Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pork Carnitas: The Quick Way (Put That On Your Tacometer)

There are many recipes for this classic Mexican pork snack - usually involving great hunks of pig that are cooked for hours until they can be pulled apart with blunt spoons. 

Here is a much quicker version I was given by a man I met in a lift in San Jose in Costa Rica. He swears by it and so do I. 

You nestle a spoonful or two of the greasy, fragrant pork in a warmed tortilla, and then roll it up. I like them on their own, but add whatever to the taco - guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salsa, jalapenos, refried beans et al. 

What’s important is getting the pork bit right, without burning up half the North Sea's gas - unless you like throwing your money to the profit-chasing, rip-off Big Six energy cartel. Here goes...

(Serves 2)

350g pork shoulder steaks
4 large garlic cloves
2 cups or more of water
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsps oregano leaves
Salt, pepper

Slice the pork into short, thin strips, about a centimetre wide. Don’t trim the fat as this adds to the flavour and you don’t use any other oil in the recipe. Put a frying pan over a medium heat and when hot, throw in the pork and allow to brown slightly before giving it a stir.

The fat (and water injected into the pork if it is supermarket-bought) should lubricate the pan to stop it catching when you give it a stir. If not, add a knob of lard or beef dripping or something. Continue browning for a few minutes, and then throw in a pinch or two of salt and pepper, and the cumin seeds.

Keep stirring and browning the pork. Then finely chop the garlic and add to the pan and brown the pork for another few minutes (notice how many times I'm irritatingly using the word 'brown' - that's what the whole recipe's about). It should be evenly browned by the end (and once more). Then add a cup of water. Don’t completely submerge the pork - there should be bits sticking out.

Stir well and allow this to bubble away until it is reduced to a syrup. Then add another cup of water and stir occasionally until it is reduced. Keep repeating the process until the pork has been cooking for about an hour. Five minutes from the end, chop the oregano leaves and add to the pan.

When the pork has been cooking for an hour, test a piece - it should be soft and not at all chewy. Boil away the last of the liquid until the pork is coated in a glossy syrup.

Remove the pork and then clean out the pan with a piece of bread. Put the pan back on the heat and warm the tortillas in it, turning from time to time. Put a spoon or two of pork in the middle of the tortilla, top with lettuce, salsa sauce, grated cheese, chilli peppers etc and roll up and eat with your fingers, like you're Tuco Salamanca in Breaking Bad (who, fittingly, the bloke in the lift reminded me of in some ways).

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