Carnitas Recipe

Why do people call you thirty minutes before you’ve invited them for dinner? It’s something I don’t understand. Usually if you’re having folks for dinner, if you’re anything like me, during those precious few minutes before everyone arrives you’re racing around in your undies trying to get everything together so you can look relaxed when they arrive.

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But people can’t resist calling—“We’re on our way!” “Can we bring anything?” “What time did you say to come?” “Can I bring two friends?”

There’s a couple of rules in Paris about dinner parties:

The first is that you never, ever show up on time. Thirty minutes late is normale, and if you show up earlier you just may catch your host in their undies too (which may or may not be such a bad thing.) Another is that you need to get people’s digicode in advance. Most buildings in Paris have a complex series of numbers and letters that you need to press on a pad by the entry to get into the building.

Sadly, people have a way of forgetting them and having to frantically call you from the sidewalk since they can’t get in. And lastly, no one in France has food allergies so if you’re invited for dinner, if you have an food issues, you’d better pipe up in advance or be prepared to eat Tête de veau…which, believe me, you don’t want to eat.

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So when they call, while they’re blabbing on and on and on, you’re hyperventilating and all those thoughts are running through you mind—”Darn it. Why didn’t I trim my fingernails when I had time on Wednesday?” “Will they notice the pots and pans piled up in the bathtub?” (which is a whole ‘nother blog entry…) “Do I need to make more chips since I think I ate about half of them after I made them?”

So last week I made carnitas for friends, which is the perfect thing to make since it demands…no, begs….to be made well in advance. It’s great for Paris dinner parties since you never know when guests will arrive…like the one friend I have who regularly arrives 1½ hours late. But Mexican food in Paris is usually less-than stellar. I’m not sure why since it’s one of the worlds great cuisines. But outside of the Americas….well, let’s just say it hasn’t traveled so well. So I like to make it to shake things up.

When I told my fish-boy friend that I was making Mexican food, he started grimacing and holding his taut, rock-hard, ripped youthful stomach, saying how heavy and bad it was. Then he started recounting his encounters with the Mexican food here and I told him about fresh fish marinated in lime juice with chiles (which perked him up) and caramelized chunks of meltingly-tender pork. Which perked me up. And which probably explains why he has a rock-hard tummy and I don’t.

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Since I’m not a whiz in the Mexican cocina, a few furious emails were sent to pals Alisa and Matt, who sent me back an email in all-caps— “MMMMMM Meat!” (which I condensed here since it was considerably longer.) I make mine the day before, then rechauffé‘d it in the oven for the last caramelization before setting it on the table.

Of course I made elderberry Cosmopolitans. But since the French are about half the size of us Americans, they don’t really hold their liquor as well as we do (except if you’re in the Senate) and after one, or maybe two, frosty cocktails poured with a heavy-hand by yours truly, they start getting bleary. Which is fun, but a little dangerous: the combination of lit cigarettes and Herman Miller furniture is not a good one chez David.

Tortillas hold another fascination to Parisians.

Seriously, is there anything better than freshly-made corn tortilla? No. Not even a fabulous baguette. Every time I head back to the states, I leave with the certainty that I’ll return with one of those plastic things that keeps tortillas warm. The folded towel doesn’t really cut it. But then I find one in a store and think about my luggage so packed with Target shower curtains, dried sour cherries, and Excedrin PM, I think, “Where will I put it?” and I don’t schlep one over.

Next time I’m making room for one so when I’m dashing around trying to figure out how I’m going to keep those tortillas warm while the Parisians ignore them and the tortillas get cool while they go off and have their cigarettes I’ll panic less since there’s nothing less-appealing is a tepid, soggy corn tortilla.

For some reason I’ve been a red cabbage fiend lately, obsessed with it, and I made pickled cabbage by slicing some as thinly as possible then pouring an escabeche-esque mixture of cooled of vinegar, sugar, and salt that was heated and cooled then poured all over it all and I let it sit for a few days with some bay leaves. That, my friends, is a great side dish and although it doesn’t go all that well when serving fancy wine, you can thank me later for giving you yet another reason to foist another round of Cosmos on everyone.

