Or, How To Make A Mexican Feast At Home In Gringolandia
In Mexico, you eat carnitas when your daughter turns 15 or your father dies; when you graduate from college or you retire from the civil service. You eat carnitas, like I did, every Friday after school, at the same filthy-delicious taco stand owned by a silent taquero named Güero. And you eat carnitas the night before you set out for the north.
I wrote an essay to go with this recipe about why I started making carnitas at home. But this recipe requires more than an explanation of my complicated emotional relationship with braised pork; it requires step-by-step photographs.
Below you will find directions on how to make carnitas without access to Güero's giant copper vat or a whole pig or a tortilla-making machine or a well-stocked chile stand or decent avocados or juicy limes or any of the things that make life in Mexico wonderful. This recipe will tell you how to make something that approaches carnitas but will never really be the real thing, because the real thing only really exists in the memory of people who have left the old country.
To be clear, this takes a full 24 hours: You have to soak the beans the night before you plan to eat, and the pork needs to simmer for 6-8 hours. During that time, you can get drunk, make two salsas, beans, and spicy green rice. And then you will feast. Also, most of it is appropriately (ie extremely) spicy, especially the green salsa, the pickled onions, the green rice, and the beans.
STEP 1: GO GROCERY SHOPPING FOR INGREDIENTS. Here is a printable PDF of the entire grocery list.
For the ingredients with an asterisk (*) like chiles and herbs, you may need to go to a Mexican grocery store. For the lard, call a butcher.
For the carnitas, you will need:
For the smoky red salsa, you will need:
For the tart green salsa, you will need:
For the beans, you will need:
For the rice, you will need:
For the spicy pickled onion and other garnishes:
Start by cutting your pork shoulder into rough 2-inch cubes.
(Leave all the fat on.)
Do the same with the pork belly, but keep the two cuts separate.
Chop the white onion into rough 1/2-inch cubes.
Heat a large (at least 3 gallon) stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, then toast the ground cumin, mustard seeds, star anise, and cimmamon stick in the pot.
As soon as you start to smell cumin, add two cups of lard.
Let the lard melt completely and heat a little bit.
Add the chopped white onion all at once, and stir it around.
Cook the onion just until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the cubed pork shoulder. (Don't add the pork belly yet.)
Season liberally with salt and pepper.
At least a tablespoon of salt, guys. At least.