Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos, en plus

Well, hey there.  I know it’s been a while, but I’m sure you remember me.  I’m that peanut-butter-and-sunshine loving girl who lives in Santa Monica with her boyfriend fiance (!!!).  I’m obsessed with fruit.  I try to eat candy off the floor.  Do you remember any of this?

Let me remind you why you read this blog in the first place.  I’m betting one or more of the following applies to you, dear reader:

  1. You went to high school with me.  We weren’t really friends, or anything, but you think I’m funny, and/or you have an unsupervised desk job and eight painful-but-paid hours to kill.
  2. You are friends with my mother.  (Need I say more?)
  3. I’m going to toot my own horn here.  Whatever.  I write well.  That makes visiting this blog somewhat pleasant.
  4. You don’t care about what I have to say or what I made for dinner.  You are mildly interested in looking at personal pictures of me because I wasn’t cute in middle school and now I kinda am.
  5. I make you read it.
  6. You are my mom or dad or sister.  Hi, family!  And Grandma and Grandpa, also, hello!  Can’t thank you enough for the little yellow dutch oven!
  7. You googled one of the following sampled terms:

“giant sugary donuts with eyes and mouth and pink frosting”
“cup cakes ummmm”
“costco stuffed giraffe”
“vegetables”

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter why you used to read my blog, way back when, before full-time employment,  marathon viewings of several seasons of Dexter, and wedding planning consumed my once-very-unbusy life.

There are a billion stupid things that have happened, and what’s passed has passed, and I could never catch you up entirely.  So here’s one sample story:  yesterday I tossed a plum in a dumpster and somebody was in there and I was a ghost and it was awkward.  But I digress, let’s stay on point.   There are three things you need to know:

1.  Ryan asked me to marry him. After burying my face in his shirt for 10 minutes, I said yes.

Halloween in Boston, 2009. Ryan cut up a baby ladybug costume from the drugstore and made it my size. At which point I was sure he was the one.

"We are finally going to get that KitchenAid pasta attachment," whispered Lauren. "Best day ever."

2.  Stamp came into our home and lit up our lives.  Stamp is a stuffed duck I found at Target before my birthday.  I walked up to Ryan, looked at him, looked at the plush farm animal, and licked it.  Then, I said, verbatim:  “Now you have to buy it for me.”  I don’t remember how I chose the name Stamp, but it was between that and something else ridiculous, and my great friend Casey was all, like, “yah, Stamp!  Stamp it is!” and the rest is history.  Stamp is the best, and he loves to travel and make phone calls when we are not home.

Stamp waiting for Ryan to get home for dinner.

Stamp hanging out in the fancy room in Miami.

Packing for a trip.

Stamp during the epic closet clean out of 2011.

3.  I’m like, really, very good at making tacos now.  It is a marvelous talent and makes me very popular with the men in my life*.  Beef tacos— nailed ’em.  Chicken fajitas—nailed ’em.  Fish tacos—botched those, actually.  Poor, uneducated choice of tortillas that night, but that’s another story for another day.  The latest variety of taco filling added to our dinner rotation is carnitas, which is just a fancy, Spanish word for “awesome”.  Well, carnitas actually translates to “little meats”, (“carne” + “itas”; think “taquitos”, people…) and it’s so easy to make.

*Ryan and Stamp.

Just so we’re clear, carnitas = shredded pork.  Onward!

Slow-Cooked Carnitas Soft Tacos

Adapted from Bon Appétit    

Ingredients: 

The below are ingredients I used for our version of this dish; however, you could make great carnitas using only pork, sea salt, black pepper, and oregano plus those onion chunks, according to Bon Appétit, which published this well-reviewed recipe.  I included a bunch of Mexican spices because I am partial to those hot, citrus-y, and smoky flavors and incorporate them whenever I can.  But if your spice rack is pretty bare, relax.  You can still enjoy a mean pork taco.

  • 2 lbs. boston pork but, huge fat chunks removed, meat cut into 1.5- to 2-inch chunks
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
  • 1 onion, any variety, sliced into large chunks
  • garlic, cut into large slices, optional

Directions:

This is really a simple process, but at first, I was terrified of trying this recipe because I don’t have much experience cooking with pork.  It’s definitely one of the easiest things I’ve ever made.  And that’s coming from a girl who once made hot dog soup, using nothing but hot dog and a bouillon cube.  (Genius, I know.)

