Carnitas

What to do when people call you thirty minutes before you’ve invited them for dinner? It’s something I don’t understand. If you’re anything like me, during those precious few minutes before everyone arrives you’re racing around (probably not entirely dressed…) trying to get everything together so you can at least attempt to give the appearance that you’re relaxed when they arrive. 

There are a couple of rules in Paris about dinner parties. The first is that you never, ever show up on time. Twenty to thirty minutes late is normale, and if you show up earlier you just may catch your host in their unmentionables. (Which may or may not be such a bad thing, depending on who invited you.)

Another is that you need to remember people’s digicode in advance. Most buildings in Paris have a series of numbers and letters that you need to enter in the right order on a touchpad by the entry to get into the building. And, once again, if you’re anything like me, it’s hard to remember everyone’s codes.

Last week I made carnitas for friends, which is the perfect thing to make since it is best made well in advance. It’s great for Parisian 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 hasn’t always had such a great reputation. 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.

We used to have a tortilleria in Paris, but they closed up shop*. These from Vista Hermosa, however, are worth packing across the Atlantic. And next time I go back to New York, I’m going to pay that pesky extra baggage fee (which someone told me is called “the expat tax”) and bring more back with me.

In recent years, Mexican cuisine has made some inroads into the Paris restaurant scene and there are a number of places turning good Mexican far, as well as Margaritas, which are essential on taco night.

Interestingly, carnitas are one of the most popular recipes from my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

For queso fresco, I stop in an Italian épicerie and get ricotta salata, although I’ve also made it, too. Feta works fine, although it’s a little moister so I crumble it and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Cilantro in abundant in Paris, at the markets, so I chop that as well and pickle some red onions.

And margaritas? Oui, please. (Or, si.) The classic Lime Margarita is always popular, although sometimes I shake things up with Orange, MelonStrawberry, or Persimmon Margaritas.

Carnitas
Print Recipe
Serves Eight
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris
I revised and updated this post since I first published it. Since then, slow cookers and electric pressure cookers have become popular. If you make these in one of those vessels, feel free to leave messages in the comments about your technique and results.Carnitas can be made various ways. Some cooks add a teaspoon or so of Mexican dried oregano. To change things up, I often use beer in place of a portion of the water. Other cooks use orange juice...or even soda.
4 to 5 pounds (2-2,25kg) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
water
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves 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. If they are too crowded, they'll steam rather than brown.
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 350ºF (180ºC) 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.

Note: I like my carnitas <a href="https://flic.kr/p/54Jndm">deep, dark, and crisp</a> on the outside if serving them with rice and beans. For tacos, I shred the meat, as shown in this post.

*At the time of this writing, Bocamexa sells both corn and flour tortillas in Paris. There are online sources for Mexican products in France, such as Aztek Comptoir Mexicain, Casamex, and Mi Tiendita, although I haven’t ordered from any of those sources.

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A recipe for Mexican carnitas, pulled pork, perfect for tacos or a Mexican food fiesta!

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115 comments

  • September 13, 2007 3:21pm

    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. :)

  • September 13, 2007 3:23pm

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

  • September 13, 2007 3:36pm

    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.

  • Henriette
    September 13, 2007 3:41pm

    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!;-)

  • September 13, 2007 3:45pm

    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.

    • Thea
      August 27, 2018 2:28am

      Seconded on the dried oregano from Rancho Gordo.

  • Ellen
    September 13, 2007 4:09pm

    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!

  • Derek
    September 13, 2007 4:25pm

    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?

    • Maral
      August 26, 2018 10:12pm

      In light of limits on tortillas, You can do a Mexican type pork stew that has beans in it, and serve it with Spanish rice and a salad that has radishes, grilled corn, and olives with a cilantro/oregano dressing. Or you can make David’s carnitas and serve with spanish rice and refried beans. Google in Allrecipes — you’ll see lots of options. Good luck.

  • September 13, 2007 4:25pm

    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.

