February 25, 2014

Carnitas Taco Salad

Another pork recipe, I know, I know. But I can't help it!  Pork is delicious all the time!  Carnitas is one of those things that I always ordered when I went out to eat for a burrito or tacos but I never considered making it myself.  Once I tried it once I wondered why I had never done it before. It is so easy, super satisfying, and is a little bit magical in the way that it transforms right in front of your eyes from a bubbling cauldron of meat to perfect little tender bites that are crispy on the edges!

I have made carnitas from this recipe many times and tweaked it here and there each time and it is pretty near fool proof. I have always gotten compliments on it and I doubt I will ever use another recipe! Normally I just have this tasty treat on tortillas with some onions, cilantro, and salsa but this time we decided to make a taco salad.  I tossed a mixture of romaine and baby salad mix with a cilantro sour cream lime dressing, and topped this with some warmed black beans, sliced red onions, diced avocado, a little big of roasted tomato salsa, a little big of salsa verde, crumbled queso fresco, and some crispy corn tortilla strips.

It all worked perfectly together and though it took a little more effort, it was worth it to feel slightly less gluttonous.

 Carnitas Taco Salad

Here are the recipes for the carnitas and for the salad dressing! Toss some greens with the dressing, scoop some meat on top and add whatever other toppings sound delicious!

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 to 3 limes) **note: you can also just forgo the lime and use more OJ
4 cloves garlic, peeled and just smashed with the side of your knife
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Water (I find 4 cups is the perfect amount for a 3 lb roast)

1. Place the cut up pork into a large Dutch oven. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and enough water to just barely cover the meat.
2. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for two hours. Don’t touch the meat!
3. After two hours, increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat. Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning pieces gently (they’ll be eager to fall apart), only as needed.
4. When pork is browned and crispy on all sides, it’s ready.
5. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Try not to eat it all straight out of the pot!  Put this into a tortilla or make taco salad!

Cilantro Lime Sour Cream Dressing
Slightly adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 bunch of loosely packed cilantro, rinsed, stems removed, and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream
juice from one lime
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of freshly-ground black pepper
Water, to thin (a couple tablespoons)

Combine all the ingredients except the water in a blender or use a stick blender until well combined and smooth.  If it seems too thick, drizzle in water a little at a time until it is a consistency you prefer. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lime juice if necessary.


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