San Francisco Cookoff: Carnitas

“Why don’t you write about those Carnitas on my blog, I made an account for you” said mr smokeandumami enthusiastically.  But I wasn’t sure, this blog is like a diary isn’t it?  If not a diary then it’s Nick’s personal expression of his love of good food.  So at best I’m going to feel I’m doodling over another man’s thoughts.  At worse it could be even more personal, it could feel like playing with another man’s todger!  I know in these enlightened times that that’s kinda ok, but you know I’ve just never been that way inclined.  After a few days though I’ve warmed to the idea, maybe it’s more like he’s thrown me the keys to his Ferrari and I’d be foolish to turn down the opportunity to give it a blast around the block.  So here goes, wheelspinning away on the first proper collaborative contribution to smokeandumami.

Last Saturday there was Popstrami reunion round at Nick and Hannah’s where we had a nice casual dinner with a San Francisco cookoff theme.  This had been brewing for a few months and originally the main course was supposed to be Mission-district Burritos, massive tortillas overfilled with rice, refried beans and meat.  Truly a meal (or two) in itself.  I’ve had these from a Mexican street cart in New York and to be honest, they weren’t that great.  What are great are Carnitas, and as I’d volunteered to do the main then that’s what I’m going to cook!  Carnitas translate to little meats, these are little open tortilla parcels filled with highly spiced shredded pork, a little salsa (pico de gallo usually) and guacamole.  Here’s how I made them the other day, it was enough to feed ten hungry people – about 30 portions.  Although there were only 7 of us!

  • Cut up one whole pork shoulder butt into big chunks and season them liberally with salt.  Whilst the pork is salting, gently toast 3 pasilla, 4 ancho and 8 chipotle chillis in a dry pan till they are soft and malleable.  Don’t overdo them, they shouldn’t be too dry or brittle.  Remove the stalks and seeds and cut the chillis up into small pieces.  Cover with boiling water and let it soak for 15 minutes until the chillis are soft enough to blend into a smooth puree.  Whilst they are blending add 6 fat cloves of garlic and a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cumin.  That’s the mole made.
  • Brown the pork chunks all over in a shallow wide pan so that the meat is in one layer.  Add the mole and enough water to just cover the pork, stir well then stick the whole lot in a 150C oven uncovered for about 3 to 4 hours.  You will need to turn the pork occasionally when the top browns, maybe once an hour.
  • The pork is done when 80% of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is fork tender.  If too much liquid has gone before the meat is tender then simply add some more water.  Remove from the heat and when cool enough shred the pork with your hands.  The mixture should be moist and sloppy, ready for your carnitas!
  • Some people like their meat drier, you can after shredding put the meat back into a hot oven to crisp up but I like mine nice and sloppy!
  • Slap some meat on your tortilla (I prefer corn tortillas), add salsa and guacamole.  Eat and repeat till well stuffed.
Cheers Lap aka Prawncrackers aka Oishinboy