Monday, March 31, 2014


My good friend Sarah makes the most incredible carnitas I have ever had. Her carnitas are better than any carnitas you will get in a restaurant. No joke. Every time I've ordered carnitas at a restaurant I've been horribly disappointed. I think there's a few reasons for this - (1) Sarah always used Skagit Valley Ranch pork, which, is the best pork you will ever eat. (2) Sarah always used Skagit River Valley Ranch bacon grease, or even sometimes lined the pan with bacon, and (3) Sarah always pan-fried the carnitas just before eating them, to give them even more flavor and delightfully crispy little edges.

Here is a quote from Sarah's blog post about carnitas:
"In Spanish, carnitas translates to "little meats". Little tiny meats dancing upon your corn tortilla. Little tiny meats dancing on your tongue. Carnitas, second only to bacon, are a great blessing from the cloven hoofed pig."

And now, here is how to make the best carnitas you will ever eat:

1) Buy a really excellent pork shoulder and bacon.
(if you're in the Bay Area, I recommend Prather Ranch or Marin Sun Farms ....side note: Marin Sun Farms sometimes has "mystery boxes" containing 15 pounds of high quality meat for $20!!)

2) Line a cast iron pan with bacon, cut the pork shoulder into chunks and put them on top of the bacon

3) Add a couple cups of water to the pan so the pork is mostly covered.

4) Cook it in the oven at 350F for 5-6 hours till the meat falls apart.

That's it. The only ingredients are pork, bacon, and water. If you don't want to use bacon for some reason, you'll want to season the meat with at least salt and probably pepper. In fact, if you're not going to use bacon, I'd encourage you to get creative with spices! (curry carnitas? cuban carnitas? BBQ carnitas?)

During the cooking process, keep an eye on it to make sure the water doesn't evaporate. About half way through cooking, I turned all the meat pieces over and added some more water.

After 5 hours, the meat seems to fall apart at the shear thought of touching it. Take it out of the oven and shred all the meat, pulling it apart into "little meats". Don't worry about the liquid, it will keep everything moist and delicious.

This is when I realized another brilliant thing about Sarah's carnitas. I have no idea what exactly happened to the bacon. It was gone. It liquified into pork-flavored pork seasoning. I chose the fattiest pieces of bacon on purpose for these carnitas, so it's not too surprising if all that fat really did just liquify into delicious pork juice. Mmmmm. Remember folks -- fat is flavor.

So now you have carnitas. What do you do with carnitas? First you should pan fry them, and then the rest is up to you. Though, it's wise to exercise a reasonable amount moderation with these. A little bit goes a long way, and a lot might actually give you a heart attack. A delicious, delicious heart attack.

Carnitas can be eaten alone, in a taco, or a burrito. Carnitas scrambled eggs or panfried with potatoes for breakfast. Carnitas nachos. Carnitas quesadillas. Carnitas everything.

P.S. Sarah just mentioned that she sometimes adds beans to the carnitas water while its cooking to make porky beans.

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