Pork Carnitas and Salsa Verde
4 lb boneless pork butt, fat trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 medium orange
2 cups water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1½ lbs tomatillos, cleaned and halved
½ chopped white onion
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp lime juice
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers
3 cloves garlic
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Combine the pork, 1 onion, orange, water, 2 tbsp lime juice, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, and salt & pepper in a large oven safe pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Once it simmers, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for around 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
While the carnitas are cooking in the oven, prep your salsa verde. Heat a thin film of neutral oil in a wide pan over high heat. Once the oil is up to temperature, place the halved tomatillos skin-side down. We’re looking to blacken the skins to add a roasted flavor to the salsa.
Once the skins are nicely blackened, add the cooked tomatillos to a blender / food processor along with 1 tbsp lime juice, ½ chopped white onion, garlic cloves, cilantro, and peppers. Blend until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season this mixture with salt and lime juice to taste, then place it aside in the fridge until ready to use.
Once the meat is ready, remove the pot from the oven. Strain out the solids, reserving all the liquid and returning it to the pot. Place this liquid back on the stove over high heat and reduce until thickened and syrupy, about 20-30 minutes.
While the liquid is reducing, take your pork and pull the pieces apart into bite sized pieces with two forks. Once the liquid has reduced, fold in the pieces of pork back into the pot until everything is combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the pork evenly onto a foil lined baking tray, as flat as possible ideally. Place the sheet pan under the broiler until the top of the layer is browned and slightly crispy. Remove the pan, flip around the pieces, then broil again until the other side is also browned. Serve hot in tacos with some salsa verde, melty cheese, and raw diced white onion.
Carnitas, or ‘little meats’ in Spanish, is a Mexican braised and seared/fried meat filling. Traditionally, the meat would be braised in lard for many hours over very low heat, then the temperature is increased and the meat gains a crispy exterior. This recipe uses pork that is instead cooked in a mixture of citrus and water, which is then pulled apart and seared under the broiler. This produces a similar style of carnitas in a method more suited for the home kitchen. I’ve listed this recipe along with a salsa verde recipe that compliments the meat nicely.