Monday, February 21, 2011

Carnitas Breakfast Tacos

Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, bread, and custards. This is what my diet has consisted of the past few weeks. I am not kidding, I feel like I have been on a constant sugar high, and on a serious carbohydrate overload. First quarter of pastry school will do that to you I guess.

It is also approaching April, and spring is just about here. For a baker, that means one thing. It is officially wedding and shower season. I have one friend with a bun in the oven, and another with a rock on her finger, and they are both going to be showered with gifts and well wishes from friends and family, and treats from my kitchen in the next month or so. I have noticed when I do large projects like dessert tables, or fancy cakes, that I forget to eat, and just nibble on the scraps or the rejects from the goodies I am baking.

This habit, while delicious, and actually helpful to my waistline (that whole forgetting to eat thing can make you bikini ready in no time) it's definitely not a good way to sustain myself for the long hours standing in my kitchen. I need to take better care of myself this spring season, and that means cooking more. I have no trouble being a busy bee baker, but I have been neglecting my first loves, meats, cheeses, pastas, mexican, italian, thai food! No more. One of my many spring resolutions is to not only prepare for these events with lots of do-ahead baking, but also making nutritious, filling, meals to keep me going until summer.

Welcome to operation carnitas. There have been many times that I have ordered carnitas tacos, or burritos from Chipotle, or better yet, the authentic mexican taco stand down the street, but had never even thought about making them at home. I feel as though my life has changed. Have I mentioned that I am a bit over-dramatic when it comes to food? No?

Carnitas are incredibly easy to make, and provide a perfect filling for burritos, breakfast tacos, or simply served over rice. The best part? Braising is one of those cooking methods that takes just a little prep, then you get to stick the meat in your dutch oven and forget about it for a few hours. Plus it makes a LOT of shredded pork, perfect for being wrapped in individual portions and freezing (if it makes it that long). Spicy, tender, juicy, a little sweet, this is a killer recipe, and would be great for a crowd. My boyfriend and I have already mowed down more than half of a nearly five pound pork shoulder over the last three days, so I can say with complete confidence, you will love these carnitas.

Orange Beer Braised Pork Carnitas 
for a 4.5 pound pork shoulder, feel free to halve recipe for smaller cut of meat

4.5-5 pound pork shoulder roast, cubed into 3-4 inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
6 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices thick cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
12 ounces beer (I used a New Belgium pale ale, any full flavored ale would work fine here)
2 quarts chicken stock
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 oranges

In a medium bowl, combine salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika. Toss each piece of pork shoulder in spice mixture to coat lightly, rubbing gently into the meat with your fingers. Let the meat rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes to let the rub penetrate.

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over a medium flame, and when it is hot, add the diced bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon has rendered all of its fat and become slightly crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not too cook the bacon on too high of heat because it can burn. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and any excess bacon fat from bottom of pan, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of your pot. In batches, over high heat, sear the pork shoulder pieces, until brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the pork and set aside. When all pork has been seared, add the chicken stock, beer, orange juice, and zest to the pot, and bring to a simmer, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When the liquid is at a simmer, add the pork and the bacon pieces back into the pot, cover tightly, and braise for 3-3 1/2 hours, until meat is falling apart. Turn meat over a few times throughout braising process. Remove pot from oven, then remove the pork from the pot, place in clean bowl and cover tightly with tin foil. Put your liquid over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the sauce at a simmer for about 30 minutes. You will want to skim as much fat off the top of the liquid as possible, it will reduce the greasiness of your carnitas.

When the sauce is reduced to your liking, reduce your heat to low, and begin picking through your meat, removing the large pieces of fat, and returning the tender meat to the sauce. Take two forks and shred the meat into the sauce. I ended up having no sauce leftover, it was all soaked up by the pork, but if you do thats okay too, pour it over some rice or your pork when you serve it (don't waste it, it is delicious!).

If you want to make breakfast tacos, just heat up some corn tortillas, scramble some eggs, and top with carnitas, salsa, fresh cilantro, and some sour cream if that strikes your fancy. You can also just take a fork and eat them straight out of the pot like I did the night I cooked them. Don't judge, just enjoy!


Carrie said...

my mexican-food-lovin' boyfriend will thank you for sharing this recipe :) it looks SO good!
Not too often I forget to eat... usually counting down the time when I can justify eating again =) Except, like you, when I'm working on a baking or catering project. I can relate...

