When the weather gets cold, it’s time to pull out the slow cooker and enjoy a festive Mexican meal! I’m talking tender seasoned pulled pork, fresh guacamole, garden-style salsa, and lush whole-milk Greek yogurt and savory cheese. No way can you have the winter blues when you’re feasting on such summery fare. And a slow cooker can turn an inexpensive three-pound pork butt into seemingly endless quantities of tender shredded pork that you can use in a variety of dishes, from these carnitas to your next pot of chili to a porkishly delicious round of huevos rancheros. Or how about a pan of enchiladas? You just can’t go wrong with pulled pork.
I’ve topped my carnitas (“little meats”) with my favorite Mexican garnishes, but you can include whatever you’d like, from black olives to jalapeños. This is an especially fun dish to serve during a party since you can offer your guests a make-it-yourself bar of tortillas, meat, and toppings. If you use corn tortillas, your guests will have more opportunities to mix and match what’s in the toppings bar — corn tortillas are typically much smaller than wheat-based tortillas, so you’re not as likely to overfill them. (Plus, corn tortillas are gluten-free, which just makes things easier for everybody.) My favorite corn tortillas are Food for Life’s sprouted whole-grain corn tortillas. They’re usually in the refrigerated or frozen section of health-oriented grocery stores.
For the carnitas:
Juice of 1 lime
1 small onion, sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
1 T. coriander
3 lb. pork butt, preferably from pastured hogs
4 cups chicken broth, preferably from free-range chickens
For everything else:
Whole-grain corn tortillas
Whole-milk plain Greek yogurt (so much fresher-tasting than sour cream!)
Shredded cheese of your choice, preferably made with grass-fed milk (I opted for a local Amish Monterey Jack cheese)
Fresh salsa, either store-bought or homemade (I adore Garden Fresh’s line of salsas)
Place the lime juice, onion, garlic, and spices in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cut the butt so that it fits into the cooker. (I had to cut mine into three rough chunks to make it fit.) Pour over the broth and cook on high for 6 hours. Note: if you’re using pastured pork, only cook it for 5 1/2 hours! Pastured meats are leaner than conventional factory meat. Turn off cooker, uncover it, and let the meat cool until you can pull it out with tongs and comfortably touch it.
Use your fingertips or two forks to shred the pork from the bones. Perfectly cooked meat will fall away from the bones easily but will still be tender and moist. (Before turning off the heat, you can pull out a piece of meat and do the shred test to see if it’s cooked through.) Pile the shredded pork and the cooked sliced onions onto a large plate as you continue to pull the meat away from the bones. If you’re not going to use it all, you might want to leave the leftover meat as hunks rather than shredded — that way, the leftover meat will be more moist, plus you may want to cut it into slices rather than shred it when you go to use it in another dish.
Just before serving, warm the tortillas by heating them over medium heat in a dry skillet for a minute or two on each side or until the tortillas are crisp and are turning light brown around the edges/in the center.
Serve the carnitas pre-assembled, or let the guests choose their own toppings. And think tropical summery thoughts!
* Guacamole is ridiculously easy to make fresh. Simply smash the flesh of 1 avocado with the juice from 1/4 of a lemon. Stir in a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of cumin if you like, a medium-size chopped tomato, and about 1 T. chopped cilantro. You can also include a hint of minced raw onion and garlic if you like. I skipped those ingredients when I made the guacamole to go along with the carnitas since the pork is slow-cooked with onion and garlic already.
Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.