Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales
Carnitas (Slow-Cooked Pork) Tacos
Tacos de carnitas
Restaurants and stands throughout Mexico, especially in Michoacán, Mexico City, and Guanajuato, specialize in this pork-lover's fantasy, meat simmered until the liquid evaporates and all that's left is fat. This fat then fries the pork, giving the pieces savory, crisp edges. To make it, many cooks in my home country put an entire pig, butchered into parts, in a giant copper pot to bubble away and customers order by calling out their favorites, perhaps the cueritos (soft, sticky bits of skin), pierna (leg), or even surtida (a mixture of different parts). Because I suspect you might not have an enormous copper pot in your cupboard - I know I don't! - I've come up with an incredibly easy way to recreate the flavors of true carnitas with the help of my Guanajuato-born friend, Anita Andrade, an incredible cook who works with me at my restaurants. The secret weapon? Coca-Cola.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Blend the garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt, and 1/2 cup of water in a blender until fairly smooth.
- Combine the pork and bay leaves in a 6-quart Dutch oven or deep baking dish that can hold the pork in no more than 2 layers. Pour the blended mixture and the Coca-Cola over the pork and stir and toss well.
- Cover the pot and cook in the oven until the pork is very tender, about 2 hours. The sides of the pot might look dark. That's just fine.
- Uncover the pot and return it to the oven. Continue cooking, tossing well and scraping the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes, until the pork is slightly crispy on the outside and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Coarsely shred the pork.
- MAKE AHEAD: You can make carnitas up to three days before you plan to serve them.
- Serve alongside 24 warm corn tortillas and lime wedges and top with chopped white onion, chopped cilantro, and fresh green salsa (page 133), jalapeño and pineapple salsa (page 131), or pico de gallo with lemon zest (page 127).
For The Carnitas:
- 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 cup Coca-Cola
Makes 24 Tacos
TACOS, TORTAS, AND TAMALES © 2012 by Roberto Santibanez. Photography © Todd Coleman