Since moving to France, one of the things I miss most from home is authentic Mexican food. My parents grew up in Arizona and California and Mexican food was a staple at our house.
In France, 'Mexican food' (what I consider to be bad Tex-Mex) became popular about 10 years ago. Grocery stores sell Old El Paso tortillas, chips and salsa (some are sweet which I can't understand), but it took me a few years to find Mexicoeur, a little store near Chatelet run by a couple from Mexico City that has a fantastic selection of products from Mexico. They recommended Itacate, a small, unpretentious restaurant with the most authentic Mexican food I’ve found here. Delicious!
I have adapted my mom’s recipes for the ingredients that are available locally. I make Mexican food often, but keep the spicy level low for our French friends. While the French are familiar with ground beef and chicken tacos, carnitas are always new to them. This recipe is excellent and very easy to make, but the meat needs time to slow roast in the oven so it is very tender. Serve with your favorite toppings – grated cheddar, lettuce, salsa or my easy cabbage slaw that I included at the end of the recipe. And if you have leftovers and are tired of tacos (never the case for me), you can use the leftover meat and juices to make this Carnitas Parmentier (or carnitas shepherd’s pie).
Carnitas (Mexican-style pork for tacos)
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 ½ - 3 hours
3 ¼-pound (1.5 kilos) boneless pork shoulder (échine or filet du porc à rotir in France)
8 garlic cloves, minced (I use a garlic press)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) beef broth
1 large white or yellow onion
1 14-ounce (400 g) can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chilis (In France, I get mine at Mexicoeur, but omit if you don’t have them)
Cabbage Slaw (optional)
4 cups (250 g) shredded cabbage - I like a mix of red and white
2-3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C). Trim off excess fat — not all, since it adds flavor. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, onion powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Rub the mixture evenly over the whole piece of meat – get your hands dirty and really rub it in so it absorbs the flavors.
In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown
all sides – about 5-7 minutes in total. Pour the beef broth over the meat, cover and put in the oven and roast for 2 ½. The meat should be very tender, but leave it in for another 30 minutes if it is not quite there yet.
While the meat is roasting, chop the onion and sauté it in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent. Set aside.
Place the meat on a cutting board, leaving the cooking liquid in the Dutch oven. Let sit until cool enough to touch then shred the meat either using 2 forks or your fingers. I also remove
any fatty pieces as I shred.
Skim and discard the excess fat off the cooking liquid in the Dutch oven. Put the shredded pork back into the Dutch oven with the juices. Add the sautéed onion, can of diced tomatoes and can of chilis (if you have it).
Re-heat the carnitas over low heat on the stovetop while you get your toppings ready. Use a slotted spoon to serve the meat, leaving the juice in the Dutch oven. Serve with your favorite tortillas and toppings. I like my carnitas with some shredded cheddar cheese, avocado, sliced radishes, hot sauce and some of my cabbage slaw. For the slaw, gently mix together
the cabbage, lime juice, sour cream (use more or less depending on how creamy you want it), cilantro and dash of salt. If you have leftover meat and are looking for something different, try making a Carnitas Parmentier (Shepherd’s Pie).
And bon appétit!