This is going to be quick mainly because I didn’t take photos and think the recipe still needs refining.
But, this came out good enough that I really wanted to share it. It doesn’t taste like most of the carnitas you’ve had in your local taqueria, but I’m assured it has a very authentic taste. The coriander and cola give it an interesting flavor, and if you take the time to give it fried edges, I think you’ll be very happy.
I used a sous vide technique, but did it with stuff you should have around the house. All you really need is a way of heating water and a freezer-safe Ziplock bag. I heated the water on the stove top and then added it to a cooler. This basically worked from a pure cooking standpoint, but I had to continually rotate in hot water to make sure the temperature didn’t drop too far. The cooler lost about 1 degree every 10-15 minutes, so every hour or so, I’d have to take water out and add hotter water. This was kind of a pain and kind of defeats part of the purpose of sous vide cooking. I’d actually suggest just leaving a large pot on the stove top and monitoring the water’s temperature.
The results were great, though. We made tacos the first night, tortas with guacamole the second night. The final meal consisted of throwing the meat on a pizza along with barbecue sauce, pineapples, bell peppers, cheese and cilantro. All three meals were really good.
- 2.5-3 lbs cubed pork shoulder with fat trimmed off and saved
- 1 12oz can sugar-cane cola (don’t use American Coke, in other words)
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp pepper corns
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 chopped onion
- 6 chopped celery stalks
- 2 tbsp crushed red pepper
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds just enough so that they are fragrant. Crush them either by hand or in a blender along with the pepper corns. Add all the ingredients to the Ziplock bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible.
Heat a large pot of water to about 165 degrees. Add the ziplock bag. The temperature of the water should drop 5-10 degrees. Continue to monitor the water’s temperature, trying to keep it as close to 155 degrees as possible. A few degrees here and there might not make a huge difference, but if you let it get too hot the meat will get overdone and defeat the point of cooking this way. If you let it get too cool, the temperature of the meat won’t get high enough to make it safe for eating. This should take 4-5 hours. After about 4 hours, randomly pull out chunks of meat and measure their temperatures. If they aren’t at least 150 degrees, you need to let them cook longer. Most of them should be as close to 155 as possible.
While the meat is cooking, begin rendering the fat. Basically, just put it on a baking sheet and throw it in the oven at a temp of about 250 degrees or cook it on a very low temp on the stove top. After about an hour, you should have rendered off as much fat as you’re going to get. Set that aside and refrigerate.
Once the meat is cooked, separate it from the braising liquid. Put the braising liquid in a blender and puree. Return braising liquid to a pan and reduce by about half. Remove the braising liquid. Using the cooled and rendered fat, coat the pan. Put the meat in the pan and place in a 450-degree oven. After about 10 minutes, flip the meat. After another 10 minutes, the meat should have a nice crust. Return meat to the stove top along with the pureed braising liquid and simmer for about 40 more minutes.
Remove meat and shred, using two forks.
Serve in tacos, as a torta or whatever else suits your fancy. I highly suggest using the braising liquid as a sauce. Guacamole also worked as a great condiment.
Costs: Pork shoulder (3.99/lb); assorted spices ($.50); can of cola ($.75). Total: $13.25 (less than $2 per serving).