Sometimes, everything just comes together. We were firming up vague dinner plans with our friend J., who said he’d been wanting to make carnitas, on the same day that we just happened to have a couple of ripe avocados that needed to be eaten. Granted, I live in California and have ripe avocados sitting around on a fairly regular basis, but friends only offer to come over and make carnitas two or three times a year.
Since I also had some plantains, and a tortilla press, and a mole coloradito recipe I’d been wanting to try, and a pretty well-stocked pantry and herb garden, we decided he’d come over here and make the carnitas (his recipe is below), and I’d make black beans and mole and fried plantains, and teach him how to make fresh tortillas. (Which, by the way, is so simple that I taught my nephew how to do it before he turned three.)
Carnitas are probably my favorite form of meat. They’re made from pork shoulder or butt that’s been seasoned and slow-cooked in its own fat and juices, then shredded. Think confit without pretensions, or pulled pork with a different seasoning profile. J. used a pressure cooker to make the meat ahead of time, then crisped it up in a frying pan at the last minute (because the crispy edges really are the best). His recipe is below.
3.5 lb pork shoulder butt roast, boneless
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp whole cumin seeds, freshly roasted and ground
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
2 cups water
Cut the roast into five or six large chunks.
Toast and grind the cumin.
Combine all the dry ingredients into a rub, and rub the chunks of pork roast with it.
Place rubbed chunks into a pressure cooker. Add the two cups of water to the cooker.
Pressure cook at high pressure for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the onion and mince the garlic, and set aside.
When cooking is completed, remove the pork and shred with forks.
Take the cooking liquid from the pressure cooker and boil, reducing the liquid as much as is reasonable. Do not discard or separate the rendered fat.
Integrate the reduced liquid and rendered fat into the pulled pork.
Add the diced onion and fry the pork over medium to medium high heat. You will probably need to do so in batches. Add the garlic towards the end of the cooking to prevent burning it. Fry until the pork has achieved the crispy delicious state that is carnitas.
Serve on fresh corn tortillas with a touch of diced, raw onion, salsa or sauce of your choice, and a sprinkling of parsley or cilantro.