If you share my enthusiasm for creating your favorite restaurant dishes at home, you’re going to enjoy this post. Things can get pretty scientific when you set out to deconstruct a professionally prepared dish, so I’ve chosen a simple food for this experiment.
I used to be an avid reader of Bon-Appetit and Chef magazines. My favorite places to go within the pages were the columns where chefs would layout their recipes and techniques. It was like insider trading! I felt privileged to have the years of 14 hour days, sweat-soaked brows, and wisdom of these chefs wrapped up in a bow and handed to me on the proverbial plate.
Carnitas are one of those foods that, on the surface, can look complicated to reproduce. The recipe that follows will show you how to use simplicity to make magic.
My attempt at this was years in the making. It started, as my daughters like to say, “back in the day” when I was hustling tortillas for a living. It was 15 years ago, but I remember the scene like it was yesterday. I found myself in the kitchen of a customer’s Mexican restaurant watching a guy laboring over a massive copper kettle with the kitchen equivalent of a boat paddle working boulder size chunks of pork butt around the sizzling fat settling at the bottom. There were all but two ingredients in the giant pot, pork, and salt. His mastery over the fire and how he worked that boat paddle turned those two ingredients into an irresistibly rich and crispy taco filling. I’ve been thinking about that day ever since.
Enough talking, let’s cook.
- 3 1/2 lbs Pork Butt (seek out a source for pasture-raised pork if you can)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil or lard
- Dutch oven or cast iron kettle
- Cut pork butt into 2-3″ chunks
- Salt the pieces
- On your cooktop, heat the oil in your kettle then put in the meat
- Fry the pork on medium-low heat uncovered for 1-hour stirring every 5 minutes or so
- Cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes still stirring every 5 minutes or so
- Heat your oven to 300 degrees
- Put the covered kettle in the oven for 45 minutes without disturbing it.
- Remove from the oven, and with a slotted spoon, put the carnitas in a large bowl. Use the spoon to break up the meat into small strips and pieces.
- Serve it up in some warm tortillas, over a salad, or next to some beans and rice.