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For beans, I dug into my stash of Rancho Gordo heirlooms, which are reason enough to move back to San Francisco for. I often say it’s a waste to serve all these things here if people aren’t going to appreciate them. But simmered with smoked bacon, onions, and a squirt of lime juice added at the end, what’s not to like? And like they did.

Those huge variegated beans are much more of a conversation piece than anything else around, except maybe my freezer packed with 14 different containers of homemade ice cream and a bag of cranberries that’s celebrating it’s fifth anniversary here, like I am. If it was legal, I would marry those beans. Or Rancho Gordo’s owner Steve Sando. Whichever’s legal first (although with my luck, I’ll probably end up with the beans.) I am, like, so going to order a bunch and have them shipped to me when I go to New York City at the end of the month.

For dip chips, although you can get tortilla chips in the supermarket in Paris, since I hope someday to have a Parisian ligne and haven’t quite given up on seeing les abdos one day, I decided to toast up some pita chips instead. I cut pita into wedges, brushed them lightly with a mixture of olive oil with a bit of chile pepper in there for zing and some coarse salt sprinkled on top. Then I toasted them in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes until crisp to serve with the guacamole.

Hey, with all the calories I saved, I can have another Cosmo. Right?

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Carnitas

Serves Eight

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

  • 4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
  • water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1- to 3-days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)

2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.

3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.

4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.

5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.

8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.

9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.

I like mine deeply, darkly, crispy brown on the outside.

Related recipes:

Chocolate Mole

Pickled Red Onions

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Agave-Chocolate Ice Cream

Caramelized Pork Ribs

Ketchup Macarons

Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chili with Chocolate

73 comments

  • I laughed out loud when I read that first sentence. I always want to say, “Have you EVER hosted a party? Do you REALLY want to be my friend?” It is truly an exercise in grace and restraint for me to let those phone calls slide. But I’m learning to loosen up. :)

  • You’ve done this lil latino proud I tell ya!

  • MMMMM Meat. Your fiesta de carnitas looks fenomonal! I’ll have to hit La Taqueria for lunch (sorry, was that cruel?). As for the tete de veau, I’ll gladly take your portion off your hands, thank you.

  • Thanks for making me laugh!

    And don’t worry about the mean Parisian lady- I’m sure she will fall in some dog poo one day! Karma baby, karma!;-)

  • Next time you’re getting stuff from Rancho Gordo, get some of Steve’s Mexican oregano. I swear, no other Mexican oregano was ever so good with those beans. Or anything else, for that matter.

  • I try to be on time to parties. I figure that gives me more time to eat and drink. And by the time the rest of the guests arrive, I’m the life of the party!

  • Hi David

    Another great post, thank you for so many, and timely (perhaps). I’m a Brit living down in the South West of France and last year we took part in the Telethon to raise money for the national charity. Took part is a bit of an understatement as we were the major event and let by my partner we cooked a meal for 150 people with an Italian theme. This year we are thinking Mexican (we have to try and educate these people on food). We have limited facilities – like just a few gas burners so can’t do anything fancy but ideas Mexican that can be easily cooked on a grand scale would be very welcome from your goodself and readers. Oh, and we have to provide 3 courses and wine for 15 euros and still make money!! Ancho chile powder – does Carrefour stock that?

  • Terrific post from start to finish but it’s the red cabbage idea I appreciate most –as Resident Gardener keeps growing the damned things and I desperately needed new ideas for them.

