Carnitas

Meaning “little meats” in Spanish, carnitas are cubes of pork, usually from the shoulder, cooked until very tender then often shredded and used as a filling. Recipes differ whether the braising or the frying comes first. I have adopted the method used by Rick Bayless; simmering the pork until the water has evaporated then letting the cubes fry in their own rendered fat. It just seems more authentic to me and does not require additional fat be added to the dish. Some recipes add flavoring ingredients like onions, chilies, and herbs to the braising liquid while others do not. Again, I follow Bayless’s lead and flavor the pork with nothing but salt and a bit of lime juice. The resulting meat has a rich pork flavor that blends perfectly with the flavorings of whatever dish I use it in.

The conventional way to make carnitas is in a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Having recently acquired a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker I decided to adapt the recipe to both speed up the process and reduce the amount of energy I used. Note that the method is specific to the Cuisinart electric pressure cooker. You may need to modify it depending on your specific make and model.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1½- inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh or bottled

Method

Place the pork into the pressure cooker, sprinkle with salt, and add the lime juice and enough water to just cover the meat. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes (for planning purposes remember that the 30 minutes starts when the unit is at full pressure, perhaps 15 minutes).

Release the pressure—I find that putting a kitchen towel over the vent helps minimize the mess. Drain the meat reserving the cooking liquid. Return the meat to the cooker with 1 cup of liquid and turn to the “brown” setting. Separate the fat from the cooking liquid and add to the cooker. When the liquid has boiled off stir constantly to prevent sticking and brown the meat for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it between your fingers. Use it in a picadillo for tacos or enchiladas. Any meat not used right away can be frozen.

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