  1. Remove excess fat from pork.  Cut pork into 1.5 to 2 inch cubes.
  2. In a greased slow cooker or dutch oven, add pork chunks, lime juice, and all of the spices.  Toss to coat.
  3. Add large chunks of onion.
  4. Cook on lowest setting or very low oven temperature for five to seven hours.  Pork should be tender and dark.
  5. Remove pork—but reserve the juices!— and shred and pull apart the meat with your fingers.  I removed large, gummy pieces of fat again at this point, but it’s not necessary.  I reserved the onions from the pot, diced them up, and added them to the shredded pork.
  6. If and when reheating pork, do so with a bit of the reserved juices over low heat.

Serving suggestions:

This is a time to go wild; this is a time to exercise restraint.  Don’t barrage your carnitas with too many flavors.  You know what I’m talking about.  Try a few different topping combinations on a few different tacos until you find your ideal.

  • Corn tortillas.  We enjoyed our carnitas with fresh 4.5″ corn tortillas we found at the giant Whole Foods in Venice.   Yes, the “Whole Foods Parking Lot” Whole Foods.  There, 40 tortillas cost less than two dollars and they were all-natural, too.  Three totally wholesome ingredients:  yellow corn + water + lime.  We heated up the tortillas in a heavy, dry pan for thirty seconds on each side and could smell the sweet corn, which is always a good sign.   Warning:  nothing ruins a good taco like a bad tortilla, so make sure you get fabulous ones.  Ask around.  Google it, twice.  Don’t screw this up.
  • Queso fresco.  Perfectly mild, crumbly, and soft.  It’s Mexican mozzarella, and it’s marvelous.
  • Salsa verde.  Or, if you’re in a pinch, as we were, green taco sauce from a bottle!  Ryan bought this classic one.  Throwback!
  • Shredded green cabbage.  ‘Cause duh.
  • Avocado, tomato, and onion.  I hate avocado but everyone else in this freaking town is all like, “oh my godddd avocado!!” so whatever.
  • Cilantro.  It looks pretty in these, if you’ve got it, but you don’t need it (we didn’t use it) and it’s not always worth the money.  Unless you can borrow it from a salsa bar… for free…
  • Specialty Salsas.  Trader Joe’s make a mean pineapple salsa that I like to put on pork and chicken.  They make a pretty good pineapple pico de gallo at my work, too, but by the time I get home at night, half of it is all over my gym bag.

We served our tacos with a green cabbage salad, sliced mango, and refried beans on the side.

• • •

A note on slow cookers.  Definitely worth $50 to $200 bucks.  You plug ’em in, put stuff inside of them, and walk away for six to 12 hours.  They slowly but surely cook what’s inside of them at a very low and steady temperature, allowing cheaper cuts of meat to tenderize and flavors to meld together perfectly.  We like to stand around the appliance and stare at it, trying to justify stirring our creation yet again, just because we want to see what’s happening under that fogged-up lid.  Because it’s like science, and it’s awesome, and it smells good.  But stirring frequently actually releases a bunch of necessary cooking heat that isn’t so quickly reestablished, so only do it once or twice.  One more thing:  make sure to over-season a little, or at least re-season later, as the extended cooking time does lessen the brightness of spices and herbs a bit.

Forgot to mention this.  Registering for kitchen gadgets and cookware is bliss.  Also, for the record, I eat ice cream sandwiches in my sleep.

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Comments
9 Responses to “Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos, en plus”
  1. lisa says:

    Is stamp coming to the wedding? We can stuff him in caseys purse

  2. michelle says:

    money food shots, the plum! hahaa, and stamp!! boy o boy this made me happy:)

  3. casey says:

    Looks amazing Lauren!!!! I LOVE STAMP!!! He is the most precious!!

  4. Michelle says:

    Congrats on your engagement 🙂 The tacos look fabulous!

  5. Judy says:

    Welcome back!!! What took you so long?

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  1. […] introduced you to Stamp in my return blog entry, posted last Tuesday.  Perhaps you remember that Stamp is the best stuffed animal ever and […]

  2. […] Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos, en plus […]



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