During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it very easy to get into a dinner recipe rut. With all of the Christmas cookies, festive parties, and overall chaos this time of year brings, cooking a meal is pretty low on my list. That’s where the incredible folks at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) come in. I can’t stop my feelings of passionate adoration for these people. I have several of their cookbooks and I recently discovered their podcast. Between visits to patients’ homes, I have been binge-listening (is that a thing?) to their amazing weekly programs and I stumbled upon a recipe for their Mexican pulled pork, often known as carnitas. Perhaps it was just my deeply-rooted love of rolling the “r” when saying Spanish words (thanks to my lovely high school profesora, Señora Antequera); but caRRRRRRRRRRRnitas sounded like a perfect change up to our mundane weeknight rotation.
The prep for this dish is pretty simple and the seasonings are readily available. However, the inactive cooking time involves some planning ahead just because it requires 2 hours of baking in a low oven. I had a lot of stuff to get done on the day I made this and it was so nice to throw everything in my Dutch oven, pop it in the oven, and go about my business. If you don’t have the ability to be at home early enough to make this, I suspect it could be made a day in advance or even in a slow cooker. Perhaps I will have to try one of those methods the next time I make it because I absolutely will be making it again. The flavors are refreshing and not too overpowering and Robert loved it so much he used the leftovers to make some super crazy nachos.
If you are looking for something to jazz up your meal planning, look no further. I love you, ATK. So much that I may get your name tattooed on my arm.
Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)
Yield: 6 servings
- 1 (3 1/2-4lb) boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 cups water
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 orange, halved
- Flour tortillas
- Minced bell peppers
- Minced onions
- Freshly shredded cheese
- Sour cream
- Lime wedges
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about ⅓ cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Place lid on pot and move to the oven. Cook until meat is soft and falls apart when poked with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking.
2. Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes. There should be about 1 cup of reduced liquid at the end of the process.
3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not burnt) and edges are slightly crisp, around 6-8 minutes. Carefully flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, another 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with toppings and warm tortillas. Enjoy!
Source: Directly from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook (Page 281-282)