Carnitas means "little meats." It is a large piece of pork roast that is braised and then fried in its own fat. It's amazing. The first time I ever tried this recipe, I really had no faith that it would work out. When cooking a large piece of meat, like a roast, it should cook all day to become tender, like 10 to 12 hours. But not this recipe. Somehow, like magic, this recipe is done in two-and-a-half hours. If you could hit the rewind button right now, you probably would. There's no way to cook a roast and have it tender in that short of time, right? Wrong.
So here's how the first time I made carnitas went. I bought the ingredients. I went home and got my trusty dutch oven out. I added the seasonings and onions and garlic, covered it with water, set it to boil, and then doubted. My husband kept telling me to believe in it, which I didn't. I followed the recipe exactly, and I still kept doubting. After the first two hours, you're supposed to place the dutch oven, covered, in a 450 degree oven to fry in its own fat. More doubt. There's no way this is going to be tender. 30 minutes later......unbelievably tender. Magic. And the onions and garlic melt away in this further flavoring this super tender meat. More magic. Abracadabra.
Now, I'm no scientist or foodologist (it is too a word), but I know that this recipe works. The meat is full of flavor and falls apart. You can leave it in chunks or easily pull it apart with a fork as in the picture above. Your choice. I like it best in a corn tortilla with a little fresh squeezed lime, fresh pico de gallo, and a bit of cotija cheese. And, if you've never heard of carnitas, please try this. It's so darn tasty and so easy! I hope you like it. Yum, Carnitas...
EASY AND AMAZING CARNITAS
One 3-4 lb untrimmed (keep the fat) pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
Juice of two limes
1 onion, chopped
1 whole bulb of garlic, smashed and peeled
4 bay leaves
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 T bacon grease (or lard or shortening)
2 teaspoons salt
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Fresh pico de gallo
Crumbled cotija cheese
Put the bacon grease in the bottom of a dutch oven or large heavy pot (ovenproof pot with ovenproof lid). Put onions and garlic in next. Add in meat and remaining ingredients, and cover with water 1/2 inch over the top of the meat. Turn on high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium high and continue cooking, uncovered, until most of the water is cooked out.
Cover the pot and remove from heat. Place it in a 450 degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until browned and tender. Remove the bay leaves.
Leave the meat as is or shred with a fork. Serve it in tortillas with desired toppings.