  • Hi David, Could relate to so many details of this. I DESPISE it when guests call me while I’m prepping. I usually ignore! I have been experimenting w/ fake Mex for guests and dinner for the family for a while now although it is not my fave. It is truly fake b/c I prefer flour tortillas and am a NYer who lived in CA for 3 yrs. Have been living in Germany (Berlin and Frankfurt) for the last 18 yrs. Tex-Mex food here is probably just as bad as in France esp. b/c of the unfamiliar and challenging spices for the local palate – except for tequila of course. Still, it is fun food for guests. Absolutely ADORE your blog and would love to do one of your food tours but I don’t really like sweets!! Do you find cilantro easily in Paris?

  • “…he started grimacing and holding his taut, rock-hard, ripped youthful stomach…”

    What do you do David, follow those boys to the changing area? Or do they just happen to be wearing T-shirts and aprons made of Saran Wrap?

    Oh, by the way, I have a great source for some tortillas with major life endurance. I should ship some to ya.

  • I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this blog. My partner and I are traveling to Paris in 2 weeks, and thanks to your writing #1 on my list has changed from night view of Paris to tracking down a pretty sinful sounding Kouign Aman.

  • Great, funny post! The part about the French eating Chinese food with baguettes reminds me of a Vietnamese beef stew my wife makes. It dates back to colonial days when Vietnam was called French Indochina. So instead of rice, it’s eaten with baguettes, and you use flatware rather than chopsticks at the table.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been having a party and experienced just what you’re describing with all these idiots (who have NEVER had a party in their lives) calling in the last half hour! So funny and so true.

    The recipe looks great. This is one of my all time favorite foods. If you ever make it to Salt Lake I’ll take you to the Red Iguana, where they have the best carnitas in the world!

  • So, you’re pushing carnitas for Rosh Hashanah?

  • Hi-larious!!!!!!
    I LOVED this post — oh, my ribs hurt.
    I use a clay casserole (Romertopf or whatever it’s called?) for carnitas and make them New Mexican-style. I’d love to live in Europe but Mexican/New Mexican food would be a terrible thing to have to sacrifice.

  • Here in another Mexican wasteland (Australia) it’s good to see some Mexican recipes that do not require ingredients that I’ll never be able to find (ever try to find the fresh tomatillos or exotic chiles demanded in better Mexican cookbooks?)

    Down here we’re stuck with Old El Paso pre-formed taco shells and “fresh” tortillas that last for 6 months on the shelf!

    Keep the Mexican recipes coming!

  • Glad to know I am not the only one rushing around in my undergarments until moments before the guests arrive. Sometimes I am even in the shower if someone else is around to open the door. I wish I could be relaxed and in my loungewear, holding a cocktail when the guests arrive..maybe next time.

  • Great post David. I’m one of those people that usually calls 30 minutes ahead to ask if the host is sure I don’t have to bring anything. I always feel bad not bringing anything to a dinner party, and that call makes me feel less guilty;) I’m such a terrible guest!

  • Marvin, I’m happy to be able to direct you towards Amy Sedaris’ advice on how to be a good guest. She suggests bringing your host something practical, like butter (“butter is expensive and has many uses”), or confectioners’ sugar, or light bulbs, or “a roll of those heavy blue gas station paper towels”. Personally, I’ve got plenty of light bulbs, but I’d be thrilled if a guest showed up with a pound or two of really good European butter. Costs a fortune in Colorado. David, thanks for that recipe! And I just let the answering machine pick up while I’m running around half naked, having just remembered that thing I forgot was still sitting uncooked in my fridge…

  • Hi David, do we know the same people? :) My favorite is the people who call for directions as they’re driving over (guess there’s no need to do that when you live in Paris). Did they not think to ask this question before they got in the car? And, not only are they stopping me from getting in the shower, shoving stuff in drawers, clearing the decks, etc., I know they will be at my house any moment because I’m there giving them directions. Hyperventilating. I guess we could all be better planners of our own time too but those last few hours before people show up go by at lightning speed.
    Anyway, your party sounds wonderful and the pictures are really beautiful.

  • I just want to come over and eat all of that. I mean, YUM. Maybe with a side order of fishboy too ok?