    • Sandra Alexander
      August 27, 2018 12:19am

      Red cabbage Asian slaw/salad is great. Try google for Thai or Vietnamese versions. Use it to accompany versions of sate (satay) or in Vietnamese style bread rolls or rice wraps.

  • Donna
    September 13, 2007 5:41pm

    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?

  • September 13, 2007 6:03pm

    “…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.

  • Steven
    September 13, 2007 6:08pm

    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.

  • September 13, 2007 6:19pm

    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.

  • September 13, 2007 6:40pm

    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!

  • Robert
    September 13, 2007 7:47pm

    So, you’re pushing carnitas for Rosh Hashanah?

  • Nan
    September 13, 2007 8:10pm

    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.

  • Bruce
    September 13, 2007 8:22pm

    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!

  • September 13, 2007 9:22pm

    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.

  • September 13, 2007 10:02pm

    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!

  • Jennifer
    September 13, 2007 11:10pm

    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…

  • Terrie
    September 14, 2007 1:43am

    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.

  • September 14, 2007 1:51am

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

  • September 14, 2007 2:31am

    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!”

  • September 14, 2007 3:07am

    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.

  • September 14, 2007 4:49am

    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?)

  • September 14, 2007 8:58am

    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!

  • September 14, 2007 9:25am

    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?

  • September 14, 2007 9:40am

    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.

  • Fred
    September 14, 2007 10:33am

    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.

    • August 28, 2018 4:49am

      Thanks Fred, I live in Santa Cuz and the next time I am in the city I will try it.
      Any guest in my house that is 1½ hours late without a good excuse can eat at Taco Bell.

  • September 14, 2007 11:16am

    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.

    • june2
      August 27, 2018 8:57pm

      “over the food issues of folks in L.A.”

      Blame the FDA for allowing rampant chemical and gmo’s that are not meant to be human food. Sensitive people are the canaries of the human race. We ignore at our own (or our children’s) peril.

      • Epic
        September 20, 2018 5:28pm

        You sound like a hoot at parties…

  • September 14, 2007 2:21pm

    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…

  • Fabrice
    September 14, 2007 2:32pm

    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.

  • September 14, 2007 3:18pm

    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!

  • September 14, 2007 4:40pm

    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

  • sam breach
    September 14, 2007 5:00pm

    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.

  • tom
    September 14, 2007 5:06pm

    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!

  • Jane
    September 14, 2007 6:36pm

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

  • September 14, 2007 8:23pm

    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!

  • September 15, 2007 12:30am

    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!

  • September 15, 2007 2:56am

    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

  • September 15, 2007 8:36am

    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!

  • Renee
    September 15, 2007 9:15am

    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.

  • September 15, 2007 9:24am

    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

  • September 15, 2007 3:03pm

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

  • joyofcooking
    September 15, 2007 3:03pm

    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

  • September 15, 2007 5:33pm

    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.

  • Jennifer
    September 15, 2007 10:39pm

    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.

  • Jim
    September 16, 2007 6:59am

    Great post, great blog.

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

  • September 17, 2007 10:31am

    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.

  • Cigarlady
    September 17, 2007 9:45pm

    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.

  • kate l
    September 18, 2007 9:07am

    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!)

  • chefJCF
    October 2, 2007 2:30pm

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

  • Jessica
    September 14, 2008 6:37pm

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

  • jen
    September 27, 2008 8:44pm

    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!

  • roberto montero
    October 10, 2008 5:00pm

    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)

  • Kelli
    January 2, 2009 4:45am

    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.

  • agrayspace
    January 21, 2009 5:25pm

    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

  • Darcy Moore
    January 27, 2009 11:49am

    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)

  • Sweet Loreto
    February 13, 2009 2:07pm

    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!

  • Heather in Menlo Park, CA
    April 6, 2009 9:36pm

    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!

  • Kristin Thomas
    April 17, 2009 6:34pm

    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.

  • food is luv
    May 1, 2009 8:47pm

    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!

  • Lynette
    April 20, 2010 1:11pm

    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!

  • Susan
    May 5, 2010 11:45pm

    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.

