Saturday, March 17, 2012

Carnitas with Green Salsa

This carnitas or "little meats" recipe is the best tortilla-wrapped food I have ever eaten. Slowly simmered pork is left to sizzle in its own drippings and then combined with a tart acidic green salsa. It's like the shredded pork cousin of churrasco with chimichurri. The tart salsa cuts the fatty flavor of the pork beautifully. The only thing I didn't like about this recipe is the state it left my stock pot in – an overnight soaking was required. It's definitely worth the trouble, but next time I'm going to try a two-part process, starting in a crockpot and then transferring to a cast iron skillet for the final crisping phase. I'll report back once I've tried the new cooking method, but I see no reason to deny you this deliciousness in the meantime.

First you're going to need a pork shoulder roast. Because this is a fattier roast and a lot of the fat renders out, I'm going to advise you to get about 12 ounces of uncooked meat per person. This will give you enough meat for two large tacos per person. This recipe uses a three-pound roast so just scale the recipe up proportionally for whatever roast size your cooking. You chop the roast into two-inch cubes and put it in a large pot with garlic, orange juice, lime juice, salt, and a little cumin.
Then you just barely cover the meat with water, bring the mixture a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. You let the pork simmer away for two hours uncovered. Here's the before and after:
After the two hours are up, you crank up the heat a bit and let the remaining liquid cook off. The time on this can vary quite a bit. The recipe said a half hour or more before all the liquid is gone, but it only took me 10–15 minutes, so keep an eye on it at this point. You'll be left with liquid fat at the bottom. You gently turn the meat until it's browned on all sides. 
Then you remove, shred, and serve.

Now while the meat is going on that two-hour simmer, you shouldn't twiddle your thumbs. Take 25 minutes and make green salsa. First toss the tomatillos, onion, and three cloves of garlic in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes.

Scrape all the roasted veggies in a bowl. Add jalapeƱos, lime juice, another clove of garlic, a big handful of cilantro, and salt. Puree and you're done!
Serve with the meat in tortillas or taco shells. Or make the best nachos ever! Add whatever other fixings you like, but you don't need to go overboard since the meat and salsa are so flavorful. We liked ours with avocado and Greek yogurt, my go-to sour cream replacement.

Adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4 generously
Cooking Time: 2 hours 45 min. (maybe 30 min. active)


3 pounds pork shoulder roast
1/2 cup orange juice (I used tangelo juice because it's what I had around.)
1/4 cup lime juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste


1. Cut the pork roast into 2-inch chunks and put in a large pot. Add all the other ingredients.

2. Add water to the pot until the meat is just covered.

3. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.

4. After the 2 hours are up turn the heat up to medium-high and cook off the remaining water/juice. At this stage, check the meat every few minutes. It could take anywhere from 10-40 minutes for the rest of the liquid to evaporate.

5. When there is just liquid fat in the bottom of the pot start turning the meat to brown it on all sides.

6. Remove meat from pot and shred with two forks. Serve in tortillas with the salsa below.

Green Salsa
Adapted from Food in Jars (although the idea to pair it with carnitas was also inspired by The Homesick Texan Cookbook)
Makes a lot (4 cups maybe? Probably enough for two batches of carnitas.)
Cooking time: 25 min. (10 active)

1 pound tomatillos
1-2 jalapeƱos, seeded and chopped (I used 2, but mine weren't very spicy.)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 medium onion
1/ 4 cup packed cilantro (Didn't actually measure. This is a guesstimate.)
salt to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.

2. Husk, wash, and slice the tomatillos in half. Cut the onion into large chunks.

3. Roast the tomatillos, onion chunks, and 3 cloves of garlic for 15 minutes.

4. Scrape into a bowl and add the other ingredients. Puree with an immersion blender.

5. Salt to taste and serve with the carnitas. The salsa will get better as its sits and the flavors meld so feel free to make it ahead of time.


  1. I adore you for this recipe. I followed it with a slight modification of adding some brown sugar to it. Amazing! This was my first real meal I've ever made... I usually make the dessert! everyone loved it on homemade corn tortillas! thanks!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! I've got to try my hand at making tortillas one of these days. I bet this recipe is fantastic with warm just-made tortillas.