I’ve been in the mood for some porky comfort food, but it has just been way too cold and wet to make it on my Big Green Egg. So I moved this carnitas recipe inside to the oven.
8 pounds pork shoulder roast
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon achiote oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Cut the roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks, discarding any stringy connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat.
Combine all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and give it a stir. Put the lid on and move to the oven. Let it simmer for an hour. The orange juice should be bubbly and the fat in the meat should have started to render out.
Remove the lid, stir, and return it to the oven uncovered to simmer for another hour. Keep checking and stirring once an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has started to fry in its own fat (about 3 hours total).
As it gets closer to being done, start checking and stirring the meat every 15 minutes to make sure the meat is getting crispy, but not becoming dry or burned. Total cook time for this batch was just shy of 5 hours.
Remove the carnitas to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm while you put the sauces together.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix (Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch in this case)
1 cup buttermilk
1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2-3 tablespoons picked jalapenos, including juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Pit the avocado by cutting it lengthwise around the seed and then twisting the two halves apart to expose the pit.
To remove the pit:
- If you are brave and good with a knife, hold the avocado half with the pit in the hand that you can afford to lose (you can use an oven mitt to protect your hand, but you lose style points ;)) . Tap the pit with the heel of a chef’s knife blade hard enough that the knife sticks into the pit. Twist the pit out, then slap the knife’s tang flat against the edge of a trash can edge to release the pit. Take a little bow.
- If you have more common sense than you do knife skills, just twist the halves apart as above, then use a tablespoon to pop the pit out.
Once the pit is out, use said tablespoon to scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and into a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, buttermilk, shallot, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapenos. Give it a whirl until everything it blended smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stash in the fridge while you make the cheese sauce.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix in this case)
2 cups milk
8 ounces Colby-Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 1/2 cups
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Pinch Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Whisk together and cook flour and butter for a couple of minutes over moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk until it is smooth. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese, cayenne, and paprika. Keep whisking until everything is smooth and melty. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.
Assemble nachos by alternating layers of chips, cheese sauce, meat, avocado, salsa, sour cream, more chips, just smidge more meat, hot sauce, maybe some more cheese, etc… until you have your personal nacho nirvana.
Aside from not having the smokey goodness that the grill adds, these carnitas rocked – crispy, juicy, and tender. I really liked the added orange juice as the citrus sweetness played real well with the earthiness of the anchiote.
Both sauces were very tasty, but the avocado sauce was a real standout – smooth, fresh, and herby.
Carnitas will never be diet food. Four ounces of meat is 5 Weight Watchers Points and 190 calories, so use it sparingly. The cheese sauce won’t do you any good either, but the avocado sauce is lighter and more flavorful than guacamole, so you can save some calories there.