I’ve always seen pictures of carnitas around the internet but I always thought they wouldn’t work for me if I tried them. Turns out I was *mostly* wrong, but I think if I were to do them a second time they would be even more successful.
After looking at a few different recipes, I settled on Melissa’s version over at The Clothes Make the Girl. It appealed to me to do them on the stove since my oven is very cheap and not at all insulated – turning it on for several hours doesn’t always appeal, especially if I have other options. It wasn’t a particularly cold day, so stovetop seemed better! I bought a 7 pound pork shoulder, which was way too big, so I hacked off three pounds of meat and put the rest in the freezer for another time. It will probably end up in the crock pot for pulled pork.
Here is the “uninspired soup phase”:
I had all the spices on hand, which was nice – the spice combination is also quite lovely! I also, out of some sheer bullheadedness, decided to juice several lemons and limes by hand rather than buying bottles of juice:
I wish I had saved all those rinds now for a totally different project but oh well. It didn’t take me too long and I prefer fresh juice! So then the carnitas got cooking! It took about 2 hours, as Melissa stated, for the water to boil off, and then it started to go a bit wrong. I THOUGHT I could get away with turning up the heat a little so the meat pieces would brown more easily…HOWEVER…the sugar from the fruit was lining the bottom of the pan. Guess what sugar does at higher temperatures? If you guessed “it burns”, you get a gold star! Now of course I knew this, but I was hungry and impatient so I let those feelings win out over logic. Once I saw the burning, I turned the heat down and was very attentive to the pork, turning it over frequently so all sides could get a chance to brown. More on the pork in a bit…
I wanted to have some kind of vegetable next to this. My original plan was to get some avocados and make some guacamole, but I forgot to buy them. I did have a cucumber though, and the thought of a nice cool salad next to this delicious pork seemed more appealing than cooked veg. Here are all the ingredients:
What we have here is, one cucumber sliced thin on the mandolin slicer, about 2 tbsp of red onion, a handful of chopped fresh cilantro (coriander), the juice of half a lime, and a dollop of mayo. Nice and fresh! Here is the finished plate, with sesame seed garnish:
First off, this was DELICIOUS. However, I will do some things differently next time. The recipe specifically says not to cut the pieces of meat too small, but most of my larger pieces were NOT tender. There was plenty of fat in the pan, as you can see from the first picture, but it didn’t help the meat stay tender, nor did it help fry the pieces at the end. I think I will cut the pieces smaller next time, OR, I will marinate them overnight with the citrus juice and the spices. Something there just didn’t work for me. Additionally, I might consider adding some fat to the pan for the final frying stage. Mine was all juice, and I’m not sure I could have saved them from burning entirely. If it looks the same next time, a teeny bit of bacon grease might just help things move along a little better.
Bottom line is, I love the recipe and the spices it uses! Something to do with my pork or my stove needs adjustment though, for this to be a complete success. I am willing to try this again at some point! Melissa also has some other delicious looking recipes on her blog that I am definitely going to try!