Remember that streak of healthy recipes I shared with you? Well, it’s over. Because I have discovered the wondrous miracle of homemade pork carnitas. They’re so phenomenally easy to make and so fantastically delicious wrapped up in corn tortillas and topped with shredded cabbage and guacamole, that we might never eat anything else again.
This happy disaster is all thanks to the overwhelming heat that’s already settled in over the District. I’ve been on the hunt for recipes that require as little heat in the kitchen as possible – a cobbler that’s steamed on the stove top instead of baked, a cold noodle salad folded into lettuce cups, and these carnitas, which taste as though they’ve been roasting for hours, but have really been simmering lightly, barely steaming and wonderfully fragrant.
After nearly five years in DC, I’ve grown use to the oppressive summer heat arriving on Memorial Day weekend. I’ve even come to accept it; after all, it is the unofficial start of summer. But in Rangeley, where I spent all of my childhood Memorial Days, it felt more like the start of spring. Fifty degrees in the sunshine. Just a few weeks earlier, the ice would have gone out on the lake. And a day or two before we arrived for the weekend, the boat was taken out of dry dock and parked at a slip at Oquossoc Marina, the dock was installed, and the mooring was attached to its chain, waiting for its ward. We carried the canoe down to the dock, brought out the deck furniture, and unfurled the flag. We had all the trappings of summer, but the second our finger tips touched the surface of the lake, as we took turns diving in, we knew summer was still a long way off.
It was a crazy tradition, swimming on Memorial Day. I blame dad for its invention, though I don’t actually remember how this polar plunge began. The water couldn’t have been much more than fifty degrees – so cold it hurt and forced your breath to catch in your chest. But oh! what a feeling when you climbed up the ladder onto the dock and the cool spring air felt gloriously warm and the birds seemed to twitter more loudly and the lapping water sounded like music and the buds on the trees were green as emeralds. Not even pork carnitas can compare to that.
Homesick Texan Carnitas from SmittenKitchen by Deb Perelman
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 to 3 limes)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Corn tortillas, for serving plus
Avocado slices, chopped cilantro and fixings of your choice (we love pickled jalapenos or onions, lime wedges and a bit of slaw)
Place the pork in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and enough water to just barely cover the meat. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for two hours. Don’t touch the meat.
After two hours, increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat. Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning pieces gently (they’ll be eager to fall apart), only as needed.
When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve on warmed tortillas with fixings.