  • Jimena
    July 29, 2010 5:25pm

    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.

  • August 3, 2010 2:24pm

    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.

  • August 30, 2010 11:08am

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

    It’s palette du porc, although echine is possible to use too. -dl

  • Lisa Kitchen
    October 4, 2010 7:07pm

    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!

  • October 30, 2010 5:05am

    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!

  • November 4, 2010 8:10am

    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!

  • Stephen
    December 27, 2010 12:05am

    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…

  • kristina
    January 8, 2011 5:13am

    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!!!!

  • February 4, 2011 2:30pm

    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!

  • Joannie
    February 7, 2011 6:53am

    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!

  • Jan
    August 26, 2018 5:10pm

    Sorry all but these don’t work in Provence unless you’re hosting an all-north american gathering. Even the north african dishes are not as spicy as they should be – geared to the delicate French palate perhaps?

  • August 26, 2018 5:14pm

    I have been given a wild boar loin, am thinking this would be a great thing to do for a party, which I have coming up for my husbands birthday. Do you think it would work? Could I do the initial browning on the BBQ?

    • August 26, 2018 6:07pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know about boar loin but cuts like pork loin are too lean to use for carnitas, which require a certain amount of fat and loin meat is generally lean.

      • Angela billows
        September 12, 2018 9:08am

        Just thought i’d Add that I did use the boar loin, but covered it with ‘lard’ which is what they call the fat only bacon slices you can get in France. It was delicious and it all went. One guest had 3 helpings!!!

    • Jake Sterling
      August 27, 2018 1:43pm

      Try the Spanish tapas recipe for “Raxos.” Absolutely delicious. Cut up the loin into pieces as you would for stew or kebabs, layer them with a mixture of chopped garlic (a lot), sweet paprika, salt, oregano, chopped parsley, and drizzled olive oil. Add some dry or medium sherry, cover and let it marinate for 1–2 days in the refrigerator. To cook, pat the meat dry and fry it in a bit of olive oil until it is just cooked (don’t overcook it!). Another Spanish idea for pork loin is Pinchos Morunos (Moorish skewers). If you google these recipes, you will get better instructions.

  • Hetty King
    August 26, 2018 5:18pm

    Hi David, I read The Sweet Life in Paris on my way to Paris this past summer. I laughed all the way!! Armed with your insights, we greeted everyone with a heartfelt “Bonjour”, spoke as much french as we could, and received nothing but absolute generosity and warmth from the Parisians. I thank you sincerely!

  • Gina Bisaillon
    August 26, 2018 5:28pm

    I lived in Mexico 20 years and learned to make carnitas by watching my friends make it at home. (“Real” carnitas are an entirely different matter, involving a huge copper pot full of rendered pork fat into which pieces of meat and all the organs of a whole pig are fried for hours). At home, pieces of pork are placed in cold lightly salted water and simmered until all the water has evaporated. Then the pork is fried till brown in the rendered fat. No other seasoning but salt is used. The seasoning comes from the toppings and salsa.

    • Lily
      August 27, 2018 4:23am

      Very interesting, thanks for posting — since I don’t have a copper pot or a whole pig, I’m going to try David’s version — it’s somewhst similar

  • Hal
    August 26, 2018 6:07pm

    I’m over in Passy, the 16th. Although I have friends from around the city, so when I make Mexican I only invite expats. My French friends consider salt and pepper to be herb and spice. I’ve never encountered so many people who find layers of flavor to be distasteful.

  • Kathleen Sawtell
    August 26, 2018 6:37pm

    I use an immersion circulator. Cut the butt in 2lb pieces, place in ziploc, with oregano, chile powders, orange juice, cumin powder.
    Process at 140° 48 hours.
    Put in roasting pan with garlic and salt and continue about the same way you do in the oven.
    If I’m not serving the same day Sous video processing is finished, I shock in an ice bath to 70° or lower and store in the fridge.

