss it in for flavor.

Omar said...

I've run across your blog a couple of times recently looking for odds and ends.. and now I know I need to bookmark it! I was making Mark Bittman's beer braised carnitas and thought, "Hey, I think this needs orange juice!" I am also a Texan living in NYC and while I don't miss home.. I do miss the food! I'll be checking in often. Cheers.
p.s. Your Mom sounds awesome! That's the kind of airport pick-up I can get behind.

Michael C said...

I also was turned on to the beauty of carnitas at Amalia's many years ago, and have been making my own versions since. My favorite involves a spice rub utilizing ground chipotle, pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika), garlic powder, and salt. Cover 2" cubes 24 hours in advance of cooking. I tried your suggestion for orange juice (I usually use one of the St. Arnold's beers) and was rewarded with the best results yet, so thank you! The rub adds a nice smokiness and bite that my family enjoys. Careful with the chipotles. Some are quite harsh tasting. The best I've found are at Hubble and Hudson in The Woodlands. I simply grind them in the spice grinder and add to the other dry ingredients.

I've made these for various personal and corporate functions over the years. Folks seem to love them. I usually have three different 'heat level' variations on the Ninfa's style salsa verde, with the only basic difference being that I prefer to roast my tomatillos, chiles, and garlic. The various heat levels are 1) a couple of seeded serranos and a couple of poblanos, 2) anaheims plus several unseeded serranos, and 3) anaheims, serranos, and habaneros. Number three is not for the faint of heart!

Love your blog. Keep up the great work!

Vicki said...

I made this with a few changes. I didn't have any orange juice, so I used a can of Rotel instead, plus I added some cumin & chili powder. Next time, I will add a little less salt and a little more cumin, and I will try to have some OJ on hand to give that a go. Great recipe tho. It was a HUGE hit.

Anonymous said...

When in Houston there is only one restaurant you need to know about. Ninfas on Navagation Street. Best Carnitas ever. This restaurant opened in the early 70's and some say Mama Ninfa was the first to ever offer Fajitas in the USA.

kelley15942 said...

This was a huge hit with my family! We needed something different and I needed somthing easy. Cant wait to receive my book!!!

Allison said...

without question, the best carnitas I've ever had! We had them with some of your spicy coleslaw. Can't wait to pour through the rest of your site. Thanks for posting!

LynneM said...

This recipe was heaven, but I used your adaptation that includes cumin and lime juice, along with the other ingredients. OMG. Everyone raved and I had to send my guest home with a little doggie bag for the next day. I served mine with homemade flour tortillas, homemade salsa and coleslaw. It was a wonderful evening. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Thanks so much.

Mindy said...

No doubt in our minds, these were the best carnitas we have ever had...the best pork we have ever had! Thank you for sharing this with is, for posting this fool proof, fantastic recipe. Simply amazing!

Ana said...

i made these tonight with your pico de gallo and homemade tortillas. you're saving my marriage! we're newlyweds and my husband is a full, happy man. i'll definitely be making more of your recipes...thank you!!!

Rick said...

Beautiful. I gave your recipe a try and the results far surpassed my braised version. Each piece was pastoral, just the right amount of flavor, fat and color. The hog would have been proud.

Anonymous said...

Just "found" your blog via Smitten Kitchen. I'm a expat Texan living in S. Florida and miss many foods from home - Chapel Hill / Burton sausage, brisket, and gorditas just to name a few. I'm so pumped to try out this recipe. Maybe that will be one less thing on the list of things I'm craving. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been making your recipe for 3yrs now and every time I make it my family praises me to no end. I'm going to make this for years to come. Thanks again so much for making this a family recipe.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, LISA!! This is probably the best thing I have ever cooked, and I cook a LOT. My family loves this with tacos and enchiladas made with your corn tortilla recipe. And the chili gravy....PERFECT. Hubby can't eat onions, garlic, tomatoes, or peppers (which makes it really hard to cook for him) but he can handle this chili gravy without much trouble. When I told him that the recipes for all of the above came from the gal who wrote the cookbook I wanted for Chriatmas, he was ready to go to the bookstore! I think I know what I'm getting for my birthday :).

Johana said...

Hi, not sure if you still check these, but just in case--my grocery store had pork shoulder, but cut in rather thin slices--fatty, but like a half inch thick? should i just cut back on cooking time?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Johana--That's what I would do.

crafterly said...

Is it possible to have too much fat on the pork? Let me say, first, that this was delicious. (I've made carnitas with David Lebovitz's recipe and while they were wonderful, it was time consuming.) I followed your recipe, but I think I left on too much fat. (I had a huge, read: 10-lb, pork butt.) I decided to cook in two batches, since my dutch oven wouldn't accommodate that much meat to ensure crustiness of the carnitas. After the two-hour simmer, I brought to boil, but I don't think I watched carefully enough and the pork stuck to the bottom of the pan - it had plenty of fat, believe me. I let it cool, and it "unstuck" without pulling the pork into shreds; I cooked the second batch the next night and brought to boil stage. Let it boil until just before the pork stuck to the pan. I removed the pork pieces, and using a large sheet pan, put some of the pork fat on the pan (just a bit and spread all over), then put all the carnitas on the sheet pan in a single layer. Put the pan in the oven, cranked up the heat - 450 degrees, and cooked the carnitas. That did the trick, wonderfully crispy carnitas. Served with your pinto beans, your green sauce, and my cabbage slaw. My husband swooned :) Next time I'll try using a smaller cut of pork butt, and see if I can't get this down to a single pan. Wow, that was a long comment - this coming from someone who rarely comments on blogs. But I just had to let you know how much we enjoyed this version of carnitas! Thank you :)

Dylan said...

