Pork carnitas have always been a restaurant favorite of mine. Oddly enough, my first experience with carnitas was back when I worked at Red Robin. I ordered the carnitas fajitas on my lunch break one day when I had a Mexican food craving, and was blown away! Since then I almost always order carnitas whenever they're on the menu... and I've never been disappointed.
It was only a matter of time before I decided to give carnitas a try at home. And it was so easy, I'll definitely do it again! Traditionally, pork shoulder is roasted in a whole bunch of lard to make carnitas, which is tasty and all but not exactly healthy. Luckily slow cooking in the crock pot delivers a similar tenderness without all the fat... the slower the better! I also appreciated the distinctive zing that the orange added to this recipe, but next time I think I'll try lime instead, just to see if there's a perceptible difference.
Enjoy this tender pork tucked inside some corn tortillas with a little Montery-Jack cheese and fresh cilantro like we did, or turn it into some fantastic fajitas... or heck, just enjoy it all by itself! But next time you need a dinner that tastes outta this world and basically cooks itself, look no further!
yields 4-6 servings
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
kosher salt and coarse ground pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, chopped
1 orange, cut in half
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional)
For Serving (optional)
corn or flour tortillas
shredded Monterey-Jack cheese
1. Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the pork with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Combine the oregano, cumin, and olive oil in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in the bowl of a slow cooker, and top with the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Squeeze the juice of the oranges over the top of the pork, and toss in the two halves. Cover and cook for at least 4 hours (8 to 10 is ideal for tenderness).
2. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. If desired, heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Press the carnitas into the oil until crispy on one side, and serve. (If you're short on time or simply don't feel like completing this step, the carnitas are still fantastic without doing this.)
3. Serve as desired, with desired tortillas and with preferred toppings. Enjoy!