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Monday, April 2, 2012

Pork Carnitas to break a 2 week cooking hiatus




The last couple of weeks have been a very trying time as we suffered a loss of a much loved family member. Not only did I not blog at all, I have only cooked one meal in all that time. We have eaten out or ordered in every night and now it's time for all of us to get back on track and , for me, that includes getting back in the kitchen.



It was also my birthday this week and we had planned to go to a new Mexican restaurant that I am loving, Pachuco but when the time came, everyone felt more like pizza so we went to Pizzeria Libretto instead. Remind me to write a review of that place because we have eaten there at least four times in the last couple of months and every single time I am amazed at how much I love everything that I have shoved into my mouth. If you could see how my pants are fitting me right now, you would understand the depth and breadth of my love for their pizza.

Anyway, I still had a craving for mexican so I took a chunk of pork butt out of the freezer and decided that Sunday would be a perfect day to throw it in the crock pot. It also a good opportunity to finally use some of these Rotel tomatoes that I brought back from my last day trip to the States. This is a product that doesn't exist here in Canada but it seems to be a thing that all of my American friends wouldn't think of running out of and I wanted to see what all the hype is about.

The kid would be gone all afternoon at a Hunger Games extravaganza and we planned on taking advantage of that by going out to do grown up things so a slow cooker meal was the perfect choice but I am sure you could also do this in a slow, low oven in covered casserole as well. I found this recipe on a blog called Once a Chef, Always a Chef and was intrigued by the frying of the meat in it's own fat after it's cooked to get it all crispy.

I am not sure that this was the best way to use the Rotel for the first time only because, in the end, I am not sure if it would have tasted all that different if I had just used normal canned tomatoes and some jalepenos and I think I will try to use if for something where the flavour won't be so lost next. Regardless of the Rotel worry, it was pretty delicious and we loved the crispy meat. Usually I would just cook it down a bit but serve it still a bit soupy and soft so this was a very nice change and something that I will do again. Next time, I will spice it up a bit more, give it more heat and maybe add some dried chills as well. I made burritos with fresh flour tortillas the next night with the leftovers to equally enthusiasm for more of this  crispy, kind of fabulously oily pork.






Pork Carnitas
adapted from these slow cooker carnitas from once a chef always a chef

1 1/2 to 2 lb pork butt
1 can rotel (I used mild)
1 tbls cumin
1 tbls chili powder
1 heaping tbls mexican oregano
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of cilantro


chipotle crema
2 heaping tbls greek yogurt
1 heaping tbls mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch smoked paprika
pinch chilli powder
pinch chipotle chilli powder
pinch kosher salt

mix all together in a small bowl.

pickled red onions
Thinly slice 1 small red onion
squeeze the juice of 1 orange over the onions
add 1/3 cup of cider vinegar
sprinkle a good sized pinch of mexican oregano over the onions
pinch of kosher salt and a couple grinds of black pepper
smash two cloves of garlic and add those.

2 cups masa harina
2 cups warm tap water

mix together the masa  harina and the water and cover and let it sit for about 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. When it's time to make your tortillas, check it and if it feels a bit dry, add more water, a tbls at a time until if feels like soft cookie dough.
Preheat a dry cast iron griddle or pan over med high heat.
 Divide it up into about 16 golf ball sized balls and cover. Take one ball at a time and either roll it out really thin or use a tortilla press (wrap the two discs in plastic wrap) to press out each tortilla.
Cook the tortillas for about 30 seconds per side (they should puff up) and wrap them in a clean tea towel until you are done all of them. You can let them sit, wrapped in the warm tea towel for 10 or 15 minutes as well.










Cooking the Pork:


Pour the can of rotel and half a can of water into a slow cooker.Rub the pork butt with the cumin, chili powder  and oregano and put it there on top of the rotel. Sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper , throw in the garlic cloves,  turn the heat on low and walk away. Go out for the day and enjoy yourself and when you come back 6 to 8 hrs later, you will have some delicious pork that is just falling apart waiting for you.
Remove the pork from the slow cooker and discard most of the obvious fat (the really big chunks but leave a bit of fat clinging to the pork chunks). Break it up with hands if you have time to let it cool a bit or with a couple of forks if you don't.  You don't have to shred it completely because it will fall apart as you fry it.


Put all of the meat and juices into a big frying pan and let that cook down over high heat until all of the liquid is absorbed and the meat starts frying in it's own fat until the edges of the meat start to get a bit crispy. This is when you take if off the heat and mix in a handful of cilantro.


I serve it with pickled red onion, chipotle crema , some finely shredded cabbage on warm, fresh corn tortillas but you can also skip the frying part and eat the shredded pork (with as much fat removed as you can manage if you choose to eat it like a stew) on a bowl of rice if you don't want to use it for tacos.