What’s cooking today: Pulled pork ‘carnitas’ with salsa and tacos
Winter’s my favourite time of year. Its icy grip always brings me back to childhood holidays in the Karoo, the scent of plump sheep and the fresh hunt, and the hearty aromas of home: freshly squeezed orange juice, butter balls, farm bread freshly baked in my grandmother’s Aga Range Cooker, and biltong, devoured so eagerly it had barely time to crisp on the edges. But even this ice queen doesn’t recall feeling quite as nippy in the coastal-air winter, which is why I'm blaming a voracious appetite for comfort food on the season.
Honestly though, there’s only so much stew, soup and stodgy food one can stomach, which is why, in my first recipe standing in for Tony Jackman this month, I opted for carnitas – Mexican pulled pork, that is gratifyingly fresh served in tacos with salad.
This slow-cooked pork shoulder – a far more flavoursome cut of meat than the leg – is effortlessly easy, slowly cooked and fall-apart tender, then crisped to golden perfection before being crammed into warm, soft tortillas, and topped with salsa, slices of avocado and whatever else you like.
The recipe is enough for at least 10 people, which is why this is a great dinner-feast dish, or weeknight meal, which can be enjoyed over a few days, in different ways, or even frozen for another time. Pulled pork freezes well (in which case it’s best to keep the sauce separate).
(Serves at least 10)
+/- 2kg pork shoulder, rinsed and cleaned of skin and excess fat
2 onions, sliced
Salt and pepper
6 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup orange juice
½ cup olive oil/blended oil
Three fresh bay leaves, bruised lightly
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
Marinade the pork in the above ingredients overnight. If you don’t have time to marinade, leave out this step, but I recommend marinating overnight as the meat is always more flavoursome.
Place pork shoulder with the marinade ingredients in a slow cooker, set on low. Cook for at least eight hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker, put the pork into an oven dish, cover with foil (shiny side up) and roast for about eight hours at 160°C.
Pork should be tender enough to shred easily. Remove from the cooker and allow to cool slightly, then shred using two forks.
Skim off excess fat from the meat and juice, discard, then reduce the gravy down to about 2 cups. It will be quite salty and richly flavoured – use this to season the pork.
Heat some olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat, add some pork (without overcrowding the pan) and drizzle over some of the juices. Turn over quickly, allowing it to brown and some to crisp up, without sticking or burning. Remove pork from pan, set aside and repeat with remaining batches.
Just before serving, drizzle over more juices and serve hot alongside warmed tacos, sliced avocado (or guacamole), a simple tomato-and-pepper salsa, fresh chilli and sour cream.
1 chopped red or white onion, chopped
1 hot cayenne or birdseye chilli, seeds removed, roughly chopped
400g canned crushed tomato or equivalent fresh ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh coriander
Juice of a lime
½ teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic , minced
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Roughly blend together – must have some texture so not too finely. Serve with carnitas.
Other accompaniments: avocado, sour cream, cheese, more fresh chilli and tortillas. DM
Tony Jackman will be back in August. Follow Tony on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.