Carnitas. Tender pulled pork with crispy bits. Clearly food heaven.
Carnitas are very simple to throw together with minimal prep work. Traditional carnitas are braised for a few hours in lard and water. As the pork slowly cooks, the water evaporates and the lard works its magic, giving the carnitas their delicious, golden brown crust.
This recipe is my own take on carnitas and omits the lard, using just water for braising. This omission certainly does not reflect any concerns about lard. In fact, lard is an incredibly healthy source of fat when it comes from good pastured sources. It was a primary source of fat for many families before our fat-phobic era and the donning of hydrogenated vegetable oils hit our tables. According to Mary G. Enig, nutritionist/biochemist and author of Know Your Fats, lard is typically 40% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat and 10% polyunsaturated fat. Saturated fat in lard actually protects the more vulnerable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from oxidizing when exposed to heat. This makes lard an excellent fat source for cooking and baking.
I love the spice combo in carnitas and cinnamon and pork are an unusually delicious pairing. These carnitas can be enjoyed a number of different ways. They’re delicious served with eggs and salsa or as a main served with roast potatoes and other root vegetables. But our favourite way to enjoy them is wrapped in lettuce or gluten free corn tortillas with an array of fresh toppings such as:
fresh cilantro or parsley
shredded red cabbage
Tolerate dairy? Add some of your favourite cheese!
3 lb pork shoulder, cut into 4-5 pieces
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 cup water, for braising
Preheat oven: 350F
1. Combine dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Place pork in a Dutch oven and add onion, garlic, dry spices and bay leaf.
3. Add enough water to barely cover the meat (about 2/3 the way up).
4. Place in the oven uncovered for 3.5 hours, making sure to check the pork at least once an hour. If you find that the liquid is evaporating to quickly and the pork is drying out, you can add a bit more water. The pork is done when the meat is fork tender and falling apart.
Fresh squeezed lime upon serving is a must. You won’t be disappointed.
This recipe was cheerfully created for RealFoodToronto.com and foodies like you!