Carnitas, literally meaning “little meats”, is a dish of Mexican cuisine that originated in the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes three to four hours, and the result is very tender and juicy meat, which is then typically served with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), diced onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and refried beans (frijoles refritos).
Pork carnitas are traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich boston butt or picnic ham cuts of pork. The 6–16 lb (3–7 kg) sections are usually cut down to a workable (6–10 lb) size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or deep frying.
The traditional way to cook carnitas is in a copper pot (or any thick-bottomed pot), which disperses the heat evenly in a process similar to confit. Lard is used to cover the dish in proportion to the amount of meat being cooked. Once the lard has melted, pork and flavorings are added (usually salt, chili, cumin, oregano or Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic cloves). Traditional carnitas are then made by a process of simmering the meat in the lard until tender over a very low heat. Once appropriate tenderness is achieved, the heat is turned up and the outside of the pork begins to crisp. At this stage, the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped with a cleaver. (WIKIPEDIA)
Having read that, you are probably thinking TOO MUCH WORK! Indeed, my spouse made carnitas the traditional way, complete with the copper pan we bought in Quiroga when we visited that area of Mexico. It took hours and was incredible BUT….too time consuming and messy!
One of my favorite Mexican TV cooks is Pati Jinich, who has a program on PBS and on YouTube (Pati’s Mexican Table). The following recipe is her version and done on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. It was PERFECT and a lot less onerous.
Brown Sugar Carnitas
- 1 cup lard, vegetable shortening, or oil (I used oil)
- 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, fat on, cut into 3” chunks
- 4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups milk, divided
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute.
Heat the lard in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Season the meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper. Once the lard has melted, add the meat, brown on all sides, stirring and flipping as it does, for about 10 to 12 minutes.
In the jar of a blender, pour 1 ½ cups of the milk and add the garlic, onion and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Pour over the meat and let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, drop in the bay leaves, and cover. Cook covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, flipping the chunks of meat a couple times in between.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup milk with the sugar. Pour over the carnitas, stir, and let them continue to cook, uncovered, for another 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and place in a bowl. Shred with a couple forks, add a couple tablespoons of the seasoned fat remaining in the casserole and toss.
This is normally eaten in tacos with toppings like sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo salsa, etc. As you can see we skipped the tacos/tortillas and simply plated it with some rice and green beans.
If you have ever eaten in a Mexican restaurant, then this dish was certainly on the menu! This particular mole sauce is made with chicken as the base and is loaded with different kinds of chilies, nuts, seeds, spices, dried fruit, and chocolate. The taste is best described as somewhat spicy, and bittersweet with earthy undertones. In fact, there are at least seven different types of mole depending on what state you are visiting. Personally, I prefer Oaxacan moles. Starting from scratch can take hours to perfect these sauces. The simplest way to enjoy mole is using a packaged sauce under the Dona Maria brand. A small box is enough to try the first time, by following the directions below. Once your sauce is ready, pour it over your boiled chicken.
- 2 lbs. chicken pieces (boiled)
- 1 box Mole sauce
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 6 to 8 pieces bay leaves
- 1/2 onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
Place chicken and onion in a large pot and add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring it to a boil.
After the water comes to a boil and the release the scum, remove the scum with a ladle.
Add bay leaves and salt. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
To prepare the Mole sauce, open the can carefully as the mole will stain your clothes. Use a sharp knife to cut a ‘X’ into the mole so that you can get the mole out easily. Sometimes, the mole can be rather hard.
Cut up the mole into smaller pieces.
Add water or chicken stock (from pot where the chicken is cooking) to the mole in the ratio of 4 parts of liquid to 1 part of mole. If you intend to store the mole in the refrigerator for a few days, then you should just use water.
Use a potato masher to mash the mole so that it dissolves in the liquid.
Once the mole has dissolved completely, add the peanut butter and mix well. The addition of peanut butter is Rosa’s twist in the recipe. The peanut butter makes the sauce nuttier and thicker. Place the sauce on the stove and cook on medium heat until the sauce thickens. You have to constantly stir the sauce while cooking to prevent burning.
Serve the sauce over the chicken with Spanish rice.
When I was a teenager on the farm I worked at a Gun Club on Sundays setting skeet traps. Skeet shooting is a recreational and competitive activity where participants, using shotguns, attempt to break clay disks mechanically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed from a variety of angles. My mother was a weekend cook and one of the women who prepared clam chowder for the competitors, using cans of clams and water…yuck! I detested this version. Later on in life I came to love New England clam chowder. Recently I came across this recipe which turned out very well.
New England Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks (reserve tender leaves) trimmed, quartered lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 (10-ounce) cans chopped clams in juice
1 cup heavy cream or Media Crema
2 bay leaves
1 pound Idaho potatoes, cut into 1/2- inch cubes I cheated and used canned potatoes chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until softened, mixing often. Stir in the flour to distribute evenly. Add the stock, juice from 2 cans of chopped clams (reserve clams), cream, bay leaves, and potatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently (the mixture will thicken), then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until the potatoes are nice and tender. Then add clams and season to taste with salt and pepper, cook until clams are just firm, another 2 minutes.
Recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman
Trying out a new look for 2015…hope you like it!
We were in Cuba in February and came to enjoy the red beans and rice. Looking for a similar dish, I found a recipe for Cajun Red Beans and Rice on my friend Kevin’s site www.closetcooking.com
I used a smoked pancetta as Andouille is not common down here. The flavour was great. This recipe makes enough for four hungry people!
Cajun Red Beans and Rice (adapted from http://www.closetcooking.com)
• 2 tablespoons oil
• 1/2 pound Andouille sausage or smoked Pancetta (cut into small pieces)
• 1 cup onion (diced)
• 1/2 cup celery (diced)
• 1/2 cup green pepper (diced)
• 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
• 4 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
• 2 (19 ounce) cans red beans (rinsed and drained)
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1 teaspoon thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• salt and pepper to taste
• 4 cups cooked rice (I like to go with Basmati)
1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat add the sausage and sauté until lightly golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, and set aside.
2. Add the onions, celery and green pepper to the pan and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the stock, beans, sausage/pancetta, paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for at least 1 hour
6. Remove the bay leaves.
7. Mash or puree about a quarter of the beans if desired.
If you feel there is too much liquid, just let it simmer down.
Just before serving add the cooked rice.
Lee was asking for some fish dishes a while back. Today and next week, I will post two excellent fish dishes which never fail….here’s my first favourite… you can also search here for salmon…
Filetes de pescado a la Veracruzana (Fish Fillets Braised with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives & Herbs)
No matter where fish is served, you can be sure that pescado a la Veracruzana will be on the menu. It’s a delicious blend of Old and New World ingredients: Capers, olives, herbs, and garlic weave their way through two of America’s greatest contributions to Mediterranean cuisine – tomatoes and chilies. Though practically any firm, white-fleshed fish would work well, when the dish is made with fresh Gulf snapper – as it often is in Veracruz – it’s a revelation.
This is a company favourite in Mexico….well worth the prep time!
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
• 1 cup sliced pitted manzanilla (or green) olives, divided
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup capers, divided
• 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, divided * (optional)
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
• 3 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 6 (6-ounce) red snapper or other firm white fish fillets
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• Flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup olives, water, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 tablespoons jalapeños*, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until reduced to 6 cups. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Discard bay leaves.
Arrange fish in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; drizzle with lime juice, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes; discard marinade.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spoon sauce over fish. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup olives, 2 tablespoons capers, and 2 tablespoons jalapeños*. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.
While on our trip to Patzcuaro and Janitzio, we passed through the state of Michoacan. We did a day trip to Tzintzuntzan and Quiroga. In Quiroga, we sampled the wonderful Carnitas Carmelo (pork). Unable to convince the owner to share his secret recipe, Larry set out to make his own. The original one I posted on the travel blog – www.mexico1012.wordpress.com, but we never actually made it.
With the end of the Maya calendar fast approaching, we decided to have our “Last Supper” with a dozen of close friends. What to serve? Well, he already had purchased the copper pan in Santa Clara del Cobre…so why not make the famous carnitas? Pouring through the Internet he came up with four recipes. Larry being Larry, he decided to improvise using parts of all four recipes. Et voila! Here is HIS version…
CARNITAS DE MICHOACAN
Feeds 12 carnivores!
Prepare this the day before.
2 kilos boneless pork shoulder, cut into approx. 2 inch cubes
1 kilo pork ribs
1 kilo back bones
1 kilo pork fat
¼ cup soya sauce
2 cups safflower oil, or similar
One slab of pork skin with fat left on, about 12 x 12
One large white onion thickly sliced
1 tsp of whole cumin seeds
2 Tbs of Mexican oregano
3 bay leaves
One 4 inch stick of cinnamon
2 Tbs of chopped garlic
6 whole cloves
3 cups of water
1 cup of orange juice
2 Tbs of course salt
Add chiles to suit your taste!!!
Marinate the pork cubes in ¼ cup of soya sauce for about 30 minutes.
Heat the pork fat and oil and add the onion, oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, cloves and garlic. Cook until the onions are well caramelized in color. Remove onion, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside to be added again later.
Brown all of the meats, in small portions, in the hot oil. This is necessary so that the meat does not lower the temperature of the oil and allow the meat to become saturated before sealing the outer surface.
When all of the meats have been browned, add the oranges, orange juice and water to the oil, add in the spices and onions that were set aside. Now add in all the meats. Cover the meat in the with the pork skin. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for approximately 2 to 3 hours. Remove the meats. Allow to cool. Remove all bones from the ribs and spine. Add the meat to the boneless pieces and mix together. Remove the onion and other spices from the hot mixture with a strainer. You can add the onions to the meat mixture. Place the meat and the liquid in separate containers in the fridge overnight. Before you combine the liquid with the meat the next day, remove as much of the congealed grease as possible. Reheat the meat in the broth, adding more water if necessary.
Serve in soft tortillas or ‘Italian’ ciabatta buns. Top with onions escabeche (Recipe follows)