Slow-simmered Pork Carnitas
Those who know me know I don’t really eat meat. Sure, I’ll have two hamburgers per year — and I’ve been known to top a salad with grilled chicken on occasion. Those exceptions aside, I’m more of seafood- and plant-based girl.
To be clear, I have nothing against meat, and I don’t actively avoid meat on holier-than-though premises of animal-rights activism. Though I am personally opposed to veal, puppy mills, horse-racing, and any pasttimes advocated by Michael Vick, please don’t let me stand between you and a nice filet mignon! After all, I’m 50% Pilgrim — I’ve got turkey in my blood.
That being said, I do enjoy preparing meat dishes for other people. A value-pack of chicken breast is blank slate for me, and there are few sounds I prefer more than the jolly crackling of frying bacon. My main squeeze is a professional carnivore, and he eats enough meat for the two of us. He’s a huge fan of anything Mexican, so I’ve really had to up my taco-filling game. With all of the variations I have tried, Tom’s steadfast favorite is carnitas – mildly spicy, melt-in-your-mouth-tender shreds of pork. And really, the recipe itself couldn’t be easier!
All you need is a big ole slab of pork, some Coke, a killer spice rub, and an afternoon of hands-off supervision. A good spice rub is key to imbuing a rich Mexican flavor, while a long, slow simmer is essential for achieving an effortless fork-shred. If you want to make friends, this recipe will help you do just that! #meatpeople
Slow-simmered Pork Carnitas
2-3 pound pork butt or pork shoulder
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
~4 cups Coca-cola or reduced-sodium chicken broth (exact amount depends on the size of your pot)
In a small bowl, combine spice rub ingredients. Pat pork dry with a paper towel, and use your hands to liberally apply the rub all over the outer surface of the pork, using all of the rub and delivering a thorough deep-tissue massage. Wrap pork tightly in plastic wrap, place in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, and chill pork 2-4 hours. Thoroughly sanitize all affected work surfaces post-pork-handling (#trichiNOsis)!
In a medium-sized pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. While oil heats, remove pork from fridge and discard plastic wrap. Once pot is hot, sear all sides/ends of the pork (~2 minutes per side), avoiding any flying oil droplets. Reduce heat to medium low, and carefully pour the Coke or broth into the pot — you want the meat to be ~2/3 submerged. [NOTE: If you are pouring Coke from a larger bottle from which you plan to drink later, take care to not let pork juices splash up into the bottle (#trichiNOsis)]. Cover pot with a tightly-fitting lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to achieve a low simmer, and cook, covered, over low heat, for 4-5 hours, using tongs to carefully turn pork over halfway through cook time.
At this point, the meat should practically shred itself under visual pressure alone. Remove meat from pot, and transfer to a large plate or board. Use two forks to gently pull apart the meat into shreds, following the now evident “fault lines” that have resulted from a long and loving simmer. Meanwhile, raise heat to medium-high, and continue to cook cooking liquid (uncovered), while you shred the meat. Once cooking liquid has reduced by half, return shredded meat to the pot, stir to coat and re-warm the meat.
Serve in flour torillas, corn tortillas, as a topping for nachos, or in whatever recipe you can imagine that would benefit from this luscious meat.