Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quick Enough for Weeknights Carnitas

Late last week a colleague sent me a recipe for carnitas and it sounded so good that I knew I needed to give it a try.  Carnitas, meaning “little meats" are a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine.  I call it yummy goodness. 


Typically this wouldn't be considered "healthy" fare since it is often braised after being fried but this recipe doesn’t fry other than to brown the meat and I was able to make delicious substitutions to cut down on the simple carbs. 


This recipe uses pork shoulder or Boston butt.  Boston butt is a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg.  It is commonly used for "pulled pork," which is prepared by smoking at lower cooking temperatures and is then pulled from the bone and served with or in a barbecue sauce.  This recipe is way better than typical "pulled pork."


Just a little fun fact, why is it called butt? Long ago, shoulder roasts were packed and shipped, often from Boston, in a barrel that was called a butt.  I learn something new every day. 


Pork can be a good source of protein with 24 grams per 3 oz serving.  Pork shoulder may not be the leanest cut so you don't want to eat it all the time but you certainly don't have to cross it off your list forever.  For this recipe I cut most of the visible fat.  I left some of the fat on since it does help keep the meat moist and gives it some flavor (and I’d be there forever if I tried to get everything).


The recipe is from:  We Call Him Yes! Chef!

 Pressure Cooker Carnitas

Makes 8 servings

Total Time:  about 1 1/2 hours


2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ancho or chipotle chile powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat part of a knife
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick (3 inch)
1 1/2 cups strained fresh orange juice
1/2 cup strained fresh lime juice


Whisk together oil, salt, cumin, chile powder, and pepper.

Toss pork in oil-spice mixture.  Brown the pork in pressure cooker over high heat. Stir in onion, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon stick.  Add orange and lime juices.  Cover pressure cooker, lock on lid and bring to high pressure over high heat.  Cook pork at high pressure, 25 minutes. 


Remove cooker from heat.  Allow pressure to release naturally.  Remove lid and transfer pork to a baking sheet.

Preheat broiler to high with rack 6 inches from element.

Degrease liquids from cooker in a fat separator; discard fat.   I must say I was never good at doing this but I picked up a fat separator from Target and it worked wonderfully.  This is my new cool kitchen gadget!

Shred pork with two forks on baking sheet.  Pour 1 cup strained cooking liquid over pork.   Here is the part that makes this recipe super yummy: broil pork until it starts to crisp, about 10 minutes.  Stir and broil 5 minutes more.  Oh, this is out of this world good.

I just wish you could smell how good my house smelled while this was cooking.  My husband and 8 year old son came home while the meat was still in the pressure cooker.  My son was practically drooling.  The sweet and savory smells from the orange juice and spices teased everyone until it was ready.  But really this didn't take that long.  It was really easy to make and the pressure cooker makes it reasonable for a weeknight since it cooks the meat in no time at all.  I love my pressure cooker.  Another wonderful kitchen gadget!

Typically these are served with tortillas, avocado, salsa Verde, queso fresco and remaining cooking liquid.  This is how I served it to the boys, although I added some diced tomato because I had some. However, to keep this even healthier I had mine with 1/2 cup brown rice and a green salad, no tortilla. 

This was a winner that we would absolutely make again the next time I get pork shoulder in my CSA farm share.  The family loved it and I'm still thinking about it.


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