Monday, October 17, 2011


To me, carnitas make the perfect burrito.
Not to say I'm a huge pork fan, and I'm not always a meat person, but for some reason when I really crave a burrito, it's always got to be carnitas.

You know, you look at the menu, and entertain the idea of this or that, but when it comes time to order, I just go with the old standby. Perhaps I'm set in my ways when it comes to burritos.
Mildly spicy, slightly sweet, complex. Perfect with guacamole and black beans.

Different chiles do different things, and they have different purposes.
Some are sweet, others are hot. Some have more flavor, others have more... feeling.
Generally, the tiny ones have the intense blistering heat, and the bigger ones are more sedate.

It's like that big huge football player you had class with. He was big- impressively so- and for that very good reason nobody messed with him.

But he was actually only a threat on the field, he had a fairly mild temper when it came to dealing with people in the day-to-day.
Or I suppose we could liken the small chiles to little dogs. They oftentimes make an extremely loud ruckus and act quite violent, don't they? Much moreso than many of the docile, bigger dogs, many of whom don't bat an eyelash when confronted by these little tornados.
Is it a Napoleon complex for dogs?

Hey, the same goes for chiles. 

Poblano chiles are shaped like large jalapeños.
Once they're dried, Poblano chilis become Ancho chiles. They may look like they'd pack a punch (or read like they do since they're chiles), but they really don't.
Ancho chile powder is mild- mild and a little smokey.

Based on David Lebovitz's recipe in The Sweet Life in Paris
It's a little adapted, a little Cuban-ized.
Fantastic as a filling for tacos or burritos, but also good with a bowl of rice and black beans.

serves 10 or more

5 1/2 lb. pork shoulder (boneless), excess fat removed and cut into large pieces
1 generous T kosher salt
2 T vegetable oil

1 1/2 c orange juice
1 T ancho chile powder
1/2 t cumin
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Rub pieces of pork all over with salt. In a large roasting pan set over the stovetop, heat the oil over medium high heat. Sear the pork on all sides. Make sure you only have a single layer of pork, if not, sear the pork in two batches. Remove the pork to a plate and blot any excess oil. Pour the orange juice into the pan and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add the chile powder, cumin, garlic, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Stir through the orange juice to combine. Return the pork back into the pan and add enough water so that the pieces of pork are about two-thirds submerged. 
Braise the meat in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, turning occasionally. By the end of the cooking time, the pork should be extremely tender and falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven, and place the pork in another 4-sided pan, but do not get rid of the marinade. Place the roasting pan back on the stove and boil until it reduces slightly and becomes a little syrupy.
Meanwhile shred the pork using two forks.
Once the marinade has reached the desired consistency, remove the pan from the heat and add the shredded pork. Quickly turn and stir the pork to coat each bit (the marinade will soak in). 
Serve warm with tortillas or rice. 

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