JC said...

I am totally going to attempt to make these carnitas! I'm always ordering the carnitas tacos at Chipotle...Qdoba, while I generally prefer it to Chipotle, does not really have pork that compares. Thanks for posting this one!

Jun said...

Sounds so delicious. Gotta try making this!

Rachel said...

do you have any recommendations for making this in a crock pot? it's my new favorite toy and i'm trying to get as much use out of it as possible!

Bria said...


I myself do not actually own a crockpot, but my reccomendation would be to do all the steps up until putting the pork in the oven. I would highly reccomend not skipping the bacon, and the searing of the pork. Once all the pieces are seared, deglaze your pan with some chicken stock to get all the delicious brown bits, then transfer the juice, along with the rest of the liquids into your crock pot, bring up to heat, then add the pork, and cook until it is falling apart. You can then always transfer the sauce back to a small saucepan to reduce. It may be a little more work, all the transferring, but it would be nice to set it during the day and forget about it.

One of the things I like about searing/braising in a large dutch oven, is that you only have to use one pot, but I bet a crockpot would work just fine!

Carrie - it is sooo easy, he will LOVE you. Update, it is only tuesday, and the carnitas are completely gone :-(

Thanks everyone!

Medifast Coupons said...

For breakfast, wow! Now this is the way to start your day off with a great idea for breakfast, thanks.

_bussmann said...

I know it is breakfast and all but a nice, hoppy New Belgium Ranger IPA would pair perfect with those tacos...

Bria said...

bussmann -

thats pretty funny you say that, I bought the spring folly pack, used the 1554 for some beer bread with porter spent mash, used the mighty arrow in the carnitas, and drank the ranger with the leftover tacos I ate for dinner that night. It was delicious! I am a huge New Belgium fan, some of my favorite beers, and it turns out they are fantastic to cook with as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

test it comm said...

Carnitas for breakfast would be great!

Unknown said...

I found your recipe after work and stopped by the grocery store on the way home. I made it tonight and used a boston butt since the pork shoulders looked old. I used a 3.75 pound butt and it cooked in 2 hours. The pork is ready for the morning and I just know my boyfriend will have an amazing day after this breakfast. :):) Thanks for posting!

K said...

i'm making this tonite - got the pork braising in the oven. do you think i should add the bacon back in? did i miss that on the recipe? i'm so excited!!!!

Bria said...

K- Yes I added the bacon back in when I returned the pork to the cooking liquid, prior to braising. It ends up almost disintegrating into the pork, but that just means more flavor. Let me know how they turn out!!


Higgins' mom said...

Hi Bria. So I made this recipe yesterday and measured very carefully. The pork came out much too salty (and I LOVE) salt. I have a good amount of pork left and wondered if you had any thoughts about what I might fuse with the pork to reduce somewhat the intensity of the salt.
Thanks! I got to your website via Huff Post, and will look forward to coming back.

Bria said...

higgin's mom,

that is very strange, I am sorry your meat came out so salty. There is really only two teaspoons of salt in the entire recipe for an almost 5 pound cut of meat. Did you use a smaller cut of meat? Did you use very salty canned chicken stock?

It might be good to make sandwiches out of, with an unsalted bread, or use in a mexican-style soup perhaps, just reduce the salt it calls for in the soup, and use a low salt broth. Those are some thoughts off the top of my head!

Please let me know if you have any more questions!

Higgins' mom said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Bria. I know...that's what I thought re 2 tsp salt for five pounds of meat. Maybe I did mis-measure ;(. I didn't use canned chxn stock, but maybe I had salted instead of unsalted. The flavor was so good otherwise that I was thinking about maybe using it in a chili dish with beans and no additional salt. What do you think about that idea?

Thx again.

Chung-Ah @ Damn Delicious said...

Wow. These look A-MAZING! I definitely have to save this recipe for an anniversary-breakfast-in-bed type of occasion!

test it comm said...

Those are some tasty looking breakfast tacos!

Unknown said...

I must try this.

Anonymous said...

I have been drooling over this recipe for a while now. Made it this morning and it was delicious!! Added some shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream and sriracha to the top. Thanks for a wonderful recipe! :-)

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