Pork carnitas (which, literally translated, means “little meats”) are terrifically tasty and quite easy to make. Traditionally carnitas are dipped into salsas or used as a filling in burritos, tacos, and other dishes; here I suggest serving them as an appetizer with a couple of salsas alongside.
This recipe feeds a crowd, but if you have a smaller group, you can always freeze some of the carnitas for later (see Note). Of course, you can also just divide the recipe by one half or one third.
Yield: 24 servings—3 to 4 carnitas each
1 pork shoulder or butt (3 pounds), trimmed of any large pieces of fat, leaving the marbling
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons pure ground hot red chile, or 1 ½ teaspoons ground chipotle chile (chipotle powder)
1 orange, rind zested and juiced
1 or 2 salsas of your choice, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the pork into 2 x ½-inch strips. Place the pork in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and the ground red chile, orange zest and juice and stir well. Sprinkle this mixture over the pork and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Place the pork in one or two shallow baking pans (it should be only one or two layers deep). Add water to just barely cover the pork, and transfer the pan(s) to the oven. Roast the pork for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350F and continue cooking the pork, turning it periodically with a spatula, until all the water has evaporated and it is crispy and brown, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- Place the roasted pork carnitas on a platter, and serve immediately with the salsas alongside.
Note: You can divide the carnitas into smaller quantities, place them in resealable freezer bags, press the air out of the bags, and freeze them for up to 90 days. To reheat the carnitas, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350F oven and bake until hot and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.