Carnitas (Spanish for "little meats") is typically made from a fatty cut of pork, heavily seasoned, then slow braised or roasted for as long as half a day. The slow cooking makes the meat all relaxed and tender, so that it may be pulled apart easily. Then the disassembled meat is joined with some of its rendered juices and roasted (or I've seen it fried at some taquerias) to produce a winning combination of tender meat with some crispy caramelized parts. Yummy! The meat can be used for burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tamale, or simply shoveled directly into your mouth. I would serve it with warm tortillas and pico de gallo; if you're not a purist, you could also enjoy it with guacamole, shredded lettuce, and grated cheese -- but at that point, you may as well just go to Taco Bell.
The slow cooking aspect of carnitas could put a serious crimp in your daytime plans -- as David Cowan would say, who has time for this? But Chris Yeh comes to the rescue with his kind suggestion of a simple carnitas recipe:
- Start with some slices of pork. The best is pork with some fat, like bone-in pork chops, or boneless country ribs.
- Place the pork in a pan, and cover with water. Season liberally with salt.
- Simmer the pork, turning occasionally, until the pork is cooked and the water has partially boiled down (and has been joined by a quantity of melted fat).
- Fish out the pork, remove remaining fat and gristle, and shred/slice. Return to the to cook in its own juices. Season with the juice of one lemon or two limes, depending on your tastes.
- Cook the shredded pork until it crisps, and serve. Delicious!
It doesn't get any easier than that. If you want to increase the caramelization effect or kick the flavor up a notch, my thought is to also season with brown sugar and/or molasses (to better caramelize), pepper, garlic, and even a shot of tequila! Or maybe you do a shot or three of tequila, and then the seasoning doesn't matter any more.