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Bastardized Carnitas in 10 hours and 10 minutes

December 19, 2010

People love taco trucks. What’s not to love?

I have a friend who loves the taco truck out on Broome Street almost too much. She loves it so much that when her three-year-old was bitten by a rogue dog, a dog who then escaped with the creepy person at the end of its leash while my friend stopped to comfort her son and investigate his bite marks, and then my friend went goggle-eyed insane for days trying to track down the evil dog and master, this breathless sentence is apparently never going to end or have a clear path of antecedents, so I am going to cut my losses and move on to the next paragraph.

Anyhow: it was a perfect plot point that the people who ended up helping her to track down the dog and the dog walker were, dun dun DUN . . . you guessed it, the guys running the Calexico taco truck, who major in the making of tacos but minor in the STOPPING OF CRIMES. As for my friend, they feed her tacos; they save the lives of children; they further her Nancy Drew fantasies.

I was at my first ever NYC taco truck a few days ago. I was out buying Christmas presents on my lunch hour. Soho is a good place to work when you need to buy Christmas presents but a bad place to work if you want to spend less than $15 on lunch. And I do, to be clear, want to spend less than $15 on lunch, no matter what it may seem like from my buying habits, because every day when we come home we talk about our days and write down on a piece of paper what we spent for lunch, and my answer is consistently “$16, I think?,” I can tell from all sorts of cues: visual, auditory, etc., that it is not the ideal answer.

I noted the presence of the tac0 truck on my way into the store. It wasn’t the Broome Street one. I noted it again on my way back out of the store.  didn’t know what to get and could tell that deciding would be a problem, but I could also tell that I would get out of there for $5, so I asked the bald guy in the truck what his favorite is.

“Ah, it’s all good,” he says. “You could get a burrito. Or a quesadilla. Or” (and at this point, he twinkled, which sealed it) “you could get some carnitas tacos.”

I ordered them. In double corn tortillas, with chopped onion and a bit of cilantro, and lime for squeezing, and as many sauces as I felt like, and I felt like two: spicy mango, and avocado.

They were amazing. There were pieces of pig that had someone not cooked the meat so skillfully, would have been really chewy, but they had been cooked until things that are unappetizing and unwelcome were melting and full of excellent flavor and texture. And though they weren’t marinated at all, they had a slight scent of clove to them. Upon further reflection I think it must have been cinnamon.

Like short ribs, you cook them for long enough that all of the connective tissue that makes a piece of meat be really, really inexpensive actually melts, and becomes yet another delicious thing that you can eat.

I came home and looked up a recipe. Normally carnitas are pork nuggets that are fried in lard, I think. However, true to form, I found a highly rated slow cooker recipe, and it is one of the easier and most delicious things I have made in a while. Oh: and with the least effort. And other than the meat, I bought not one thing. As for the pork shoulder, it cost $5, which is exactly what my two cooked tacos cost. And out of that, we’ve gotten 15 generous tacos, and we will get many, many more.

We love the crockpot, me myself & I.

So: Make carnitas tacos, even though this version is clearly some sort of bastardization. The full ingredient list is below, and here are the instructions:

Fake Carnitas Tacos

1. Get a 4 lb. pork shoulder.

2. Mix in a bowl

3 t salt
3 t garlic powder
3 t cumin
1.5 t oregano
1.5 t ground coriander
1/2 t cinnamon

3. Trim anything scary off of the pork. Note: that doesn’t mean all of the fat. That means the skin, and some of the fat. If you have poultry shears, it will be much faster and you almost definitely won’t cut yourself. So use them!

4. Roll the pork in the mixed spice mixture.

5. Put 2 bay leaves in the bottom of a crockpot. Put the pork on top of that. Drizzle 2 C stock over the pork shoulder. You want to get it wet but not wash the spice mix off.

6. Turn on the slow cooker for 10 hours. Did you read that right? You did. You could also do it for 8 hours, I’ll bet. Maybe six. I did it overnight and when I walked past the kitchen in the morning I almost fainted from the delicious waftiness, so I recommend doing it that way.

When it’s done,

Take the meat off the bones, if there are bones. Otherwise, just shred with a pair of forks. Add salt to taste and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.

As for the cooking liquid, reserve it for moistening the meat and also, to use as a cooking liquid for rice.

If you are making rice, toast in oil, add a little chopped onion, then add salt and the cooking liquid (mine was comprised of this liquid, water, and maybe an 8th of it was tomato salsa.) Bring to a boil, and cook as you normally would cook rice. I used brown rice and it was divine. Actually divine.

Serve in warmed corn tortillas with chopped onion, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and tomatillo salsa. (If you buy salsa pre-made, always try to get a Mexican brand. Look for La Costena or Goya in the tall bottles.

I also made roasted lemony cauliflower, which is the final redemption for cauliflower. (I would say that it is the only redemption but the cauliflower in different colors like orange and purple is a lot of fun.) I made an arugula salad with a little avocado in it and lime for the acid in the dressing.

Like most foods other than breakfast, this should be served with Mezcal Margaritas, but our Mezcal was down just over the level of the worm so we had some wine, which was nice, too.

I don’t remember if I’ve posted the Mezcal Margaritas; I will if I haven’t.

Carnitas Ingredient List

4 lbs pork shoulder
Chicken stock
Bay leaves
Garlic Powder
Corn tortillas
Chopped Onions
5 Comments leave one →
  1. susan permalink
    December 20, 2010 3:13 pm


    Do you have to use the Bay leaves? They scare me- I am always afraid that I will accidentally eat one.

  2. frankly manny permalink
    December 21, 2010 9:51 am

    I think Sharon wants me to make these. I mean, I think she’s been wanting me to make these exact carnitas for some long time now and I haven’t gotten around to it. Which is a shame because we have two crockpots, one that is ours and one that we found left in a fancy little silver case in the garage of the house we are renting. I wonder which one I should use…

    With a little bit of tweaking — some chile colorado, mostly — this also becomes more or less the meat that my mother uses to fill tamales. You should make tamales some time, and then you could sell these also in W.P. out of your own taco truck…

  3. December 23, 2010 11:49 am

    I work in Soho too.

    Guess what I’m having for lunch today!

    Thanks for the idea!

  4. Heather permalink
    February 14, 2011 9:17 am

    THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR! I will make it this week, on Thursday, our other crockpot night. Also, I was trying to figure out what to do with cauliflower #2 (they were 2 for 1) and now I know. Thanks!

  5. Heather permalink
    February 17, 2011 11:33 am

    THE PORK IS MELTING IN OUR MOUTHS!!! I did it sort of like the pulled chicken, where after shredding, I put it back in (with less juice) and cooked with lid off at a higher temp (it had cooked from 2 am to 11 am on about 225).

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