  • I never dreamed I would have anything to share that would help you out, David. But I do. Get a piece of soapstone, for choice, but other rocks or even thick tiles will do, cut to fit your serving basket/container. Heat it in the oven while prepping the meal then pop it under the napkin wrapped tortillas. Works for all heated breads and rolls, too. Like American biscuits.

    Some Texan friends brought me the press, a Roman friend the masa. Olé! Mexican food suits Italians, too, if you choose the right dishes. Not too spicy! But some homemade paste made with one of my precious stock of dried chillies in tiny bowls purchased just for the purpose, and the brave ones say, “Aiee, caramba!”

  • Very funny to see the french Image from the outside.

    I fully agree with you but I never cook Tete de veau for my guests.

  • so so funny! laughed out loud. makes for a good pre-sunny-lunch-time in bruxelles kind of laugh! brilliant (i wonder who’s up for mexican around here?)

  • I’m so that hostess, who is never dressed and sometimes not even showered (blush) when my guests turn up, even worse I still like it best when my guests to show up on time. I know, call me crazy, it’s okay. Mexican food is the one thing that I haven’t stopped missing in my 9 years in the NL, and every time I touchdown on US soil, I’m making a beeline to the best Mexican food to be found wherever I happen to be and then send home boxes of tortillas, which take up all my freezer space for a year! Sorry to ramble, but thanks for the inspiration for my mid-week dinner party next week, your carnitas look delicious. I envy your friends!

  • If you lived in the US, David, you’d learn that a personal concert with Britney Spears is no longer anything to crow up and is surely overshadowed by fresh corn tortillas, baguettes, and even hardtack.

    Does the French media know better than to consider snarky celebrity gossip headline news?

  • I stuff my suitcase with things from Target as well to bring back to Paris-usually sheets, ziplock bags, garlic salt and paperbacks. Dang that weight limit.

  • Another bit of heaven…ripped abs and carnitas :) Did you ever go to Los Jarritos in SF? 20th & South Van Ness. The best carnitas around. Family run for 20+ years. Also great hand patted (not pressed) corn tortillas.

  • hilarious.

    It is good to hear people in paris actually eat food instead of complaining about what they can’t eat. I am so over the food issues of folks in L.A.

  • Now that I’ve more or less finished cackling and drooling by turns (attractive, no?) I can only remark how lucky your dinner guests are. My dear friend Nathalie, who hails from the Languedoc, assures me that if I cook Mexican for her family they will worship me forever — she seems to think it’s considered a rare culinary jewel in France.

    I’m thrilled to have your carnitas recipe — and excited that you let that bit slip about NY…

  • I wish Chevy’s would come to France !!!

    Actually, i was thinking about Derek’s question and Fajitas like they serve at Chevy’s would be a good idea for your gig : you can serve the tortillas, the slices of grilled chicken and/or beef, the veggies separately on a tray, and people have the choice of ingredients and dosage. Saves you a bit of work and makes the experience more personal and interactive.

    “But since the French are about half the size of us Americans, they don’t really hold their liquor as well as we do (except if you’re in the Senate) and after one, or maybe two, frosty cocktails poured with a heavy-hand by yours truly, they start getting bleary.”

    OH PUH-LEEEEEEEEEEEASE !!! Now that i’m older and dont drink much alcohol i get sleepy after a 6-pack of Bud but i fondly remember a few house parties in the US when taller and bigger Americans were half-asleep after 4 large cups of… BUD LIGHT !!! And the only American who out-drank me was a 40ish immigrant woman from Salvador… and boy i was not even close.

    David, i discovered your blog today and it’s really really awesome.

  • cubic hair? i didn’t notice that when we met in london?
    and your red cabbage sounds divine… sauerkraut in a different hue? and i bet much, much better!

  • Damned it Dave those carnitas are fierce!
    Just made them at work since I have been making terrines all week for work,just didn’t have any tortillas!

    Will make those suckers again, even used some of the trim from a loin of pork and the ribs,ooooh lala!

