I'm going to try and explain this and I hope someone can help me recreate this particular dish. I think I was in Waco, TX. I know I was at a restaurant called 'Ninfa's'.
I ordered carnitas that said they were slow cooked/stewed all for many many hours. What I got was two huge chunks of pork (boneless) that had like a crust on the outside - flavorful: salty, peppery, garlicy. And this 'crust' was almost carmelized. But when I pulled the meat apart it was so super tender and flavorful. Unlike any carnitas I'd ever had.
Anyone familiar with how this might be achieved?
Here's how I get the carmelized crust. Its so easy. Buy a large pork shoulder. I buy it at Costco, weighs ten pounds or so. Dry it off. Liberally cover the surface with salt and pepper and anything else you want. Use plenty of salt. Some of the salt will drip off in the juices. Place the entire pork shoulder on a roasting rack. Roast at 250 degrees for eight hours. Yes..eight hours. Go to work, go to bed, live your life while your hunk of pork is transformed into succulent meat. A little more, a little less, on the time whatever. I have a convection oven but it works fine in a regular oven. After eight hours, you'll have a crusty, carmelized, highly flavorful exterior with incredibly moist meat that you can pull apart with a fork. Don't throw out the pan juices! At 250 degrees, the juices concentrate rather than burn. Enjoy!
I agree totally with the above post with one exception. Don't use a rack - line the pan with foil and the bottom of the roast will be succulent, carmelized BARK. Those "crispy bits" are called bark in the South. This is the same recipe for pulled pork sandwiches. Just shred the meat and pour your favorite barbecue sauce over - fabulous!
The carnitas you are describing read just like the ones I purchase.
The cooking instructions from the other posters are consistent with the method used by Tropicana (local to me taqueria).
In what way are they "unlike any carnitas" you have had.
I was thinking "huge chunks" is the difference, but I see "huge chunks" in the steam table. The servers "tong" smaller chunks off the the "huge chunks". By "huge chunks" I mean cantalope size, I usually buy two pounds and get about half a "cantalope size chunk". I can't see a restaurant serving a cantalope sized chunk, so I don't know what you mean by huge chunks.
I was thinking maybe the "like a crust on the outside" was the difference, but at my local taqueria, the pork has browned "crusty" sides, I suspect that portion of the carnitas rested on the bottom of the pot or touched a side and was browned.
So I've been looking around and here's what I'm getting:
Some people carmelize their carnitas into crispy chunks (usually in the oven and involving brown sugar of some type) after stewing for a long time and some do not. I think I had a carmelized version and that's what I enjoyed. In the past I've had more of a stewed-only version and that's why I thought these were so different.
The 'huge chunks' were about half cantaloupe size. big suckers.
I think i'm goign to keep reading posts and reading recipes and then go for a big carnitas night around here.
Keep the ideas coming!
Wanting to make carnitas recently, I peeked in both Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy's books at the book store, the both said cut pork shoulder in chunks, cover with water, simmer until water evaporates, then continue cooking on low heat until browned. No added fat or sugary things. Of course since I can't follow a recipe, so I added a bay leaf and a couple of torn up dried chiles to the simmering pork. It was delicious and easy!
My husband is Mexican, so I've tackled this before, but it was quite a production. I have the recipe somewhere. In my biggest pot, I cut up a pork shoulder and ribs and boiled it uncovered in melted lard (with water, salt, garlic, and the juice from two sour oranges)for hours until the moisture evaporates, the meat braises, and the pieces of pork start crisping up in their own fat. This particular recipe actually called for a can of Coke. It supposedly replaced a type of Mexican sugar that acts as a catalyst for the pork to fry and crisp.
Now I cheat with an Epi recipe similar in technique, not the real thing of course, but suprisingly tasty when we want our carnitas tacos fix.
You'll need some pork shoulder, lard, coca-cola, and orange juice.
Seriously. That's it. Nothing more.
Melt the lard in a large stockpot. S&P the pork shoulder. Simmer in the lard for an hour.
Then Add equal parts of OJ and Coca-cola. About one cup of each for a 12qt stockpot with 2lb of pork.
Continue simmering for another few hours.
Strain the meat out. Save your liquid in the fridge for another session of pork shoulder.
The second batch will be even tastier then the first. (Remember to add another cup of OJ and Coke after the first hour again...)
Think of it as a "pork confit" from south of the boarder.
If you want to get fancy, you can add onion, garlic, and even mexican oregano (my favorite) to the simmering liquid... but the recipe we used at the Mexican place was just lard, oj, and coke.
Sometimes, simple is better.
I inquired to a man I saw cooking in a huge vat at a park this past weekend- these were huge chinese made propane fueled type vats- what he was doing- carnitas he told me.
He had about 15 pounds of pork meat- cooking in 5 TUBS of lard and 4 cut in half oranges. he told me some people put milk (!!!) in the lard- others nothing.
He used a paddle to lift a hunk, cut me a piece and I died and went to heaven. Crispy and sooo tasty!!!
I won't be trying this- I had some heartburn like crazy afterwards- but he did reveal that fresh chicharron fat was the premium lard to use, if one wanted true flavour.