My inspiration for this Mexican Feast was David Lebovitz, who posted this wonderful story and recipe recently. As soon as I read it, I invited some folks over, bought the pork, salted it and started planning a wonderful Mexican evening for us all. We had a lot of fun!
The Carnitas was simple, a few spices, and it basically sat in the oven for an afternoon. I then took up the kind offer of one of our guests to pull it apart, which made my work even easier!
So we had delicious frozen margaritas, guacamole with pita chips, the soft and tasty Carnitas (which seemed a lot like pulled pork to me), spicy corn relish, chunky tomato salsa, tortillas, sour cream and a little shredded lettuce. Can you taste it? Oh ye all together, it was glorious! The margaritas must have been filling as I could only fit in one tortilla with all the trimmings. I was the only one though, as most of it disappeared before me eyes followed by many moans and groans and belly rubs throughout the night of because they were so full! I knew what was for dessert you see! Hehe – Lemon Meringue Pie, ye I know it’s not Mexican, but it was the January Daring Bakers Challenge.
This recipe (or evening) is well worth it, the gorgeous mixture of flavours and textures combined with some good company makes for a memorable evening.
1 tbs coarse sea salt
2 tbs canola or neutral vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced
Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)
Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.
Heat the oven to 180C.
Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits. Add all the spices, garlic etc.
Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd's submerged in liquid.
Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 7 cm, discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.
Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them. Mine took about 45 minutes and left it crispy and nice and brown.