    Jeremy

  • I have one friend who does this unfailingly. She also calls me everytime we are due to meet at a restaurant – 5 or 10 minutes before the reservation – especially to ask me “what is the address again?” – you know just as I am trying to concentrate on finding a blimmin’ parking spot myself and she knows i HATE driving on the cell phone.

  • Great post, but seriously, I got called on the carpet by a Parisian when I went back recently and showed up a half hour late to a dinner party…my apologies to him, but I always recalled l’heure francaise much like you do (similar to the hora espanola, i.e., do not show earlier than a half hour after the stated time). Apparently, the whole Latin disregard for punctuality in gathering times has slowly shifted in certain places!

  • Love Rancho Gordo AND his beans. How hard is it to find tortillas in Paris?

  • This is absolutely inspiring, it all sounds delicious!
    The frustrating thing is when you have some friends who show up on time and others who are always late! I’ve taken to telling my late friends that the party actually starts half-an-hour earlier than it does, thereby hoping to balance the two!

  • David, I accept your very kind offer of your hand in marriage. I’m a little high maintenance, but I’m sure you’ll adapt!

  • Yikes! Sorry I’m behind on responding to comments, but I picked up some bug or something at a local restaurant

    Steve: I accept! Can we have an heirloom bean cake?

    Tom: Yow. That’s odd. Showing up on time is generally done by older folks. I’ve shown up 20 minutes after the invite said and have been the first to arrive. Of course Parisian dinner parties always last well into the night and it’s hard to get folks to leave. When the métro stopped at 1am, people would make a mad dash for the door.

    I’ve heard that if the host offers orange juice to guests late in the evening, that means it’s time to go. That’s never happened to me, but perhaps that’s not true. (And like the letter-writer pointed out, I shouldn’t really be talking about Paris here anyways…)

    johanna: Yes, cubic hairs.

    Didn’t you wonder why I was walking kinda funny?

    Brett: Well, right now with your shaved noggin’, you would be walking a little more tête right now, I suppose…

    Henriette: Thankfully, 99.9% of the folks here are nice to me. But if I see her, I’ll give her a push into that poop for you. (and me too!)

    nyc: People here don’t have food issues (except 50% of teenage girls, who smoke so they don’t have to eat…), which is a good thing since restaurants aren’t so good at veering away from the printed menu or making substitutions. Luckily I eat most anything.

    Except tête de veau.

    Steven: It’s hard to find an authentic Kouign Amman in Paris (Pierre Herme and Laduree have versions). Someone told me at one of the markets some Bretons come with slabs of it, but I don’t know where they are. If you find them, let me know!

    Jane: The only corn tortillas that are available are the Old El Paso ones. I bought them. Once.

    I was thinking, “How bad can they be?

    Um. Let’s just say they ranked right up there with the salade Nicoise

  • Okay, David. I’m … amazed. Do you have a clone or two or three? How can you find the time to write fabulously witty posts, cookbooks, and HOST an incredible sumptuous dinner party? (I can’t even find time to write about what a miserable cook I am.) Maybe I’d better follow your recipes more closely — you’ve clearly got the right food fueling your talent!

  • You’re funny…

    I have been aware of your blog for some time. After coming back from a wonderful vacation in France (Lyon and Cassis), I am a devoted reader of yours. Yes, it’s not perfect, as you point out, but it’s still a great place.

  • At my sisters they use the El Paso mix pack for guacamole,blech! Those Swiss had no idea, I whipped up a batch of he stuff with some Italian peppers, and they were amazed! It’s seriously a challenge to make Mexican or ethnic food in some parts of Europe, maybe a Mexican restaurant in Basel? Hmmmm?

    Jeremy

  • Hmmm…very funny
    I found someone on Ebay who ships those Mexican Large Thermal Plastic Tortilla Warmer Keeper to Europe!

