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Slow cooked pork shoulder. Basically carnitas, but the spices can be adapted to make the flavors more American or more Mexican or more Tex-Mex.

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Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 lb pork shoulder (boneless)
  • 2 oranges
  • Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (2 – 3 chilis, and a couple of teaspoons of the sauce)
  • Cumin (1.5 – 2T)
  • Oregano (1T dried; optional)
  • Brown sugar (1/2 T, optional)
  • For serving: tortillas, fresh cilantro, ripe avocado, minced red onion, thinly sliced scallions

Method

  1. Cut deep slits all over the meat and insert garlic slices.
  2. Combine in a small bowl: chilis (minced, with sauce), cumin, oregano, brown sugar. Slice the orange along the equator and squeeze the juice out into the bowl. Stir to make a paste. Rub all over pork and get it in the slits too.*
  3. Optional additional step: if you have the time, brown the pork on the stove top. Put a little oil or butter in a large pan, big enough to hold the meat. The oil/butter should coat the pan. Heat till a drop of water sizzles in it, then place the meat into the pan. Let it sit for 3 – 4 minutes, then rotate. Continue till the meat is browned all over. Browning creates more complex flavors (see Maillard Reaction).
  4. Place pork in slow cooker. It’s okay to cut it in half or so to make it fit properly. Place orange slices on top. Place slow cooker insert in fridge (with lid) and let marinate overnight.
  5. The next morning, place the insert into the slow cooker. Let it cook for 5 hours; check for doneness. Overcooked pork will be dry–no good. You’ll know it’s done when the pork falls apart easily when poked with a fork. Gently lift it out onto a plate and discard the rendered fat.**

 

Serve with: warm tortillas, minced cilantro, avocado and {minced red onion or thinly sliced scallions}. Or just spoon it over couscous and don’t tell the purists.

* If necessary, make more the spice paste using this approximate ratio:
cumin:oregano:chipotle:brown sugar :: 3:2:2:1. Use leftover orange for juice or just add a few drops of water to make the paste. Don’t skimp on the spice paste! If after the pork is cooked, you find that it’s too bland, you can stir some spice paste to taste into the shredded meat. You can also mix BBQ sauce into the shredded meat to make BBQ pulled pork but I’m just not a fan of bottled sauces.

**If you pour it down the drain, run a lot of hot water down the sink. A better way to do this is to pour the fat into a plastic container and stick it in the fridge. The fat will congeal, so you can scoop it out of the container and into the compost bin (or the trash bin, if you don’t compost–but you compost, right? Right?).

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