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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carnitas

We were having some friends over last week and I was trying to think of something that wouldn't have me in the kitchen the whole time they were here. So, I pulled out the glorious slow cooker that we got as a wedding present and decided it was the perfect time to try it out. My mom's big into her slow cooker and I have to be honest, I never felt the need or desire for one until lately. The idea of throwing everything into a pot and pressing a button sort of takes the fun out of cooking...unless you have a pork shoulder that only 8 hours of untouched braising could make into the most wonderful juicy meat for tacos. I'm sold. After turning the magic machine on before bed, I kept waking up throughout the night to the smell of slow-cooking pork. I almost needed to have it for breakfast. People with real houses whose bedrooms are upstairs and not located next to the kitchen: I have to say, you're really missing out on this one.

For the pork:

2.5 lb pork shoulder (can vary in size, doesn't really matter - the more the better!)
1 jalapeƱo
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 TB chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB smoked paprika
A generous handful fresh oregano
1 can (28 oz) tomatoes - with roasted garlic is good, fire roasted even better.
3/4 cup fresh or canned pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup pineapple juice (go to the Goya section of the store - buy a can)
1 chipotle in adobo for smokiness if you like.

For the tacos:
1 package of corn or flour tortillas - small ones for tacos (I actually prefer flour but Kel will kill me if she sees this)
2 avocados
2 limes
1/2 head of red cabbage, sliced thinly
Cilantro
Tomatoes - diced
Queso blanco - crumbled, or shredded monterey jack

1. Put the jalapeno through the chipotle into a blender and blend until you have a smooth/smoothie consistency.

2. In a dutch oven or large cast iron pan, heat some oil. When good and hot, sear the pork on each side until you get a nice brown coating on the outside of all sides.

3. Remove the pork from the pan and place into the slow-cooker. Add all of the blended contents except for a cup or so into the slow cooker with the pork. The meat should be mostly covered. You can add a little water or broth if you need to - just want to make sure there's plenty of wet ingredients in there.

4. Turn the cooker on and let it do its magic - best overnight or before you go to work...8hrs if you can.

5. When pork is done, remove from the cooker and shred the pork with forks, it'll be very tender. Either put in a container and reheat later in a frying pan when you're ready to use it, or serve it up immediately. I like to use the sauce that was cooking with the pork and mix it in when reheating or to add extra flavor after it's shredded. If it's too fatty or if you want extra, use your reserves.

6. To make the guac, cut open the avocados and mash the insides with a fork in a small bowl. Squeeze half a lime (or a whole depending on taste) and season generously with salt and pepper.

7. About an hour before serving, place the sliced/shredded cabbage in a bowl and squeeze the juice of one lime in with it. Season with salt and pepper and stir occasionally to soften and flavor the cabbage.

8. Assemble your tacos with the pork, guac, sour cream if you have some, cabbage, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and anything else you love.

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