  • Carnitas, yum. I too, haul back tortillas from the states. When I spend too much time making salsa and guacamole I head to my butcher who makes a mean rack of ribs. I slow cook the ribs another hour, chop and spice.
    Chez Robert
    52 rue du faubourg st denis

  • Oh la vache! So many things in this post just cracked me up to the point of tears. I’m in SF now enjoying the Mexican food (well, all the food really) if you need something special lemme know, I’ll be back in 4 days. Btw, have you tried Anahaucali in the 5th? It’s the closest I’ve got to the real deal in Paris.

  • Jeremy, it’s funny you should say that. When I lived in Basel (1989-1995) there WAS a Mexican restaurant, and it wasn’t all that bad. But even better…there was a teeny tiny “store” somewhere in town where they made fresh corn tortillas and sold tomatillos and other assorted stuff. I couldn’t believe my luck! Between that place, and a fantastic Asian market where I could actually get fresh kaffir limes (not just the leaves), I managed to cook much more exotic food than one would expect. But it sounds like the Mexican place is no longer. Shame.

  • Great post, great blog.

    You had Cubic Hairs in school – we had Public Hairs. Much mirth ensued.

  • So then, for those of us with food allergies, showing up early to catch our host in his undies might be the highlight of the evening? Well, that and a Cosmo. Or two.

  • My husband is a Carnitas snob. He was born and raised in San Diego and used to eat them in Tijuana. He can’t stand spices or oj or milk in a carnitas recipe, but frying hunks in oil didn’t work well either. I made my version by browning fatty pork roast, then adding water, onion, garlic, carrot, salt and Mex. oregano and poaching it until falling apart tender. Shred and then fry in a cast iron pan with some oil, 1/4 cp, until nice a crispy and serve in warm corn tortillas w/raw onion, cheese and salsa. Guacamole is good but a little rich with the fried pork. It’s crunchy pork tacos with less oil, and easier to make.

  • Thank you David for this inspiring recipe!! I wanted to attempt a wholesome-as-possible, sucrose-free (sucrose–I have an addiction problem with it) and butter-free oatmeal raisin cookie, so I started with your recipe, and adapted it thus: (I’m very excited, because it came out great! Let me know what you think.)
    Used Bacheldre Watermill stoneground organic white flour.
    2 tbsp peanut oil instead of butter.
    1/2 cup organic agave syrup and 1/2 cup maple syrup instead of granulated sugar.
    6 dried pitted dates zizzed up with the oil and syrups.
    If the dough doesn’t seem soft enough, add a little more applesauce and a little more oil.
    Bake for 10 min or less. (But they don’t flatten!)

  • fresh fish marinated in lime and chiles?? uh that sounds peruvian not mexican, (seviche)

  • David, thank you, this recipe was amazing, and so simple. I actually added orange juice and cloves the second time around too.

  • I’ve never made carnitas before, but now I’m ready to parade it down the street (if I can stop eating it out of the roasting pan). I actually braised my pork in a slow cooker for a few hours, then shredded and roasted it to a crunchy-crispy goodness. I may have to throw a dinner party to celebrate. Thanks!

  • David, your story is funny, at times my stomach was hurting from the laughter, but I’m sorry to tell you, that this recipe is not the Mexican way of cooking carnitas. Using 2 bay leaves for this much pork meat will overpower the rest of ingredients.
    Yes depending on who you ask, everyone has there own little family secret of cooking carnitas, but most of the so called ‘family recipes’ contain the same basic ingredients: Pork meat (I prefer with bone) Salt, onion, orange juice, cinnamon (stick)garlic. I have seen some folks use ‘coca cola; at the end to give it color and caramelize the meat, some other folks have used tequila, sugar cane juice and yes, even cognac!

