Where Is...?

23 November 2010

Carnitas-left of center

Here in the rural town of Hughson, California, we have one (real) grocery store for 6000 people. It's a La Perla Mexican market, with a meat counter. Steven and I sometimes walk down there and pick up a burrito from the kitchen they also have in the back, full of typical Mexican cuisine, or grab an empanada with custard or apple. My favorite is the meat counter though, they have all sorts of cuts of pork, beef and chicken or they will cut whatever to your specifications. I have found that kitchen Spanish or remembering your high school Spanish is good enough to get through ordering your meats.
I love pork. It is probably my favorite medium as far as meat goes. (pause for insight) Oh, yes, the pig. And I love what Mexicans do with it. Boil, roast, braise, with some sort of thick sauce and salt and maybe brown it in manteca, mix some nuts, chilis and chocolate...okay anyhow, I love it. I am going to go off on a tangent if I don't tell my story... and since this is Thanksgiving week, I don't have a lot of time to sit here and write... there are pies that are not going to make themselves.
So, we go down to La Perla and I get exactly what I want, 4 pounds of pork shoulder. Steven has been begging for carnitas... slow braised shoulder that is then roasted in the oven after shredding it. Since I received those samples from Pollen Ranch, I have been chomping at the bit to use the "Big Devil" spice mix. I love spicy stuff, and when you open the tin of this mixture, it smells hot (and will cause you to sneeze, a lot, do not inhale too deeply like me). So, I pulled out the crockpot... and put this little ditty together:

4# pork shoulder
1 1/2 fat tbsp Big Devil
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Rub the outside of the pork with the salt and Big Devil and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Place olive oil in skillet and brown the exterior of the pork shoulder golden brown, be careful when handling hot meat in hot oil.
In crockpot:

1 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup apricot nectar (Kerns)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp Big Devil
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp garlic
1/2 white onion, sliced

After you have browned the meat place in crockpot on HIGH for 6-8 hours. Go do something else....leave it alone.
When you return, heat oven to 400, remove meat from crockpot with tongs and place on sheet pan, or in a large bowl. Be careful, it is hot and is going to fall apart. You can reserve the crockpot juices for another use (soup, more meat braising etc.) Anyhow, take 2 forks and pull it apart until it is however shredded you would like. Place in oven for 20 minutes to render off any other fat left and to crisp the ends of the shredded meat.

Now, you have carnitas. Do with it what you like, put it in tacos, burritos, make sopes or tortas, whatever, just enjoy it! The flavor of this meat is so good... there is this sweetness from the apricot nectar, but then residual heat on the back of the tongue from the Big Devil...and the crunch of the overcooked (burnt) ends of meat... Oh Joy!

I also picked up some crema at La Perla too, which is Mexican sour cream but with a brighter, fresher taste. I mixed a tablespoon of Big Devil and a tablespoon of apricot preserves into about 4oz or crema and came up with a little awesome-ness to tie everything together too... and I would use that on anything if given the chance.
 Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, don't overwork or over-stress, just over eat!

... may your Turkey breast be moist, potatoes well whipped and gravy, smooth as glass! 


  1. I love this. You have no idea how hard I laughed at the sneezing. And then being from a majorly Hispanic community. Just fantastic!