Sunday Food- Pork Tacos

We make “carnitas” or some variation of pork braised in chiles, onion, spice, and citrus frequently.  I make it, Sarah makes it, Kristen makes it- YOU probably make it- we sometimes crock-pot it (more on that later)- but if I have the privilege of being home- I love to pull out my dutch oven and do a stove-top version.

Real carnitas require re-frying the pork (meh- but invite me over if you are doing it!)- but this method involves searing off the pork chunks, braising in a thick chile mixture, then reducing pork and chiles until thick and luscious.

Our starting line-up (missing a couple of things, which I hemmed and hawed over- but ended up adding- so more of that to come)-  Ancho chiles, New Mexican chiles, a beer (half of that bottle), roasted coriander, cilantro, juice of an orange, juice of 2 limes, a small pork shoulder, and red onion:DSCN2849The prep:

First thing- put some water on to boil (stove, tea kettle, microwave, whatever).  Then prep the chiles- you will use a few anchos and a few new mexicos-  the recipe will give exact amounts- but I have to be honest- we wing it.  I love peppers- so I tend to use more.  Tentative?  Please try them, but you can dial it back.

DSCN2857 For the peppers- take off the stems and seed them- simply pull them open, and shake the seeds into the garbage or your compost receptacle.

(we use a stainless steel bowl for compost, then haul it outside to the compost bin each night or when the bowl gets full.  Low tech).

Cut some cilantro- we had some on the way out, so I used stems and leaves (the stems taste a lot!)- about 2/3 of a cup chopped.  Doesn’t need to be minced, since it is going to braise and basically become part of the sauce-y-ness

Juice your orange and limes- I deliberately grabbed bunch of the innards of the orange.  I like pulp.
Water ready?  Pour about 2 cups over the prepped chiles.
This player didn’t make it into the initial photo.  Find a small can of pineapple juice!  (pineapple contains an enzyme that breaks down tough meat- I always add it when making a tough cut and the cuisine can handle the sugar).  Meanwhile, chop half of a red onion.  Save the rest for making condiments for tacos- like pickled onions!
Also, crush and peel 4 cloves of garlic.  No chopping.  Next, cut your pork shoulder/butt into large chunks (mine were 2″x2″ and a couple larger, couple smaller)-  dry it off a little- and season- 1 teaspoon of the coriander, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of pepper.  I used tongs to mess all of the pork around and distribute the seasoning.

DSCN2869 DSCN2870

Notice in the background I have all of the items we prepped?  I have moved things to rightnextothestove – so that when my pork is done searing, I can dump the onions/garlic/cilantro into the rendered pork fat, cook, deglaze with beer, add liquids, etc.DSCN2871 Heat a very small (like a teaspoon) of olive oil in the dutch oven.  I find that the pork has enough fat that renders out that it sort of crips itself. No need to add extra.
Brown the pork in batches, and set the seared meat aside.  We’ll get back to it.
DSCN2877Seared, crispy meat!  The next task is to get the onions and garlic and cilantro in the fat rendered from the pork-  so dump that bowl right on in.  Saute until the onions are soft, 2-3 minutes.DSCN2876When the onions are soft, deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of beer.  Cook the beer until reduced slightly.  Add the pineapple juice and reduce slightly, again.  Add the meat and juices back to the pan.DSCN2880 DSCN2881While these things are cooking and reducing (from onions through pineapple)- it is time to blend the chiles we prepped!  I used my stick blender.  Perfect results.DSCN2882 DSCN2883
Tip- if doing this, go slow and do not use any large motions.  You will probably need to cycle it off, reposition, and blend directly on a pepper until things get going.  You can also use a food processor or blender!
Add the pork back to the pot:

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And add the chiles and orange juice.  The pot might be a bit full, but we are going to cook with the lid off on low for several hours to concentrate the flavors.  DO NOT BOIL.  Bring it to a bubble.DSCN2886See?  A bubble.

