Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Food: Carnitas Michoacanas


Maybe it's a case of stick to what you know or perhaps it's simply longing for familiar flavors, but I had been thinking about Carnitas for months and I finally gave in.

This is a Creole dish but from Mexico a mix of European ingredients, pre-hispanic techniques and lots and lots of trial en error.

Its not a complicated dish, but it does take time and a watchful eye, I am what you call a fanatic about them and my interpretation of what carnitas should be is as follows

The Meat:

Almost any part of the pig works, carnitas establishments will cook the whole pig this way, In the states I get boneless country ribs, they have a good fat to meat ratio and are super tender once done. The key is you really don't want anything under 2 inches thick and you want all your parts to be the same size.

The Marinate:

This is a basic flavoring and tenderizing step and it must be done to ensure a golden crisp exterior.

The juice if one orange per pound of meat, if your oranges are on the dry side you need enough juice to cover the meat but not submerge, half a bay leaf per pound, an eight of a teaspoon of herbes de provence, a dash of cayenne pepper, Salt and pepper to taste.

Marinate the pork for 2 to 4 hrs in the refrigerator, stir about halfway in to marinate to ensure even coverage
drain the marinate and transfer to a clean bowl

Here comes the leap of faith, add 1/4 cup half and half or evaporated milk per pound of meat and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  Drain and return to container and your ready to cook.

The Pot:

The traditional pot is a copper cazo ( kettle ) I bought mine many years ago it's a very important tool In my kitchen.

The cooking technique:

Traditional carnitas are cooked only in the fat that was rendered by the pig being cooked, however you would stop shopping at your local butcher if he sold you the meat with all the fat on it, so melt down enough lard so when the meat goes in the pot, the meat is submerged.

Once the fat is melted and temperature is around 250F start adding the meat ensuring the temperature does not drop, once all the meat is in get it up to 300F and let it cook until golden brown.

The half and half or condensed milk will caramelize  and that's when  you will know your carnitas are done, warm up some tortillas, some green tomatillo jalapeno and cilantro salsa and you are in for a treat.


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