Living in Portland, I am lucky to be able to enjoy a handful of taquerias in my neighborhood that offer burritos or tacos with tasty carnitas. However, when I decided to try making my own a while back, I had a hard time finding a decent recipe. I finally stumbled upon a recipe by David Lebovitz, the dessert guru. At the time, I actually hadn’t heard of Lebovitz and his amazing sweets. Long story short, by finding one of the few savory recipes on his site, I was introduced to a great blog that sparked my interest in following food blogs. Anyway, his recipe is great because you trim the pork of most of the fat and cook it in water with lots of tasty spices. It’s still incredibly flavorful but not overwhelmingly rich.
adapted from David Lebovitz
This recipe makes a lot of carnitas. There’s enough for a party of 6 to 8, plus leftovers for tacos during the week.They are best the day you make them but they can be reheated in the microwave or on the stove, covered with a little bit of water to steam.
about 4 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into about 5 or 6 large chunks
1 Tbsp kosher salt
canola or vegetable oil
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp cumin
toasted pumpkin seeds
crumbled cotija cheese
slices of avocado
diced white onion
Rub the pork with the salt. Ideally, let the pork pieces sit in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a roasting pan or large, deep cast iron on medium high with about a tablespoon of oil. Once very hot, add pork to make a single layer (you may need to do a couple rounds). Brown the pork on all sides until very dark. Try not to touch or move the pork too much. Just let it sit and really brown. Set browned pork aside.
Carefully discard most of the fat, leaving a couple tablespoons in the pan. Add a cup of water to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits with a spatula. Add the pork back into the pan and the remaining ingredients. Fill the pan with water until the pork is about ⅔ covered.
Cook pork in oven for about 3 ½ hours, rotating pork pieces every half an hour or so. The pork is done when it falls apart easily and only a bit of water is left. Place pork pieces in a large bowl, setting aside the roasting pan for later. Crank up the oven to 425 degrees. Once the pork has cooled slightly, use two forks to break it up into large bite size pieces.
Put pork back into the pan. Turn around to coat with juices. Bake pork in the oven until crisp (or to your preference) and most of the liquid is gone, about 5 to 10 minutes.