Saturday, April 25, 2015

Crowd Pleasing Carnitas

Hola!  Wow, it has been such a long time since I shared anything with you – longer than I even realized.  Like a lot of you I have a lot of balls to juggle – I have a full-time, traditional job plus a home-based online retail business on top of all the usual friends, family, pets, etc.  Recently, my interest in Tabletop Role Playing Games has been re-ignited - it’s become an obsession, really, and has consumed even more of my already dwindling free time.  Along with playing RPG’s, however, also comes tasty food.  There is something about playing that just fuels the appetite and my gaming group and I have been eating well, indeed.  One of my fellow players is also a fellow food blogger and I think really has us both raising the stakes in food preparation for our game days which brings us to the lovely Pork Carnitas recipe I made just last Saturday for my gaming group.  The recipe was easy to prepare and the pork was absolutely fall-apart tender and juicy as well as flavorful. 

I found  this recipe for Pork Carnitas and made only a few changes – mostly in cooking method (after all, this is ME we are talking about).  One of my gaming companions is a bigger wimp than I am when it comes to hot spices so I left out the jalapenos.  In the future, if I leave these out, I will substitute for green chilies instead, just to add another layer of flavor. 

To start with, I picked up a 5 pound pork shoulder from the local butcher shop and had them cut it into 2 inch cubes.  Prior to preparing the pork for cooking, I let it sit out about 20 minutes at room temperature.  While my cast iron skillet was preheating I seasoned the pork cubes with salt & pepper (do not skimp on this step!).  In a large bowl, I mixed together the oregano, cumin and olive oil, then I tossed the seasoned pork in the mixture and made sure it was all well-coated.  I seared the pork in small batches, being sure that the largest surfaces were nicely browned before removing them from the skillet.  I placed them right in the crock of my slow cooker and just kept searing in small batches until it was all browned.  Next, I put the onions, garlic and juice from one of the oranges in the still-hot skillet and just cooked them until softened and until all the nice, browned bits came loose from the pan, then I poured it all on top of the seared pork.  To this mixture, I added the juice of the last orange, placed the lid on the crock, put the crock back into the slow cooker base and turned it on low and pretty much left it to itself for the rest of the day. 

I cooked for about 7 or 8 hours before we got around to having dinner and the pork absolutely fell apart with very little effort on our part.  I served it up with rice seasoned with cumin and fresh lime juice, black beans, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce and flour tortillas.   This gave everyone plenty of options to choose how they wanted to prepare theirs – as a soft taco, a salad or a rice bowl.  This dish received plenty of oohs, ah’s and kudos and I definitely recommend giving it a try.   Unfortunately, we were so hungry by then that I forgot to take pictures of the finished product.  It’s great for casual entertaining or for your upcoming Cinco de Mayo fiesta. 

Until next time – hasta luego!

4-5 lb Pork Shoulder, boneless, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, chopped
1 1/4 tbls salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 oranges, juice only
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp EVOO

Set pork out at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. 

Preheat skillet at medium high heat.  Season cubed pork with the salt and pepper.  In a large bowl (or zip-close bag) combine oregano, cumin and EVOO.  Add pork and toss to coat.  Place cubes of pork in pre-heated skillet in small batches (so they are not touching each other) and cook until seared on all sides.  Remove from skillet and place in crock pot or dutch oven.  Repeat steps until all the pork is browned.  Add onion and garlic to skillet, stirring to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, add the juice of one of the oranges.  Cook just until the onions and garlic soften a bit and the juice reduces slightly.  Pour over the contents of the crock pot. Squeeze the juice of the remaining orange over the pork mixture. 

Put the lid on the crock pot and turn on to low heat.  Allow Carnitas to cook for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally. 

When you're ready to serve, remove pork from the crock pot using a slotted spoon.  Use a couple forks to shred the pork (it won't take much effort).  Skim the fat from the juices, discarding the fat.  At this point, you can reduce it, if you'd like.  Pour it over the shredded pork and serve with your favorite taco toppings or burrito fillings and/or rice and beans.  Delicioso!