Braised, Shredded Pork from the state of Michoacán, Mexico (Carnitas)

Carnitas (1 of 1)This delicious dish is from the Pacific Coast state of Michoacán, although it is prepared throughout Mexico. It makes a lot of shredded pork, and it is very versatile — the first night you serve it on its own with a few sides, the next night you make tacos with it, etc., and it freezes well. The other day, I added it to a home-made ranchero sauce, and it was fantastic! Original versions seem to be full of fat. They typically call for pork shoulder or (aka Boston butt), which is a fatty part of the pig. I’ve made this a few times with center-cut pork loin, with all visible fat removed. After braising for three hours, it turns out moist, delicious, and it just falls apart like its counterpart does. I also replace the typical ton of lard with a couple tablespoons of olive oil — I realize that this probably changes the flavor and texture, but there is already so much flavor, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, in the photo, I serve it with a simple red cabbage coleslaw, corn sticks and slices of blood orange. Yum. I hope you’ll try this next Sunday!

1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
1 12-oz can cola
2 tsp oregano, toasted in a dry, medium-hot skilled
2 bay leaves, toasted in a dry, medium-hot skillet
8 whole allspice berries
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 chipotle chilies en adobo, minced
2 Tbsp salt, divided
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 – 6 lbs boneless pork loin, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into fist-size chunks
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 small oranges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven, add the onion, garlic, chicken stock, cola, oregano, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, chipotle chilies, 5 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and stir well.

Season pork with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the pork and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.

Bring the onion mixture to a boil. Add pork and oranges, cover so that the lid is ajar and place in oven.  Bake for about 3 hours, until pork is very tender. Remove pork from pan and shred with a couple of forks.

Remove the oranges, slice in half and squeeze juice back into pan. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Add shredded pork back to pan and stir well.

Increase heat to 425, place pork back into oven, uncovered. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and serve.

Serves 8.

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