It’s no secret: The Husband is a huge fan of pork. He seriously can’t get enough, and will eat it any chance he gets.
We used to drive three cities away to San Clemente to get carnitas at La Siesta. Their carnitas are seriously good, and the restaurant itself is quite cool. No outside seating, but inside it’s like a Baja beach shack with margaritas. We fell a little out of love with it when Carmen, our favorite waitress—seriously, she was the best waitress in the world—was fired because the other girls were jealous that every customer wanted to sit in her section if she was working.
So, that dimmed our love a little bit, but we still used to go down there when The Husband needed his carnitas fix. But when I finally decided to make my own carnitas, I think he’s decided he never needs to go there again. Let’s face it, the margaritas, and now the carnitas, are better at our house. And with a lot less travel.
The carnitas meal was prepared in honor of The Father, for his commendable and comprehensive work on the Tiny Kitchen Remodel (photos are coming shortly, I promise!). He needed to be treated, and when I asked him to pick the meal I would make for his honor, he said “Anything you make will be wonderful.”
Spoken like a true loving father, for sure. So I decided to finally take on the carnitas challenge. I looked through about 20 recipes, some with ingredients like beer, Coca-Cola, milk, orange juice and so on, and finally decided on this one from Chow.com. I changed it up a little bit, but not much, mainly just adding some thyme and more garlic. Oh, and some fresh cilantro as well as the coriander seed. And I made a sauce, which I’ll add here after the carnitas recipe.
And, dear readers, it was amazing. The table was very quiet, and seconds and thirds were had by all. The Husband liked it so much he did not offer anyone any leftovers to take home, not even to his lovely mother who lives on her own. I was shocked! But secretly pleased since it means how much he liked it. (And apologies to Anna May, step-momma and Father—I promise to give you some the next time I make it. I will have to smuggle it out like cigars out of Cuba.)
And by the way, this is a Saturday or Sunday afternoon dish. You do not whip this up on a weeknight after work. This seriously needs to simmer and cook for hours. You cannot rush the carnitas. The carnitas will take its own sweet time, thankyouverymuch.
For the pork:
- 3 (5-inch) fresh marjoram and cilantro sprigs
- 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered through the root end
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes (do not trim the fat)
For serving (optional):
Place the marjoram, garlic, coriander, and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it tightly with butcher’s twine. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, just bung it all in the pan.) Place the bundle in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot along with the onion and salt. Arrange the pork in a single layer and add enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim and discard any foam that floats to the surface using a large spoon. Simmer, skimming the surface and turning the pork pieces occasionally, until the meat is tender and just beginning to shred apart, about 2 1/2 hours. (You may need to adjust the heat to medium low to keep it at a simmer. I used a Le Creuset pot, of course, which worked really well.)
- Remove and discard the herb packet and onion quarters. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the remaining water evaporates and just the rendered fat coats the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and let the meat fry in the fat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 20 minutes. Serve the carnitas in tacos, burritos, or tostadas with your desired toppings.
SALSA DE ARBOL
10 dried arbol chilies, stems removed
3 garlic cloves
10 medium tomatillos, husks removed and washed
1/2 cup carnitas cooking liquid (or vegetable stock, if you’re making separately)
Sea salt to taste, if needed
In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the chiles until slightly browned. Remove to a blender. Next, toast the garlic and tomatillos until they have brown spots on them, then put in the blender. Add the cooking liquid and purée; pour back in the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes.
- The Husband’s Bloody Mary or Maria Recipe (tinykitchenstories.com)