Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carnitas! Loose translation: A carnival of pork in your mouth.

Ok, it doesn't really translate into that, but with one bite, you could see why I describe it as such.

Really, what more needs to be said about this wonderfully porky dish? One of the more recognizable selections in almost any Mexican restaurant, the times I've come upon this dish it has often been a flavorful but softer version, seeming to be more braised than given the more traditional all out lard treatment that Rick Bayless uses. As I wasn't feeding an army I found the Paupered Chef's adaptation a bit more scaleable.

I visited my local Mi Pueblo supermarket, where I was treated to a very nice shopping experience, and I even purchased some pork fat from the nice gents at the meat counter, where they trimmed it for me, after a bit of confusion on what it was I wanted. Of course I also needed the meat, pork shoulder, or espadilla. Tres libras of it in fact.

The large slabs they gave me were probably perfect, but I cut them a bit more to ensure I could put all the pieces of meat into the lard. I won't make that mistake next time, as I think thicker cuts would have stood up well, and produced more of the softer textured pork to balance with the wonderfully crisp exterior that I had slightly more of. I'd probably season a bit more aggressively next time, and substitute a good deal of orange juice instead of lime juice, as I think the sweetness would add to the taste. I should have added some garlic as well. 

Still, the results were fabulous for a first time. After 2 hours in bubbling lard, the pork came out golden and easily pulled apart with two forks into smooth, chewy pieces. Note: Check your setup often, keep your face clear when you open the lid. This can't be stressed enough when you've got bubbling pork fat anywhere. The seasoning issue was mitigated with some sprinkles of kosher salt with a spritz of lime to balance the fatty savoriness of the carnitas. I wish I took the time to show my backyard setup to make this, but I was running around doing several other things.

I found that this guajillo salsa recipe described here was a great accompaniment to the meat.

Mmmm..... Sorry about the mess folks, I was a bit busy.

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