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How To Make An Insanely Delicious Feast Of Mexican Carnitas

Step one: Buy so much lard.

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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.

Read the full essay here.

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:

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(clockwise from left)

8 pound pork shoulder, de-boned

2 pounds pork belly

1 piece star anise

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 dried bay leaves

2 sprigs dried epazote leaves* (or a big pinch, if they’re crumbled) (epazote is a Mexican herb, almost like an anise-y tarragon)

2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano*

kosher salt

1 orange

1 white onion

1 head of garlic

1 bottle of Mexican coke (or any cola made with real sugar)

2 cups lard (you can get lard from a butcher but call ahead)

freshly ground pepper

For the smoky red salsa, you will need:

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(clockwise from left)

5 medium tomatoes

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

5 dried chipotle chiles*

½ white onion

10 garlic cloves

5 dried guajillo chiles*

For the tart green salsa, you will need:

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(clockwise from left)

1/4 bunch cilantro

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

6 garlic cloves

4 jalapeño peppers

4 limes

4 fresh serrano peppers*

8 tomatillos*

1 ripe avocado

½ white onion

For the beans, you will need:

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(clockwise from left)

1 tablespoon lard

5 medium tomatoes

1 pound dry pinto beans

1 pound raw chorizo sausage

2 dried bay leaves

4 jalapeño peppers

6 garlic cloves

1 white onion

(not pictured, but you will need: 3 cups chicken stock)

For the rice, you will need:

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(clockwise from left)

cups uncooked white rice

12 fresh poblano chiles*

1 tablespoon lard

1 sprig dried epazote leaf

2 bay leaves

4 cups chicken stock

½ white onion

4 garlic cloves

For the spicy pickled onion and other garnishes:

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

(clockwise from left)

2 ripe avocados

3 pounds small corn tortillas

2 habanero chiles*

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2 pound of chicharron (that’s fried pork skin, gringo)*

1 red onion

1 white onion

3/4 bunch cilantro

2 cups apple cider vinegar OR distilled white vinegar

5-6 limes

STEP 2: SOAK THE BEANS THE NIGHT BEFORE.

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.

STEP 4: WHILE THE CARNITAS SIMMER, PREPARE THE SALSAS (STARTING WITH THE RED SALSA).

Fill a medium pot about 2/3 of the way with water, and bring the water to a simmer. Submerge the blackened chiles in the water, then turn off the heat and let the chiles sit for 15 minutes, until they're mostly rehydrated.

Blend until the mixture is smooth and there are no large chunks. Transfer to a plastic container or a bowl, and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Fill a medium sauce pot about 2/3 of the way with water, bring it to a boil, and add the tomatillos, jalapeños, serrano chiles, half a white onion, and garlic cloves.

Blend just until there are no large chunks, then turn the blender off, and add the avocado. DO NOT BLEND THE AVOCADO. (Sorry our photo is misleading.) Transfer to a bowl or plastic container, and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

After the carnitas have been simmering for 2 hours, remove the orange slices and throw them away.

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If you leave the orange slices in for too long, they'll make everything bitter.

Your meat should be starting to get delicious. Stir it once, just to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, then take the cover off and let it keep simmering.

STEP 7: WHILE THE CARNITAS CONTINUE TO SIMMER, PREPARE THE SPICY PICKLED ONIONS.

Put the chopped onions and minced habaneros in a medium bowl or plastic container, then cover them with about 2 cups of apple cider vinegar OR distilled white vinegar, and some salt. Stir, and let the mixture sit out at room temperature until you eat.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pot 3/4 of the way, and let the mixture simmer for 2 hours, until almost all the liquid is gone.

Let the chiles sit in the pan for 3 minutes, until they're blackened on the underside. Turn the chiles and repeat until they're blackened on all sides.

Put the hot, blackened chiles into a ziplock bag, seal the bag, and let the chiles sweat for at least 15 minutes.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed