This Mexican classic is yet another of those simple dishes that remind us how patience in the kitchen can yield truly rewarding results. In my opinion, no fancy fusion-type cuisine could ever beat slow-cooked, home-prepared comfort food.
Literally translating to “little pieces of meat”, the succulence and pull-apart tenderness of pork carnitas can only be achieved with a long and slow braise – a task that your slow cooker was primarily made for.
So what cut of pork is perfect for slow braising? Cuts from a Boston butt or picnic ham would be ideal for its adequately lean meat with some considerable heavy marbling. That fat would be essential to keeping your carnitas moist all throughout that long steady braise.
Going hardcore-authentic on your carnitas would even call for the pork to be braised in a proportional amount of lard, much like a traditional confit. This technique would definitely yield far more succulent meat but which I may have to pass on for plain health reasons which I’m sure won’t need further explaining.
This perfect Mexican comfort food couldn’t be easier to prepare. In fact, preparing a good amount of salsa to go with your carnitas may require much more effort. Simply throw all those ingredients into the pot and let the slow cooker do its job.
Once pull- apart tender, take all the pieces of pork out of the pot using a slotted spoon.
Get the pieces of pork on a plate and start shredding them with a pair of forks. Wearing a pair of disposable gloves and doing this by hand may even be a more efficient approach when working with larger quantities of meat.
Take the cooking liquid out of the pot and strain it through a colander. Transfer that stock to a small saucepan and set it over the stove to reduce by about half of its volume. This would further concentrate all those flavors into something like a Mexican-flavored jus which we’ll use later to add a final layer of moisture to our carnitas.
That pork would really be good straight out of the slow cooker. Giving them a final sear though is something that I highly recommend for added depth of flavor and a more interesting texture.
Simply get a skillet smoking hot on the stove, and work on those shredded bits of pork one small batch at a time. Doing this step as quick as possible would assure you that your carnitas stay moist as they already are.
For even more flavor and moisture, ladle a bit of that reduced stock into the skillet.
This Mexican specialty would be excellent with rice, tortillas, tamales, sandwiches. . . something excellent on its own needs nothing much to go with it really.