Thursday, April 11, 2013

Carnitas in a Crock Pot?

I am a sucker for carnitas whenever we go out to eat at a Mexican place.  The flavors and how juicy and tender the meat comes out with the way it's cooked... YUM!  I was excited when I found out a recipe for it on Pinterest and a crock pot one at that!  With this huge belly and the discomfort level high since I'm near the end, I'm all about set it and forget it meals at the moment!  I showed my husband and of course he was sold. 

The recipe comes from 52 Kitchen Adventures by a blogger named Stephanie, as part of her Slow Cooker Mondays series.  Here are the ingredients and directions from her blog as adapted from Bon Appetit:

Slow Cooker Carnitas
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 4-6
  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (A.K.A. Boston butt)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • A few dashes of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
For serving:
  • Tortillas
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream
Spray a large slow cooker with non-stick spray (I used a 6 quart). Combine salt, pepper, oregano, cumin and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub the spices over all sides of the meat and place in slow cooker. Top with onion and cook on low for 8 hours.
Remove meat with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Discard onions. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. (Optional – to crisp the meat, place under the broiler for a few minutes.)
Serve with tortillas, chopped cilantro, avocado, sour cream, or anything else you like.

I leave the meat buying to the husband being that he's 1. Texan and 2. he knows how to find good deals in the meat department.  I mentioned pork shoulder and he told me he'd already had one in our deep freezer when he picked one up back in September last year (you can keep portions like that longer in a deep freezer compared to a normal freezer).  I didn't pay attention to him when he pulled it out of the freezer to defrost it until the next evening when we were ready to make it...

Yes, that is 8 pound pork shoulder.  I looked at him and told him the recipe only called for a 2 lb one and he laughed at me and told me it doesn't exist.  Can't blame him though, look at the steal he got it for!! .99 a pound!

Moving on, since we had a bigger piece of meat to work with, obviously we needed to up all of the measurements of the spices.  Note: we didn't use a specific Mexican Oregano.

Spices mixed and ready to go

When it came to rubbing down the pork shoulder with the spices, the mister also did that as well, and he did it all in the sink to minimize the mess and since it was the only "bowl" big enough!

As you can see on the left, that side still has the fat on it.  The husband doesn't recommend cutting the fat off as it will provide a lot of the flavor while it cooks.  He did cut slits into the fat side to insert the spice mix inside.  When it was ready to go into the crock pot, he put fat side up so that "the juices will trickle down the meat while it cooks."

I used 2 whole large onions to spread all across the top of the pork shoulder as well as putting some along any gaps along the sides.

Now, if you thought like me, you were probably thinking that the cooking time would need to increase as well since we were doing 6 more pounds than what the original recipe called for, right?  Nope.  My husband told me that it would just simple dry it out if you increased the cooking time.  He set it to cook while we slept, the original 8 hours on low that the recipe instructs.  In the morning when he woke up, he flipped the pork shoulder over and set it to cook for an additional hour on low.

The house smelled AMAZING when we woke up in the morning!  I was so anxious to shred it up and taste it already!  Since it finished before lunchtime, I turned off the crock pot completely to wait for my husband to get home.  Didn't feel right shredding it up without him since he did most of the tough work!  When he got home and it was time, he would place the shredded pieces of the shoulder in a tupperware container (one less step to do later when we were done eating).  He cut off all the fat and took out the two bones that were inside and treated our dog.  :) 

The finished pork shoulder, partly shredded

The last picture is how we decided to eat it; traditional street taco style.  Small corn tortillas with chopped up cilantro, onions, and some hot sauce (not pictured).

DE-LISH!!  Now to us, any time we've had carnitas, the flavor is never consistent from restaurant to restaurant (or taco truck).  The spices did provide a little kick, but not over powering to were someone sensitive to heat would shy away.  It was unbelievably moist!  We skipped the broiler step only because we were so anxious to give it a try once it finished!!  The husband says if you want that crispy texture (since carnitas are traditionally fried) to definitely put it under a broiler after you've already shredded the meat.

A great and easy way to get carnitas at home!  Hope your family enjoys this recipe like ours did!

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