I don’t know how many of you like Mexican food but I love it! I grew up in Southern California so Mexican food is well-known and it’s a way of life for a lot of people. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good taco if you’re from California? I have a special place in my heart set aside for taqueria style tacos. I just love the soft tortilla with the meat and toppings, it’s so simple and so delicious.
Being that it’s Tuesday, taco Tuesday all over, I decided to share how I like to prepare my tacos. My kids don’t have the easiest time with eating these tacos so I usually do quesadillas for them with the meat and serve them with beans and rice. Or I’ll give them a meat and bean burrito, either way these kids love their Mexican food.
Carnitas style meat is traditionally fried in lard and while that’s delicious, it’s not the healthiest. This way is easier on the waistline while still staying flavorful. It isn’t hard to make so it’s great to do a big batch to use in other meals (burritos, nachos, enchiladas, chilaquilles, burrito bowls, pizza, quesadillas). This recipe is a little different because of the cinnamon but if you haven’t tried it before, please do. The cinnamon is very subtle but adds a wonderful flavor to the meat while it cooks.
Besides the meat and toppings, for me the salsa is always the star. I love a spicy salsa to use on everything but this particular one I make, I like to use on Mexican food. It’s spicy, tangy and smokey so it’s great on most things. Usually when you order carnitas you get a salsa verde but it’s not always spicy. It’s one of the more mild ones in the taco bar so I always went for the salsa roja.
For this recipe I used a canned salsa verde because not everyone has access to fresh tomatillos. Doing it this way also saves a step because you can have a green and red salsa for the tacos. You can make this with fresh tomatillos, 5 small ones but this leaves some left over to add-on the tacos if you want. You can use canned green tomatillos but they’re not as acidic as fresh and I find it’s easier with the pre-made salsa. I’ve tried this without the tomatillos and have used lime juice and vinegar but it’s just not the same. You can omit the salsa verde completely and just have a traditional salsa roja.
If this is your first time cooking with chile de arbol, make sure you do this in a well ventilated area! The fumes from the chiles will make you choke if you inhale them so be sure there’s an open window nearby or the fan is turned on above your stove. I’ve made this with Japones chiles as well but they’re not as spicy and the arbol has a better flavor. I get my chiles locally at Walmart or Food Lion so it shouldn’t be hard to find them. I’m seeing them more and more in grocery stores so check your Hispanic aisle, they’re usually near the spices.
You can certainly make this all in one day and skip the overnight refrigeration but I like to do my meats this way because the flavors meld overnight and makes for a more flavorful meat.
Another easy topping to try, if you don’t want something spicy, is mix half the can of chile verde, 1 avocado, 1/4c water and blend until smooth and pourable. To make it easier you can put it in a squeeze bottle but make sure you add enough water so it comes out easily.
For the pork
- 5 pounds of pork shoulder/butt
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 naval orange, cut into quarters and juiced (save rinds)
- 1 lime, juiced*
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
For the salsa
- 1 7.8oz can of green salsa
- 2 roma tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 small handful (about 15) chile de arbol, stems removed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water**
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trim off excess fat from pork and cut into 2 inch chunks.
- Place pork into a dutch oven or a deep roasting pan. Toss the oregano, cumin, pepper and salt together with the pork.
- Pour lime and orange juice over meat. Place rinds into the crevices of the meat along with garlic, onion, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Pour water over meat.
- Set on stove over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid or foil and place into oven for 3 hours.
- Take meat out of pot and shred slightly, making sure to leave some chunks of meat. Strain the liquid and bring to a simmer. Reduce liquid by half and add in the shredded meat.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Spread meat on large cookie sheet and place under broiler until browned or place small amounts in a lightly oiled skillet and fry until crispy.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
- Place onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes in a lightly oiled pan and fry until slightly charred.
- Put chilies in the same pan on med high heat and toast until fragrant. Be sure to stir frequently or else they will burn quickly.
- Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies, salt and water into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Once the mixture is smooth add in 1/2 of the green salsa verde and blend until mixed.
- Using the same pan, turn to medium high heat. Once pan is hot, add in 1 tbsp. oil and take pan off of stove. Pour in salsa mixture very slowly, it will jump from the oil/water mixture so be careful!
- Place back on stove and heat until bubbling. Set aside to cool.
*Roll lime on counter while applying pressure to release the juices inside
** You can add more water if you want a thinner salsa