The Father, The Husband and the Holy Carnitas

24 Jun

The finished product. Mmmm….pork.

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.

It’s all fitting (barely) in the pan.

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.”

Rendering, rendering. The house smelled 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 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.

Arbol chiles—necessary for the salsa!

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):

  • Corn or flour tortillas
  • Sliced onions and pasilla chiles, grilled on a barbecue
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa (see below)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges
  • Cotija cheese
  • Refried beans
  1. Toasting the garlic and tomatillos.

    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.)

  2. 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.


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.



25 Responses to “The Father, The Husband and the Holy Carnitas”

  1. girlinafoodfrenzy June 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Love the time and care it took to bring this dish together, you’re having your own slow food revolution!

    • tinykitchenstories June 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      Thanks! For sure–if I can make it at home, I will. Much like you! xo

  2. lorrielorrieb June 24, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    You KNOW I’m gonna be trying THIS!! And the refried beans that I could refer back to. Always looked for a good refried bean but they always seem to have questionable ingredients…..yours are just real food!! Nice!

    • tinykitchenstories June 25, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      Thank you! This really did turn out nice. And for the beans, you can use dried pinto beans soaked overnight, and boil them with fresh water, a few chilis, a quartered onion, a few cloves of garlic and some peppercorns. Cook them for a couple of hours, until their skin wrinkles when you blow on them (strange, I know!) and the water’s almost absorbed. Then cook up more chopped onions and garlic (and bacon) in a frying pan, and throw in about a third of the beans and mash them up in the onion and garlic. Cook for a little while before adding back to your pot. Et voila! Enjoy! 🙂

      • lorrielorrieb June 25, 2012 at 8:32 am #

        Ooooh…..that sounds great too….even if you DO have to blow on them!

        • tinykitchenstories June 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

          It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I can’t remember where I learned it…

  3. Somer June 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    I gotta toast my tomatillos like that! Your title had me nearly snorting green smoothie out my nose.

    • tinykitchenstories June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      I can’t think of a better compliment—thank you! And I hope a smoothie incident was averted (as funny as it sounds!) !!

      • Somer June 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

        yes, averted. but super funny 😉

        • tinykitchenstories June 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

          Whew! I hate when comedy attacks. 😉

          • Somer June 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

            Especially when you least suspect it….

  4. Thoughts in Little Boxes June 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I need to get a decent kitchen! I want to try this. The boy loves mexican food but says he can’t get anything decent in the UK. You always make me hungry damn it!

    • tinykitchenstories June 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      This shouldn’t take much room–after all, my kitchen is called “tiny” for a reason! I had a bigger kitchen in London!
      Here’s the best Mexican place I ever found in London:
      Hungry, you say? My work here is done… 😉

  5. atasteofmadess June 27, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    Wow, this looks very tasty!
    Surprisingly, I have never cooked with pork before. Time to start!

    • tinykitchenstories July 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

      I hope you make it! It’s really easy, just needs some babysitting. Enjoy!

  6. thegrubbyhen June 27, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    You are an inspiration! I love Mexican flavours but don’t really cook much in the way of Mexican food; this will change 😉 Fabulous!

    • tinykitchenstories June 27, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      This is SO easy and you can find all the ingredients in the UK! OK, maybe not the tomatillos, although I used to get them from Booths near St. Pauls and at Borough market. I do hope you’ll try it! 🙂

      • thegrubbyhen June 27, 2012 at 10:21 am #

        I will definitely make this, ‘the old rooster’ will love it! I will also do my very best to hunt down some tomatillos 😉

  7. Karen June 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    The recipe sounds terrific…I like the way the meat fries in its own fat at the end.

    • tinykitchenstories June 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Thank you! And yes, that last bit is the key to its super deliciousness…

  8. Lauren Bair June 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I want a t-shirt that says “You cannot rush the carnitas”. This looks amazing!! I’m dating a pork-lover. I’ll have to bust this out on a special occasion. Like right now.


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