  • Jeff Chosid
    August 26, 2018 6:40pm

    Great recipe, which I’ll try. Another idea is to initially cook sous vide (Faire le sous vide?) with all of the spices, etc. I then repackage in meal-size vacuum bags. To prepare, I’ll defrost in a sous vide bath and then sauté.

  • Scott
    August 26, 2018 7:04pm

    Good article and great recipe. I have to try a cinnamon stick in mine next time. I use a similar recipe but add a chopped white onion and squeeze in a fresh orange and toss the peels in. I also go for bone in and after trimming the pieces, toss the bone in too. 35 mins in an electric pressure cooker. The real magic happens after that. Take the pieces out and strain the liquid. Reduce down to make a glaze, a pork caramel I call it. I like the crispy bits, so I glaze the chunks of pork and broil until almost charred. Rotate and repeat.

  • BK
    August 26, 2018 10:31pm

    thank you from desert rats in Santa Fe, NM! We lived in Paris Jan-May 2018, and will be back Jan-June 2019. Now I know where to buy tortillas – thank you sooo much! love your Instagram and blog ;)

  • Barbara
    August 26, 2018 11:28pm

    Carnitas is why I’m not a vegetarian. I’ve never made it at home, however — now I’m inspired to try.

  • Sandra Myers
    August 26, 2018 11:49pm

    What about a slower cooker set on high instead of oven braising? And for all those digicodes of friends, how about adding to the notes of each of your contacts on your smartphone? Just hit on the circle I next to their name and scroll down! Also could brisket be substituted for pork for those who don’t eat pork? I can just picture you run around in skivvies before your guests arrive trying to finish up clean up set up!! Ha!

    • August 27, 2018 8:23am
      David Lebovitz

      I actually like the crispy parts of carnitas which you wouldn’t get in a slow-cooker, but if you’re going to shred the meat for tacos you could use one. As for adding the codes in my phone, the problem is when you arrive for dinner at someone’s house/apt, there’s a lot of fanfare and so forth, so stopping and saying, “Wait. Can you tell me the code again, and I’ll put it in my phone?” Then you start scrolling through, looking for the contact, asking again, etc. and I find that people want to talk to me when I arrive, rather than wait for me to do that. So I never have a moment to get it done :)

  • nicole
    August 27, 2018 12:55am

    Started using instapot and somewhat easier. Still salt and brown the meat in my fav braising pan, as I think it tastes better than using the instapot, then add meat to instapot and add chopped red onions, garlic, pepper, salt and Mex. oregano, and a touch of Adobo seasoning. then add either enough chicken broth or beer (or combo) to cover and cook for 1 hour on meat setting. Meat should be falling apart when opened. I do like to quick braise some of meat again for those cripsy bits, but it can go straight from pot to tortillas!

  • pippin
    August 27, 2018 5:36am

    I make a chicken version of this in a dutch oven on the stove: slice up some bacon and cook it until the fat starts to come out, then add a sliced onion. when it softens, place boneless chicken pieces on top, sprinkle with a little salt, and let them cook until no pink is left. Cover the whole mess with chicken stock, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, then uncover, turn the heat up and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the broth as been reduced. I’ve made it with boneless thighs or white meat – i preferred the thighs. Amazing meal served with warm tortillas, pintos, LIME – must have lime, sour cream, and a little cheese.

  • NancyFromKona
    August 27, 2018 8:33am

    Next time I entertain I am so doing these carnitas. Yesterday to celebrate the almost end of Cat 5 Hurricane Lane, I invited friends over for pizza. Yes, I know they like to eat at 5 but I like 7 and thought 6 was a good compromise. Imagine my horror when they showed up 30 min early as hot, sweaty and bra-less me was working over a 500 degree oven in 90 degree heat dreaming of that cold shower. Never got the shower and hoping they appreciated the pizza was the show and not my deshabille.

  • Janice Linhares
    August 27, 2018 9:09am

    Bonjour David, I order corn tortillas from CoolChili.co.uk. They make their own. Plus have a good tomatillo salsa. Give them a try. Shippings not too pricey. Or you can pop over to London!

