Monday, September 19, 2011

Smoked Pork Carnitas

This is a go to recipe for me.  The combination of flavors is awesome.  It's not very authentic, as true carnitas are fried in lard, but the flavor of the meat is fantastic, and you can use this as a base to make any Mexican dish you would like (I've put it in tacos, burritos, and tostadas, or just eaten it by itself!).

Smoked Carnitas
1 pork shoulder roast, about 5-6 lbs.
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
8 cloves garlic
mesquite wood chips (soaked and drained)

Spice Rub:
3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon White Pepper
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

For The Mop and Sauce:
1 12 oz bottle of dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of the rub

Pierce the roast all over to let the marinade work its way in. Marinate the roast with the orange juice and garlic cloves overnight.  The next day, discard the OJ and garlic mixture.  Rinse the roast off and pat dry with paper towels.

Make the rub by mixing together all the ingredients in a bowl.  Set aside 2 tablespoons for the mop sauce. Pat the rub all over the roast.  Next, make the sauce.  Mix all of the ingredients together and set aside about 1 cup for when the meat is done, to use as a finishing sauce.

Set the grill to medium heat, about 300 degrees max, and use wood chips for smoke.  Place the roast on the grill, either on a rack, or with one burner turned off, so that it is not directly over any flames.  Smoke the roast for 4-5 hours.  Liberally baste the roast with the sauce about every 45 minutes.

When the roast is done, let it sit for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, then tear it apart into shreds. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shredded pork.  
I usually serve this as an appetizer, on tostaditas with a little cotija cheese sprinkled over the top. To make miniature tostadas like the one pictured at the top of this post, simply use a biscuit sized cookie cutter to cut rounds out of corn tortillas, then fry them in oil for 2-3 minutes until crispy.

You can basically cook this as long as you want without worrying too much about drying the roast out - I've left it on the grill for as long as 12 hours.  The outside will become completely charred and appear to be burnt, but that is actually a flavorful char that is delicious when shredded and mixed in with the tender inside pieces of the roast.

For the wood chips, you can simply use aluminum foil to wrap them, leaving a little opening for the smoke to escape.  As far as shredding the roast, after many times of making this (as well as pulled pork), I've learned that the fastest and best way to do it is simply pulling it apart by hand (hence the name!).  Enjoy!

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