Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Carnitas is a Mexican dish meaning "little meats" but we traditionally know it as braised then fried pork.  This carnitas dish accomplishes exactly that, with 3 ingredients.  The simplicity of the dish is deceptive once you try the pork.  Salty and crispy, almost bacon like in aroma and taste, yet tender and succulent and completely addictive.  All that from 3 ingredients?  You bet it's Witchcraft!  I got this recipe from my friend and cooking buddy Phyllis.  She acquired it from Diana Kennedy when she was working as her soux chef in the '80's.  Knowing that the recipe is a tried and true one from Phyllis - and that she worked directly with the chef creator -  really sealed the deal for this Kitchen Witch.  Carnitas were on the menu!

Here's how these carnitas go down.  Get your pork - butt (shoulder) or country style ribs are great choices.  You want to make sure you have plenty of fat and connective tissues - therein lies the secret to these great carnitas.  Either have your butcher (or yourself if you've got the knife skillz to do that) debone the butt, or find a boneless variety, and slice the meat into 2 inch wide by 5-6 inch long strips.  The Kitchen Witch found a great deal on country style ribs and used those in this recipe with great success, and bonus, the ribs are already cut into the size I needed.  Less prep work = happiness!  Once your meat is deboned and cut into strips place them into your largest skillet.  If you don't have a skillet big enough a dutch oven will work as well, it just takes a bit longer to cook off the liquids.  Sprinkle the meat with kosher salt then cover with water so the meat is covered just barely in liquid.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a hard simmer (medium heat, you want bubbles breaking the surface) and allow it to simmer until all the water has cooked off.  Once the water has cooked off you'll hear a distinct difference in the sound of the cooking, it changes from simmer to a sizzle.

As the meat is simmering in the water it is braising, cooking and becoming tender and delicious.  The connective tissues are also breaking down and becoming flavorful while the fats are rendering out of the pork.  The fat sits on top of the water while it's simmering and once that water is gone, the meat begins to sizzle.  Here's the real secret of good carnitas, frying the pork in it's own fat (or confit).  Allow the meat to fry and brown in the rendered fat, it takes about 5-10 minutes per side.  Be sure to flip the chunks to brown evenly.  This will make your cooking pan look like an utter disaster but I promise you all that the extra clean up is totally worth it.  And the crispy parts on the bottom of the pan, well those are just bonus treats for the cook.  Yay!  Once the meat is evenly browned remove it from the pan and either serve as chunks or shred and eat with tortillas.

From start to finish these took about 2 hours and were some of the most amazing pork I've ever made.  Tender and succulent, crispy and indulgent all at once.  I really hope you try and enjoy this dish soon!

makes 8 servings
SOURCE: The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy
3-4 lbs of boneless pork shoulder (butt) or country style ribs
2 t kosher salt

Cut pork into strips about 1 inch wide and 4-5 inches long.  If using country style ribs they are precut so no extra work is needed.

In a large skillet or deep pan add the pork. Sprinkle with salt.  Add water to the pan to cover the pork.  Heat the pan over high heat until boiling then reduce the heat to an aggressive simmer (medium heat).  Cook until the water cooks out and only pork and fat are left in the pan.  Continue to cook pork in the fat until browned, turning pieces to brown evenly on all sides.

Serve with your choice of warmed corn or flour tortillas and toppings of your choice.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 503.2 Total Fat 36.6 g Saturated Fat 13.6 g Polyunsaturated Fat 3.2 g Monounsaturated Fat 15.8 g Cholesterol 147.9 mg Sodium 580.3 mg Potassium 557.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 0.0 g Dietary Fiber 0.0 g Sugars 0.0 g Protein 40.6 g


StephenC said...

I love the simplicity of this way of cooking the pork. I see country ribs on sale at Safeway from time to time. I really want to try this technique.

Michael Toa said...

oh my, that looks superb. I love pork anyway, but this just looks utterly delicious.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

I can't believe you get so much flavor from 3 ingredients. I am dying to make this but predict I'll rub some brown sugar and cumin on the pork...but I'll try REALLY hard not to. What a great one - thanks for sharing!

Yenta Mary said...

Oh, my word, those are fabulous!!! Pork is one of the great foods in the universe, and this just proves it. Doesn't need a lot of doctoring, just its own sweet self ... :)

Jenn said...

Carnitas are huge here... my friend Rube makes killer carnitas.. I think you could totally give him a run for his money!! Looks fabulous!

Lea Ann said...

You have a friend that was a soux chef for Diana Kennedy???? Can I get YOUR autograph? :) Rick Bayless just did a whole show on Carnitas and I watched him prepare them in his kitchen. I'd really like to try it. Looked do-able-ish. :) He did his with bone-in pork roast. They just sound wonderful.

Ann Minard said...

Mousse not mouser silly kindle.

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