    I must say that your version of carnitas is great for people with cholesterol problems. I tried it and it’s good, but it does not taste like the taste that has been registered in my brain for 40+ years of eating Mexican food. (plus 9 months that mom ate carnitas for me)

    About the lard… Have you ever seen how carnitas are made?
    http://www.gallogiro.com/carnitas.php

  • Wow! Carnitas is (/are?) one of my favorite dishes and while I’m usually willing to tackle anything in the kitchen, I was always worried that the meat would dry out. I saw your recipe online and tried it…hands down, these are probably the best carnitas I’ve ever eaten. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • I gotta say this recipe was AMAZING! The yummiest thing I have made in a while. I paired it with your pickled onions and a little cumin-lime sour cream and homemade tortillas and I was in pure heaven. Also I really appreciate the fact that you write about more than just the food and how to make it. Really ups the level over most other food blogs.

    Robb

  • after 20 years of living in southern california & all it’s yummy mexican food – i was taken to north carolina! for 3 years i have been trying to find a recipe for carnitas & i am so happy i found one in the most unlikely of places. i could never figure out how to get the meat as crunchy sans lard… thank you SO much – i have a little crush on you now (but not in a weird stalking way)

  • My stomach hurts from laughing so hard. I have just recently stated reading you blog and each morning when I’m putting my son down for his nap I check to see if there is a new post for me to read. When there isn’t I usually go to the recipe archive and look at old posts/recipes.
    I have not made your carnitas but as a Gringa who was born and raised and currently living in Mexico I find your take on Carnitas to be interesting enough to make. Which will be a first since I usually just go to the carnitas restaurant a couple blocks from home.
    I have a few suggestions about your tortillas in Paris situation. When I lived in Barcelona and Florence for 1 year after collage I found that tortillas are not good in Europe. But the Mazeca brand corn flour is great, and 1 kilo will make several dozen. You basically just add water and a pinch of salt to get a moist dough. Form the tortillas by hand or squishing between 2 pieces of plastic with rolling pin.
    Finally, you don’t need to buy one of those (in my opinion) hideous plastic tortilla warmers. You are right when you say that they just leave you with soggy tortillas. What my family has found works best is to find pretty round basket with a lid (although the lid is optional). Find a flatish river stone, brick or clay circle that can fit into the basket. Heat the stone in the oven, carefully place in basket, cover with clean dish towel. Place warmed tortillas on the dish towel that is over the stone and cover with towel then with the basket cover. Keeps tortillas warmer for longer and it’s much prettier.
    Thanks for all the wonderful posts!

  • I’m hosting a dinner party tomorrow and can’t wait to make your carnitas recipe. It sounds delish and I’m sure my guests will love it. Planning to serve it with frijoles negros and sangria……..
    Also, I loved your comments on guests calling when you are putting in the final touches of the party. Usually they get lost as my house is hard to find, even though I include directions with the invite (or Evite). What’s wrong with them????
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  • Thank you for your wonderful laugh out loud blog post. I was just poking around looking for a Carnitas recipe to make my life a little less dire here as an Amerian in the UK (planning on a Cinco de Mayo party to help with my homesickness) and stumbled upon this post. I am looking forward to read the rest of your blog.

  • j’adore this recipe!!! it is soooo awesome. i’ve made it several times now and everyone loves it. i just blogged about it too! please check it out!
    http://foodisluv.blogspot.com/2009/04/carnitas.html

  • OMG! Delicious!! Was a WINNER at the superbowl party I had at home a few months back. Everyone wanted the recipe! I live in San Francisco and we do have a lot of great mexican restaurants but I have to say this dish was the best I’ve tasted!

  • I made the Carnitas today for Cinco de Mayo and they were wonderful. The seasoning was surprisingly present considering there was such a small amount. I stopped the cooking just short of them being crisp. The caramelization was just right, deep dark brown, but with a semi soft bite. Everyone loved them. Thanks for this, David, I knew I could count on your recipe.

  • Hello David.