Commence some other activity- like making various condiments. We love roasted tomatillo salsa (coming tomorrow!), quick pickled onions (the other half of the onion, slivered into thin slices, and marinated in some red wine vinegar), sour cream, more hot peppers, etc.  Also, you can make your own tortillas.  It is stupid easy- so just do it.  Masa + water…  tortilla press…. hot pan.  Dunzo.

OR, you can do all of that later and enjoy some chips, salsa, sriracha popcorn, and a beer while watching the Patriots.  Just sayin’.DSCN2892
Race-related beer glass is optional.  I won this one :)

After the game, check on things!DSCN2905
Literally none of the photos I took did justice to this unctuous, thick, flavorful pork braise. Or stew.  It occurs to me that you could add just a couple of veggies and make the best pork stew ever.

Anyhow- make the tortillas (if you hadn’t done it at half time)- Mix 1 cup of flour (this makes 8- so up the quantities for more people!) with 3/4 cup of water.  It should a “doughy” consistency.DSCN2894 DSCN2895 Use the tortilla press!  Cover in plastic wrap, and using a dough ball that is approximately 1-2″ in diameter- press!DSCN2896 Cook the tortillas in a super hot preheated cast iron skillet for 20-30 seconds per side, until golden and cooked.DSCN2897DSCN2899Next is the best part- assembly!  Mike made traditional tacos, I used some napa cabbage as a wrapper for my second and thirdsies. 

I keep worrying that you won’t understand that it is LUSCIOUS.  like Oh. My. Goodness.  Melty, velvety, porky, spicy amazing-ness. (the green stuff is the tomatillos,  coming soon).DSCN2909 DSCN2912 DSCN2915I love a tortilla- but it was friggen awesome in a cabbage wrap.  mmmmmm.  If you are modifying for paleo/ GF-  do this. Not lettuce. 



Luscious Chile Braised Pork Tacos
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Tex-Mex
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-5
  • 2-4 Lb Pork Shoulder or Butt, cut into 2"X2" hunks. If it has bones, no worries- cut the meat, and then add the bones/meat into the pot after browning.
  • 2-3 Dried Ancho Chiles
  • 2-3 Dried New Mexico Chiles
  • ½ Red onion, Chopped
  • ⅔ Cup cilantro stems/leaves, chopped
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 Small can of Pineapple Juice (6 oz)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled.
  • 1 cup of citrusy/hoppy beer
  • 2 Cups of boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon roasted coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • (save the other half of the onion to make quick pickled onions)
For tortillas
  • 1 Cup Masa Harina
  • ¾ Cup water
  • Cotija Cheese, sour cream, chopped jalapenos, salsa, etc.
For Gluten free- substitute beer for chicken stock. Use Napa cabbage leaves for taco shells.
  1. Prep all of the ingredients. Cover the dried chiles in the boiling water in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Season the pork with 1 teaspoon coriander and 2 teaspoons salt and pepper, respectively. Toss to coat pork evenly in seasoning.
  3. Brown the pork in batches, avoiding crowding, in a dutch oven, adding very little fat to get it going (about 1 tsp oil of your choice).
  4. Remove the pork, and add the onions, smashed garlic, and cilantro. Cook until the onions are soft. Deglaze the pan with the beer; reduce slightly. Add the pineapple juice, and reduce slightly again.
  5. Meanwhile, blend the chiles and water using a stick blender, blender, or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  6. Add the meat back to the pot; also add the chiles and the orange and lime juices,
  7. Bring to a bubble and reduce to a simmer, cooking approximately 1.5-2 hours over low heat.
  8. Reduce: Turn the heat up to reduce the pork/peppers to a VERY thick mixture. Stir constantly to avoid scorching- It will not only coat the back of the spoon, but be thick enough not to have the sauce run out of the taco.
For the tortillas- mix the masa harina and water until it forms a dough. Pinch off 2" rounds and flatten them in a tortilla press; cook in a dry cast iron skillet for 20 seconds to 1 minute per side, until lightly browned and cooked.
Serve tacos in a pot for people to self-serve pork, toppings, etc into tortillas.



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