When we were planning the party for Mr’s birthday, I asked him what kind of cakes he wanted. As always, the January baby wanted something frozen. Raspberry eskimo pie of course!
Then I asked him if there was anything special he would like for food at the party. And, smart man he is, he suggested nachos!
Nachos are such a good idea for a party. It is few and far between that you meet a person who wouldn’t eat a nacho or two. Picky eaters, or those with dietary restrictions, need not be left out either: you can makes tray without the meat for vegetarians, if you don’t like jalapenos or olives you can leave them off for a batch. And for a party, they’re a breeze to serve. Before the event you miss en place, and then when guests you arrive you assemble and pop the tray into the oven until they’re crispy and melty.
After making some truly delicious carnitas, and chopping all of the other toppings into a state of preparedness, I was ready for a nachopalooza to take place. But then a friend graciously brought pizzas, and the partygoers got into the other side along snacks, and by the time the nachos made their debut, people had already kind of filled themselves. Two trays went out. And one of them was smallish, because it was for our two animal free attendees (shout out to vegetarian friends!).
We could have been disheartened, our excellent nacho laden party plan did not go off as expected. But no, it turned out kind of perfect. The next day, the day that was Mr’s real 30th birthday, Mr and I had a little nacho party of our own and each of us doctored up our own idealized nacho plates. YUM!
2 kg boneless pork butt
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp lime juice
- Trim excess fat from the pork shoulder, and then cut it into rough two inch cubes.
- Mince the garlic. Take the skin off of the onion and cut it into 8 pieces.
- Cut the orange in half, and juice it. Keep the spent orange halves, they go in the pot too!
- Assemble all of the ingredients in your slow cooker (or a Dutch oven if you want to do the braising step in the oven. See note below!)
- Cook until the pork will fall apart when prodded with a fork. I set my slow cooker to low for 5 hours to do this.
- Separate the solids from the liquid with a slotted spoon. Discard the orange halves.
- Give the meat a little bit of time to cool before shredding it. In the mean time, take the remaining liquid from the braise and heat it on the stove to reduce to just about a cup.
- Using two forks (or the paddle beater on your mixer!) shred the pork.
- Spread your carnitas out on a baking sheet, and once the braising liquid is done reducing, pour it over top. Flavor city!
- Put the pan under the broiler so that the carnitas brown up nicely and get crisp on the edges ~5 minutes. Turn everything with a wide spatula and give it another 5 minutes or so. Excess liquid should evaporate off in this time.
- Enjoy your carnitas in tacos, or with some rice and beans, or on nachos!
- **Note: If you would like to do the braising in your oven, the recipe I adapted from suggests combining all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and getting it to a boil on the stove top before clamping on a lid and letting it all braise in a 300° oven for ~2 hours. Then follow the rest of the steps as advised.**
I know what you’re thinking: braising, shredding, reducing, and then broiling? That is a commitment!
And it is, kind of. But this is not a time to be commitment phobic. This is a commitment worth making. Trust the pork.
Our kitchen smelled like heaven when the meat was braising. I was a little bit worried, because the sweet scent of the orange was so strong until I started reducing the sauce, and I didn’t want to have sweet carnitas. Needles to say, I was being anxious for no reason for the 47 millionth time in my life. But I thought I would let you know, in case you dear reader may also be prone to the kind of worry mentioned above.
I made the carnitas two days before the party, and had to do my best not to snack away on it before the anticipated nachopalooza. The seasoning is so lovely. As for texture though, this is where the recipe is really a home run: you have the fall apart tenderness from braising, but also some bite and browned flavor from those fleeting minutes under the broiler. I will certainly be making this recipe again.
A note or two on the recipe I was working off of: I was instructed to reduce the broiling liquid until it was syrupy. It never got anywhere near syrupy, or even thickened really. Your goal should be to get it to a cup or so, don’t worry if it doesn’t get thick. Mine never did. Also, Carole suggests discarding the onion at the same time as when you discard the orange halves! DO NOT DO IT! The bits of onion are such punches of flavor, it would be a crime to put them into the trash. Just keep them in with your carnitas. You’ll be happy you did!
One year ago: Tequila Sunset Hot Pepper Jelly
The year before that: Orange Cardamom Cookies
And the year before that: Roasted Chicken and Sausage with Potatoes