The Heat is On – Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas in a Salsa Verde Sauce

As many of you already know, I am a huge fan of Northern Italian/French cooking. Anything that calls for a few pounds of butter mixed with a gallon or so of heavy cream and I am there! The thing that I like about Italian/French cuisine (aside from all the creamy sauces) is the use of wine. Sip, cook, taste, sip some more. Yeah, that makes for a happy cook in the kitchen.

When it comes to non-American cooking, Hubby is a south-of-the-border kind of guy. And we aren’t talking tacos and burritos here. Oh sure, he can put away his share of both. When in comes to delicious Mexican dishes, my Mexican Roast Beef with Chipotle Sour Cream Sauce is one of his favorites, as is Spicy Sausage Pasta with Mexican Tortilla Salad and Avocado Dressing and Stuffed Pork Chops with Ancho Cornbread Stuffing. The list goes on and on.

As for sides, Hubby is a big fan of rice – Mexican Rice with Chunky Salsa and Authentic Spicy Spanish Rice are two of his favorites. A spicy hunk of meat, some rice, some beans and warm tortillas is his idea of dining heaven. Truth be told, Mexican is my second favorite style of cooking. As for Kiddo, he’s an Italian diner. (When he was five or so, he said he wanted to go to Italy and eat his way across the country!) Mexican is a close second.

Hubby’s birthday is coming up soon. Since he is a fan of most things Mexican, I’ve been shaking out a few recipes for a test drive. We’re doing a big family thing at my sister’s house and I need to make sure my final menu is composed of dishes he enjoys that also travel well.

July has brought a second heat wave to the central California valley. Yesterday we topped out at 107 – with a wind that was like standing in front of a blow-dryer (or sitting inside a convection oven). It’s too hot to be outside, too hot to even think about firing up the grill or turning on an oven. This makes test driving recipes a bit more complicated.

While the Carnitas may take a few minutes under the broiler to finish it off, the fact that it simmers all day in a crock pot keeps the kitchen (and the rest of our home) from heating up. The entire house smells spicy. I’m not sure, but I think even our neighbors can smell something good is cooking in our kitchen.

Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas in a Salsa Verde Sauce
3-4 pound pork shoulder roast, bone in
Salt and pepper
1 Orange, juiced
1 Lime, juiced
2 Tablespoons Brown sugar
1 Jar Salsa Verde
2 Tablespoons Cumin
2 Teaspoons Garlic powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Dried Ancho Chili Pod (see note)
1/2 Tablespoon Chipotle Seasoning or to taste (Optional)

  • Note: The dried Ancho Chili Pod will soften as it stews slowly with the pork roast. You can choose to discard pod at the end of cooking, or core and finely chop the soft chili pod, then add it to the shredded pork just before roasting under the broiler. While the pepper will add a little heat, the flavor it brings to the party is wonderful.

Season pork roast well with salt and pepper. Place in a slow cooker set on HIGH. (Set pot for LOW if using cubed hunks of pork).

Cut orange in half, squeeze juice into a medium size bowl.

Place lime in the micro wave and zap for about 10 seconds, just to get the juices flowing. Slice lime in half and squeeze juice into the bowl with orange juice.

Add brown sugar to citrus juices, mix to form a thick paste.

Add Salsa Verde and minced garlic to the citrus/brown sugar mixture.

Season with cumin and garlic powder. Whisk to blend well.

Pour sauce over pork in crock pot. Place dried Ancho Chili Pod on top of pork. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 6 hours.

When pork is fork-tender and cooked through, spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lift the pork from the pot onto the prepared baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, cut meat away from the bone. Once most of the bone is exposed, wiggle it from the meat.

Cut the pork into small chunks, then shred most of it with a fork or by hand. If using, add chopped Ancho Pepper to the pork, mashing it well into the meat. Spread the pork evenly on baking sheet. Sprinkle with chipotle seasoning as desired. Drizzle most of the cooking liquid over shredded meat.

Place pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until everything is sizzling hot and a little browned.

Serve with warm corn or flour tortillas. Spicy rice, Super Easy Refried Beans make nice sides. For added color, consider a cold, crisp cucumber and tomato salad.

  • While most Pork Carnitas recipes call for a boneless pork roast to be cut into cubes before cooking, mine uses a bone-in roast cooked whole in a slow cooker set to HIGH. The boneless variety is easy to shred, while the bone-in roast takes more work to render the final Carnitas. However, the bone adds a wonderful, rich flavor to the dish that the boneless pork lacks. You can substitute a boneless roast if you like. Simply cube the pork into 3-inch chunks and cook on LOW in your crock pot. Then remove the chunks of meat with a slotted spoon and shred as you would the bone-in roast.
  • Carnitas can be cooked a day in advance. Simply store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container with the Salsa Verde sauce. About 30 minutes before serving, warm everything in a covered casserole dish in 400 degree oven. Carnitas made a day ahead will make for an awesome pork taco filling. Or eaten with flour tortillas. Either way, this well-seasoned pork is delicious.

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