Carnitas. Such a simple word. It just means “little meats.” It can be flavored pretty much any way you like it… Mild or spicy, bold or subtle, with or without citrus. The idea is to take fatty pork, fry it well and braise in a simple broth. Once the meat is cooked, shred and broil or fry again in some fat to get those yummy crispy edges. Eat.
I love love love carnitas! I make them as often as I can. And if for some reason there happens to be leftovers from dinner, it makes a killer frittata with onions, bell peppers and tomato the next day for breakfast or lunch.
Another thing that’s great about this fatty pork staple is that it takes well to a host of different sauces. Tonight I’m making a Warm Pineapple Salsa made simply with a handful of ingredients.
You will love this.
Ingredients for the Carnitas:
- 2-2.5 pounds pork butt–or pork loin if you happen to have that instead
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Coconut oil (find quality unrefined, organic brands here)
- 2 cups organic chicken stock
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed only
- juice from a small lime
Bring the dry spices together and blend in a bowl large enough to hold the pork.
Chop the pork into 3-4 inch cubes and toss in the spice blend.
Work in batches, searing each piece well. Set aside until the last batch, then add everyone back to the party. Squeeze in the fresh lime juice, pour in the stock and add the crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce the heat to low and let braise for a good two hours on the stove top.
While that braises, make the Warm Pineapple Salsa written below. I’ll skip to the next step in the carnitas so this doesn’t get too confusing.
So after the two hours is up, the pork should fall apart just by pressing on it with a fork. It won’t take much. There’s no way around the multi-step process if you want to make these right. Once the pork is shredded, get yet another pan heated up, shoot for medium-high. I like to keep going with coconut oil theme, so add a couple spoonfuls of that to the hot pan.
Working in batches again, fry the pork for a few minutes til the smaller pieces get a little crispy–but not to where all of it is crunchy. There’s succulent shredded pork with the perfect crisp edge and then there’s way overdone, crunchy, dry meat. Choose wisely.
I generally fry up enough for the amount I need for the moment, it may be just a bit or it may be the whole pot.
Another way you can go about this is to place the shredded pork in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish and put it under the broiler for a couple minutes. Obviously, this is way easier. Go with whatever suits.
Ok, so that’s it. Carnitas. I’ve got a couple uses for these. I eat it plain, loaded with shredded lettuce, avocado, tomato and hot sauce. I’ve made burrito bowls using Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice and Spicy Lime Sweet Potato Mash. You can also sub carnitas in my Paleo Tostadas, using roasted portobello mushroom caps in place of crispy corn tortillas. It goes surprisingly well with scrambled eggs… But like I said earlier, tonight is all about the salsa.
WARM PINEAPPLE SALSA
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 cups fresh pineapple, small cubes
- 1 small red onion, small dice
- 1 jalapeño, small dice
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- zest from one lime
- pinch of kosher salt
- coconut oil (find quality organic, unrefined options here)
This is so easy.
Heat a sauté pan to medium and melt in a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.
Add the onion, jalapeño and lime zest. Cook until the onion is just about translucent. Add the pineapple and mix it up. Pineapple is full of sugar so it caramelizes, which is good news for us. Cook it slow and keep it moving. This took a little longer than I anticipated it to cook, so that’s why I mention earlier about prepping the salsa while the pork is braising. I think start to finish this ran around 30 minutes. Literally all you need to do is sauté on medium, keep it moving and know when to call it done. And it’s done when the pineapple has a nice caramel color to it. The pineapple will have softened a bit too, but not so much that it’s mushy. Take it off the heat, mix in the cilantro and cover until you’re ready to use it.
I admit that there’s a lot going on with this plate… I got a little carried away. The bottom is a nice serving of carnitas. Then I added avocado, the Warm Pineapple Salsa and topped it all off with crispy fried sweet potato matchsticks. The fancy-smancy julienne peeler I ordered finally arrived and I wanted to use it somehow. I went to work on a regular sweet potato with the peeler and unfortunately it proved a worthy opponent… I didn’t get far before the stupid blade messed up. Oh well. I had enough to make a garnish… a crispy, salty and subtly sweet garnish.
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There are a couple things that help bring these carnitas and the salsa together. The first item is a Dutch oven. It’s the absolute best tool for braised dishes. The next is a quality stainless steel saute pan. Also, if you’d like to make the crispy shoestring sweet potatoes I topped this with I would recommend using a spiral slicer and not a little julienne peeler like I did. Sweet potatoes are too much for those little peelers.