  • August 27, 2018 11:25am

    Mexican food is to France as Au Lait Cru Brie is to the US.

  • Roanne MARTIN
    August 27, 2018 1:57pm

    The worse thing we ever did is show up a DAY early. My husband is the Swissest of Swiss and is notorious for precision. Luckily our friends were great – had wine and chesse. And, yes, had dinner the following night with them.
    The carnitas I had in Sausalito were gigantic and awful (strange for California). I like yours – they are more like shredded pork. With a slow cooker, they should be cooked for about 7 hours on low. Ribs can be done that way too. Cheesecake too apparently but have always been too scared…

    • Bebe
      August 30, 2018 6:08pm

      This Southern Californian believes Sausalito is too far north, too near San Francisco, for really good authentic carnitas, which are the shreddy kind!

  • Camille
    August 27, 2018 2:15pm

    I found tortillas (both corn and wheat) at Latino Market (sic!) on the Blvd Lefebvre in the 15th.

  • ron shapley
    August 27, 2018 5:19pm

    Hi Dave,

    I made chicken carnitas ala Rick Bayless… Check it out…

  • Arturo
    August 27, 2018 7:57pm

    A bit old fashioned but I add a bit of milk and orange peel

  • Hadley McCarroll
    August 29, 2018 8:02am

    I just finally read L’appart. I could not put it down and read it in two nights. Loved it and totally get my French friend who came to an open house with me and declared “ah no! you must not buy this house-the air vents are in the ceiling! you will get a cold from this cold air coming down on your head.” It’s all clear now, Daveeed-merci!!

  • Jean White
    August 29, 2018 5:10pm

    I was thinking of making a crock pot version of carnitas, when your posting came along and saved me. Just stuck it in the oven but already know it’ll be great. Love the idea of crisping it up in its juices.
    Love your blog. Ah, the Parisian life!

  • Bebe
    August 30, 2018 6:05pm

    David, I wish everyone had the same feeling about arriving on the dot for a dinner party. My husband had to be cured of this… I told him we must never ever arrive exactly on time! I know what it is like to be a hostess. Murphy’s Law prevails and if it hits, it will invariably hit a short while before the designated party hour.

    Your post reminded me of my trip to Paris to spend some time with my American expat friend there. She wanted to do a birthday party for me, so that I could meet her French friends, and would I bring the things for a taco party that she could not find in France? Yes. Baggage allowance was more generous then so tortillas and other things went into my extra bag. The French loved her taco party in her beautiful backyard. I did, too. Your post jarred loose this lovely memory… Thank you.

    Thank you too for your carnitas recipe. I love carnitas – we used to buy it at a special shop in Tijuana – but have never tried to make it.

  • August 30, 2018 8:12pm

    I’m a San Antonio girl. I could charm the pants off a bronze statue with my quesadillas and margaritas. Let me know, anytime, when you’re here, and I’ll “rustle some up!” Brenda

  • Julia
    September 1, 2018 7:45pm

    Took your carnitas and pickled onions to the Hollywood Bowl — huge hit!

  • Heidi
    September 3, 2018 11:37pm

    Read this recipe and ran right out and bought a locally raised pork shoulder to make this recipe. HUGE hit with everyone!
    I may have cut the pork pieces a little too small, but since we all fight over crispy bits in this house, there were definitely enough to make everyone happy.
    And if you and Romain ever want to visit Jackson Hole, we’ll show you a good time!

  • Russ
    September 15, 2018 7:02pm

    OMG, delicious. Thank you for sharing. Finishing off in the cast iron gave the perfect crunch, and the left-overs (surprised there were any) with a fried egg over the top…..yes, hangover cure.

    In one of the pictures above with the Vista Hermosa tortillas, there is a green sauce. Would love to know what that is, it looks like a delicious addition.

    Keep up the great work!!!

    Thank you, Russ & Donna

    • September 16, 2018 2:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a salsa verde made with fresh herbs and olive oil, with a bit of lemon (or maybe I used vinegar? ) for balance as well as some shallots