Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beer Braised Carnitas

I got a little super nerd excited when I noticed that this post was number 144.  Why?  Because that is 12 squared.  Not that 12 has any real meaning for my either, I just think 144 is a pretty cool number.  Yeah, I am a dork.  One of my favorite books is Fermat's Enigma.  The college essay I wrote that got me into Notre Dame?  Completely 100% based on my love of math.  I am still absolutely certain that that is the reason I got accepted.  I just really like math.  Hopefully that wasn't too much of a weird insight into how my somewhat nerdy brain is wired, that's just what popped into my head as I opened up this post, so I decided to share... Anyways, on to why you are really here, the carnitas!

There are occasionally times when I feel like I let my last name down.  I am Mexican.  Alright, I am a quarter Mexican.  But even so, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I reach for a jar of salsa, especially when I have my great-grandma Tilly's recipe sitting in the homemade cookbook on the counter.  Which is, I will admit (oh, the guilt!), ridiculously easy to make.  When I am feeling particularly shameful about my cultural negligence  I usually make Ben take me to the local taquerio where I can find a little solace in ordering a proper Mexican taco (corn tortillas, none of this cheese, sour cream, lettuce nonsense, simply topped as it should be with diced white onion, cilantro and a hearty squeeze of lime).

Other days, things are little more drastic, and I can go no longer with besmerching my good Mexican last name.  Call me a drama queen if you will, but good things usually come from these drastic measures.  Good things like corn tortillas.  And, most recently, these carnitas.  These heaven sent, lightly spicy, fall apart melt away goodness, carnitas.  Now, this is something my one quarter Mexican self can be proud of, just please ignore the fact that I did use store bought corn tortillas...

Beer Braised Carnitas
Adapted, in words only from Feb. 2013's Bon Appetit

There are 2 things you should take away from this recipe.  One is that carnitas, of any type, are usually  straight forward and easy.  There are only 5 ingredients!  Here's the gist: you take some pork, cut it up and boil it all day long until it melts apart.  Then you brown it in the very same pot after all the liquid evaporates.  For 20 minutes of prep work and a few hours on the stove, you get a pot of gorgeous, red, flavorful meat.  Two?  This is jaw-droppingly delicious.  Big Green Cookbook approved.

2 dried New Mexico chiles
4 lbs. skinless, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch hunks
12 oz lager (I used Modelo Especial)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp. kosher salt

In large dutch oven, over medium heat, toast the chilies on both sides, until they have puffed up and darkened, about 2 minutes.  Remove from pot and let cool.  Once chilies are cool enough to handle, cut in half long ways and discard the stem and seeds (the more seeds you leave in, the more spice you'll find your dish has).  Return to dutch oven and add all the remaining ingredients, plus 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork falls apart at the touch of a fork.  This took me about an hour and a half.

Once the pork is fork tender, remove the lid of the pot and raise the heat slightly, bringing the liquid to a slow boil.  Stirring occasionally, continue to boil until the liquid evaporates completely, about 25 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon, continue to allow pork to brown (it will naturally start shredding apart).  Stir continuously and scrape up the browned bits of goodness from the bottom for another 10-15 minutes.

Finally, add about 1 cup of water to the dutch oven.  Bring to a boil and scrape up any remaining browned bits of goodness from the bottom.  Serve with corn tortillas and a smile!

For instructions on making ahead of time (up to 3 days!), see BA's website.

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