    First of all, I have to say it is amazing to se an American making carnitas and not calling them pulled-pork-something-something. I have to admit I laughed and laughed while reading your entry and was intrigued by the fact that in the comment section people seem to think Mexico is all about Cinco de Mayo and tequila.
    I am a proud mexican and a kitchen lover, so I must say, being a fan of carnitas myself, that these do sound pretty close to the ones I eat on sundays to cure the hangover. I will be trying to make them soon and will let you know how they play out with the top carnitas´ critics.
    Also, the plastic thing you use to keep tortillas warm is called Tortillero, and if you are going to buy one, I recommend you get a traditional wicker one, with a cloth that is really thick and will keep the warmth while the french smoke.
    The last ting I wanted to say is you should definitely try and making Mezcal Martinis instead of cosmos to set the very mexican mood of any real cantina paired up with the french glamour.
    Keep experimenting with the mexican flavors, which go well beyond carnitas, mole and chiles, you could be surprised.
    xoxo.

  • Hey..!!!
    When I saw that post I was intrigued…I live in Mexico City and Carnitas of course is one of my favorite hangover breakfasts..hehehe…I must have to tell you that your recipe was pretty similar for a home made Carnitas…the only thing i have to add to this recipe is a little bit of sugar or molass (melaza) this gives a better flavor and a caramelized color like no other carnitas…
    And if someone reads that post and travel to Mexico and want to taste the best Carnitas , just go to Michoacan and visit a little town called Zinapecuaro in the downtown market there is a little spot attended by Beto for me this is the best place where Carnitas are made…no doubt.

  • Is pork shoulder, in this case, echine de porc?

    Yes it is. -dl

  • David,

    Absolutely hilarious! And spot on. Pleased to find that there are others like us out there. And I thought we just didn’t have it together!

    Was looking for a carnitas recipe, and will be using yours now!

    Cheers!

  • I’ve often thought it be a good idea to open up a Mexican “dive” in Paris…. I’ve had many restaurants (awards and critic reviews too) so maybe once I finish culinary school I’ll see if I can swing it (went back to school since there are no investors or jobs here at the moment- things are bad! I live in Las Vegas at the moment…) but on the subject of Carnitas, do you have a pressure cooker like your grandmother had? I use it to make quick carnitas and they’re juicy and wonderful and in much shorter time too! Look in my blog and you’ll find great Mexican food that you can make….. or write me and I’ll send you tips…. Cheers!

  • I searched the internet for a good carnitas recipe and chose to follow yours over Rick Bayless’. Good choice!!!!! This is probably the tastiest meat I’ve ever had. THANKS!

  • I went off your recipe for the carnitas here and mmmmmmmmm, delicious. I’ve made it several times since and have been playing around with things. One suggestion I’d like to make is squeezing an orange into the pan and then throwing in the orange slices around the meat. That was a big hit with everyone as it gave it just enough “fresh” orange flavor. Just be careful that you tend to the oranges while the pork’s braising or else you’ll burn the skin…

  • This is by far the best carnitas recipe eeeeeveeeerrrrr! I love it! I did make some changes as I hate to clean up the grease mess after frying. So, I put them in a baking dish in the oven at 450 and let the oven do the work! I flip them so both sides are browned. Gorgeous! And I have added the orange into the recipe as Stephen has! it is so fantastic. I have made this for 200 people and it was a hit! Merci David! Tre magnific!!!!

  • Don’t gasp. Resist the urge to bug out your eyeballs.

    I have a bag of RG Christmas Limas, just like you. Unlike you, I have yet to find a recipe or motivation or inspiration or . . . that will yield me more than just a vat of beans. Again! Don’t gasp! I know there is nothing wrong with a vat of beans. But I know you know what I am saying.

    As I am wiping up saliva from my space bar peering at the photos of that pork (and I used to be a vegetarian), I think I officially have the mojo to make those beans.

    Cheers to you David!

  • Tres Excellente! Made these for a Super Bowl party today – except the weather didn’t cooperate for a long braise (it was an unseasonably warm 82 degrees), so instead of the oven, I used the gas grill outside as my oven (indirect heat). These turned out perfectly — just the right amount of spice. It’s fabulous when you find the perfect recipe on the first try! Muchas gracias!
    Look forward to more of your blogs!