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Dec 11, 2006 08:25 PM

Trader Joe's Carnitas (Fully Cooked).... Pretty Damn Good Shortcut.

Alright... I have purchased this very convenient, inexpensive ($4 for 1 pound) & high quality product a couple of times now... if you reheat it correctly it is quite a find.

What you want to do is... put it in a frying pan with some olive, peanut or pork fat... a few drops of water, cover it up... sear it to a browned exterior... then de-glaze with just about any combination of the following liquids: jalapeno vinegar, orange juice, tequila, soy sauce, or sherry.

The result is a perfectly browned, fall apart tender, earthy flavored, meat that is sharpened & focused with your choice of deglazing liquid.

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  1. Seriously? I love your posts and deep knowledge of Mexican chow and culture Eat Nopal , I guess I'll have to try this. Hard to imagine TJS has ANYTHING worth eating besides nuts and berries as far as I'm concerned.

    1. Try Costco's carnitas (fully cooked, in the refrigerated cooked-meats section). It's more flavorful than TJ's.

      1. On a slight tangent, Nopal...I have a gorgeous cactus in my backyard with big nopal paddles, but no idea how to prepare them. suggestions?

        1 Reply
        1. re: macrogal

          Absolutely... but you have to wait until the spring when you get new paddles (now if you live in a rural area... take a blow torch to the big old paddles to burn off the thorns and then you can use them to feed cows... they will in turn produce some very nice milk)....

          back to tender cactus paddles.... you want to cut off the whole paddle, remove the thorns with a knife (gourmet sleuth carries a specialty set for about $10)... then you can roast them in a hot oven (450 degrees) with just a bit of olive oil & salt.

          From there you can do a few things....

          Cut in Strips & Refrigerate.... once they are room cool, toss with chopped cilantro, onions & serrano chiles for the classic Nopalitos a la Mexicana. (Common variations include Avocado, Queso Fresco, Hard Boiled Eggs, Carnitas, Chicharones, Deep Fried Miniature Fish, Lettuce, Shredded Cabbage... any or all of the above).

          For common hot preparations.... you can sauce them up with Mole, Cooked Salsas, Bean or Huitlacoche Sauce etc. (the whole pad makes an attractive, earthy presentation) & serve with Grilled Meats or vegetarian protein sources.

        2. I agree... they will work, in a PINCH... I like them much better than the Carnitas at Ralphs... WAY too greasy and dried out... but the TJ ones don't have that salty porky edge that Carnitas do.... To me, it's more just like standard pulled pork. In fact, if you mix it with a decent vingar based BBQ sauce, it also makes a decent pulled pork sandwich...


          1 Reply
          1. re: Dommy

            "but the TJ ones don't have that salty porky edge that Carnitas do"

            True... but its nothing that a spoonful of high quality lard... can't fix! Wink, wink.