Hey Lisa. I recently discovered your blog and I'm so glad I did. I'm a starving student that loves to cook and this recipe in particular is a lifesaver because pork butt is a very affordable cut of meat and carnitas are delicious. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I made the carnitas for the first time 5/7
Of course I had no sour orange or anything citrus in the house! So I used cider vinegar.
This is the best, yummiest pork I've ever tasted. I'm now addicted to carnitas!
For the leftovers I made your salsa verde to make enchiladas....oh my. So good.
I love your blog!!
Mary

Michelle said...

I have to say I wish I'd left out the orange juice. After it reduced I thought it had an acidic taste I didn't care for. I also found that I ended up with a very savory gravy, but not enough fat to crisp anything up. Might try it again without the orange juice.

Kristofer Thurston said...

Wow... so good. Followed the recipe to the T and the family loved it. I didn't really have a choice between doing it pulled or cubed as the pork pretty much fell apart when I tried to turn it over and brown the other side (but I intended to serve it pulled anyway).

Thanks for the recipe!

derek said...

I made these this weekend(07/14/12). Wow! They turned out great and the recipe is super simple. Over the July 4th week I was in Houston and my brother and I played golf at Kingwood Country Club. There is a little snackbar on the grounds that serves Tacos de Carnitas Fri-Sun and they are without a doubt the best tacos I have ever had. Hard to believe in a place like Houston that I'd find the best tacos at a country club, but it's true and I'm no taco beginner. My trip to Houston inspired me to make these. I can honestly say these were a very close second and no doubt the best tacos I've ever made. Thanks so much for this recipe, it will be used again and again. So far Lisa you are two for two, this recipe and the Good Fortune soup which is equally amazing. Thanks again!

LauraS said...

I have made this recipe a few times, and every time it gets rave reviews.

Kassandra Deck said...

I just made this and it was so good. My son ate the leftovers today until he was sick. We are from San Antonio and have to live in Missouri now. This brought back so many memories. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Cala said...

Can you freeze leftovers of this recipe? It's just the 2 of us, and while I have a serious jones for carnitas right now, I am sure there will be entirely too much for us to eat alone!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Cala--You can freeze the leftovers. Though I wouldn't keep them in the freezer more than a couple of months.

Sven Börjesson said...

Best recepie so far. So simple, so easy, so good. My kids just love it and their friends to. The third time I added just a bit of a ancho. Goes well with the orange juice.

/Sven from Sweden

Anonymous said...

Great process!I find boneless country style ribs work perfectly,are often very reasonably priced in "family packs".I chunk then 2 to 3 in long.
For those who have had problems with heat management,try an electric fry pan..Stage 1,try 190 deg f(I'm at 5000 ft,you may try 200 or so lower) .
I do not even salt till the water is about gone.

When the fibers will separate a bit when a chunk is pressed with a fork,I press each one to "crack" the piece,then kick it up to 325 for the brown.

I add some cumin,maybe a little lime.

NoCo Bob

bfish said...

I've made this recipe about a half dozen times over the past several years -- it's definitely a keeper! And it was a huge hit at the big July 4th party we have; it got wiped out quickly which I didn't expect as many of our neighbors here in VA are not the most adventurous eaters.

I've not had any significant problems with sticking or needing to crisp up in the oven. I may be cooking it "lower and slower" than some folks, and I've never made less than a 6 lb. batch. One thing I've learned the hard way is that pork shoulders from the supermarket are injected with salt so the amount noted in the recipe makes the dish way too salty if that's the product one uses.

I do like some added flavors so I include some bay leaves, small dried chiles, lots of garlic cloves (they melt away), and cumin seeds -- then put in some ground chipotle chiles at the end. Bay leaves and whole chiles are removed before eating.

Texalian La Rose said...

Love these Carnitas de Peurco!!! Added this most simple yet most delicious recipe to my collection! Love your Blog! I live in Italy, known fro great Italian Food and great vino...Mexican Food and beer, ah, not so much. I love both cuisines. Being from Texas I am always on the lookout for great Mexican and Tex-Mex Recipes!

Melissa said...

This has become one of my favorite meals to make on a lazy Sunday. Easy, and always delicious! I am really enjoying reading your other recipes, and I especially appreciate your references to other chef-bloggers / authors. Thanks for all of this deliciousness!

Anonymous said...

My goodness, you have a following - me too ! I made your recipe turkey enchilada verde soup - knocked my sock off. Wow! I sent it to all my friends via u.s. mail. Thanks so much for sharing your talent. Fonce'

Miyo said...

I tried this recipe.
Everybody love it!
Thank you very much!

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