28/52: Braised Carnitas Tacos

Man, I think my brain needs a break. I have this tendency to get completely engrossed in a topic that is bothering me, to the point where I physically get upset {stomach hurts, lose appetite, etc}. And that was my problem last night. We are currently taking a course about child abuse and neglect, and what you need to report, how to report, etc. It is completely beyond me how someone could do such horrible things to their child. I of course want to be an advocate for children and help them get help when they need it. But I just don’t want to have to experience a situation where I need to report. I’m not sure if that makes any sense… But, I guess this is all a part of being a teacher. I knew I would have to deal with this, but it is one of those situations that until the reality of it hits you it’s hard to conceptualize. Sigh. At least the course is almost over so I won’t have to be thinking about things in extreme detail for a bit.

Anyway… on to something more uplifting. I am taking a break from it all and bringing some delicious food straight to you! Voila! 🙂

I was sitting here yesterday trying to figure out what I am going to post this week – {Since I have been pre-occupied with school and not cooking or baking much of anything that is blog worthy} – when it hit me. Gasp. I realized I never shared with you my delicious recipe for slow cooked, braised carnitas!! Slow cooked pork shoulder in a flavorful sauce, wrapped up in a warm tortilla with cilantro lime rice, black beans and homemade salsa?! Oh yes.

Until recently I had never had braised carnitas but once I did it was life changing! The cliff’s note version of the story is… One afternoon the hubby and I decided to pop down to The Matador and grab some lunch, we both settled on the braised carnitas and were instantly in Mexican food heaven {which for me, Mexican food is heaven, I could eat it everyday!}. The meat just melted in your mouth and was popping with insane flavor. After that, I decided it was time to track down a similar recipe and introduce this into our menu… after much searching I found a recipe that had similar spices, but I wasn’t crazy about the overall recipe. So I found yet another, added a few spices to that one and a more flavorful beer and was totally pleased.

I always know when I have a good recipe because Johnny walks in the door from work and tells me how good dinner smells… that’s the true test for a winning recipe! My one regret — the recipe smelled so good, and I was so anxious to try it that I only got a few pics. It didn’t do justice… you simply just have to try this recipe!

Oh yeah. The meat just falls apart once its done, so good. Serve it up with a warmed tortilla, cilantro-lime rice {cook up rice, add juice of 1 lime, and a bunch of chopped cilantro, stir and you’re in business}, black beans, avocado… basically the works}. This is one of those meals that just warms your soul, it is mucho delicioso!

Braised Carnitas Tacos

Ingredients:
5 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5 inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
2 T sea salt
2 T vegetable oil
1 cup white onion, diced
1-2 T fresh garlic minced
2 bottles {12 oz.} Rogue Amber Ale **This is my substitution, the recipe originally called for Fat Tire, but I love Rogue’s Amber – you could use anything you like
1 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 whole bay leaves
Tortillas
Garnish — lime wedges and salsa

Directions:
Using paper towels, dry off the pork and generously season with salt.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the pieces of pork 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. Be sure to take your time to get a deep brown color as it enhances the flavor. It usually takes me about 30 minutes to properly brown all the meat.

Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel. Discard all but one tablespoon of the grease that remains in the pot. Lower the heat to medium. Add the onions to the pot and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional one to two minutes. Then pour in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits.

Heat the oven to 350ºF.

Add the pork back to the pot and add the remaining of the seasonings and spices. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3 to 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.

Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, discarding any big chunks of fat. 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.

Serve with tortillas and your choice of salsas and toppings.

Source & Recipe: Slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen

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