It is an exciting time at our house again. It is not Christmas or someone’s birthday. And, if is not even close to a vacation. It is time for carnitas. As I searched Wikipedia briefly, I wonder if what we are eating is really “carnitas”. It refers to them as “little meats”. Our is kind of little, but it is definitely cooked in its own juices. Since we use a pork shoulder butt, there is PLENTY of its own juices to cook in. We don’t claim to make the best carnitas, but we have developed a following within our household. Thanks to our exchange students, it also seems to play well in China and Korea.
Besides cooking the meat slowly (we put it in before and let it cook slowly all night–it will probably cook 12-15 hours before it is all done), their are a few spices. Cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic are something found in every kitchen. After adding a couple of finely chopped onions, the real key is the jalapenos peppers. The original recipe I started with mentioned only a small amount of some other pepper. But, being in Texas with a bounty of jalapenos, it just seemed right to include them. Today’s batch included 14 or 15 of them finely chopped. The real secret here is convincing your exchange student who is craving this spicy, yummy taco-ish meal to step up and prep the peppers to be chopped. (Cutting off the stem and halving the peppers is not bad. It is using the spoon to scrape out the seeds that becomes slightly dangerous. Eye rubbing is not permitted for quite a few hours after preparing the peppers for the carnage unleashed by the food processor.) Once all ingredients are all piled into the nearly overflowing crockpot w/ a 12 hours setting on “low”, we can all go to bed knowing the craving will only accelerate as the time for dinner eventually arrives.
At this point, I am anticipating the meal more than the others. I have pulled the bone out of the meat. I have tried to separate the meat into small little pieces that can be completely saturated by the juicy porky-ness. The jalapenos are nearly “dead” in the vegetable sense of the word. They have released nearly all of their flavors into the juices that are completely infusing the pork……excuse me, but I think drooled. Once dinner time arrives, there is one more step that precedes consumption. As I was looking for carnita recipes way back in the spring, this is the step that hooked me. After pulling the meat out of the crockpot, the meat is placed on a cookie sheet. After making sure the meat is separated nicely, the meat is put under the broiler for 5 minutes. The sheet is then pulled out, and the meat is turned over with more juices drizzled over it. After being broiled for another 5 minutes or so, it comes out an irresistible crispy. It is served with regular taco sides, and in this families humble opinion, it is pretty awesome. Our Chinese exchange student said carnitas and tacos are her favorite things she has eaten since being here.
I try to have a “message” or insight at the end of my blog postings. I am afraid this one might fall short, but I will still try….. It doesn’t matter what food your make or what you like to eat! A meal at home with all gathered around the table is a good thing. And, when this meal is something causing all the saliva glands of all of the household members to work overtime, then chances are the conversation will be special, too. As our kids age, it is memories of these type of meals that will help make their own families stronger. And, selfishly, I hope it makes them want to call home someday and ask, “So, are you making carnitas soon?”