First time I had carnitas was in San Francisco, at Nopalito. I have once made it but have since lost the recipe they gave me and thus am now experimenting with an adaptation of a recipe found on David Lebovitz‘s blog which, with my adaptation, is very similar to that of Nopalito.

  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • salt
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 6 cloves garlic, split in half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark. If necessary cook them in batches.

Once all the pork is done, remove them from the pot, pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to release all the tasty brown bits.
Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

Add the quartered orange, squeezing in some of the juice.
Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
Shred the pork pieces into bite-sized morsels. Return the pork pieces back to the oven, on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized.

Serve in a taco shell, or wrapped in a tortilla, with Pico de Gallo sauce, sour cream and chopped avocado. Suggested side dish: Frijoles negros dormidos