Last weekend we had “make your own taco” night. I made black beans, rice, and 3 kinds of meat: grilled skirt steak, grilled chicken, and carnitas. I had never made carnitas before, but it is my favorite type of taco filling. I always order it at Rositas (Woodside Road, Redwood City) and figured I needed a challenge. Well, the challenge wasn’t in making the dish, but in finding a recipe for it. Brilliant Daughter surfed my cookbooks with no luck. So she went online and surfed websites. We came up with nothing remotely Mexican in origin. Or at least what I thought was like the carnitas I love. Short of calling Mr. Mendoza, who owns Rositas, we decided to punt and make what I call the “gringa carnitas.” It was a recipe she found online, which approximates the texture and flavor of carnitas, but does so without cooking it in extra lard or whatnot. As strange as the recipe sounded, we gave it a go and were very pleasantly surprised. It was delicious and not at all difficult. Simple ingredients, very little prep, long cooking time but very little steps. Definitely worth keeping in my stable of recipes, so I thought I would share. Meanwhile, I will keep my eyes open for a more authentic recipe…or maybe one of you can share one with me?
4 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs**
2 cups (or more) water
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (prepared works as well)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 cup brandy
Cut pork pieces crosswise into thirds. Cut off any big chunks of fat from pork and reserve; leave small pieces of fat attached to pork. Combine pork, reserved fat, 2 cups water, and next 4 ingredients in deep 12-inch pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until pork is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 45 minutes, adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls if necessary to keep pork partially submerged.
Uncover; boil pork mixture until liquid is reduced by half, about 10-20 minutes. Stir in brandy; boil until liquid evaporates and meat browns and begins to get crisp, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cool meat slightly. Discard any loose pieces of fat. Tear meat into strips; return to skillet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
You can reheat the meat in one of two ways:
(1) Add 2 tablespoons water to skillet. Cover and rewarm pork over medium-low heat, stirring, about 5 minutes.
(2) Put in ovenproof dish, cover with lid or foil and heat on 350 degrees in oven for 30 minutes. Uncover for 10-15 minutes to crisp up the meat.
**I had a blade pork roast, so Butcher Son came over and boned it out and cut it into large chunks.