What if we made a big ol’ bowlful of pork and beer?!?! Just got the attention of every male walking the earth with that one. Viral posts, here I come! Nah, we’re not using a whole case of beer on this one. Just a whole bottle. These drunken carnitas bowls are innocent enough to serve to your munchkins, but flavorful enough to get your Cinco de Mayo party off to a great start.
I decided to make this recipe a part of a series of Cinco de Mayo Recipes.
Sounds super fancy, doesn’t it? Well, I’m not fancy, I’m anti-social. Remember the extroverted-introvert test I took?
I’m not that bad. I’m social when I want to be, and I can even fake when I have to be; I just don’t like being caught off guard. Most times, I need to practice what I’m going to say to people at least a week beforehand. Yes, I do that by looking in the mirror and playing both speaking parts. No, I don’t appreciate your judgement.
Hence the reason I don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo outside of my house. I get skeeved at the thought of going to a bootleg Mexican restaurant (thankfully, those are few and far between here in Tejas) and doing mortal combat with a bunch of other military families trying to get their fill on $1 margaritas. Never knowning Cinco de Mayo outside of a military installation/city; I don’t know what calm CdM is. Which is, therefore, the reason I just can’t deal, y’all.
The last time we went out for CdM was in Fort Belvoir, VA- just outside of Washington, D.C. We went to a Mexican restaurant right outside the gate and waited an hour for cold fajitas and $2 Cuervo-laced margaritas. A mariachi singing to me made the nasty food and liquor go down a little smoother. Do you want to traumatize your children? Taking them to CdM at a restaurant is the way you do it. I may have threatened someone with, “Bodily harm if they bumped my chair trying to do the Mexican hat dance one mo’ time.” May have. Can’t quite remember. You know, Cuervo and all.
No, that was the last year we did the “CdM-outside-the-safety-of-our-compound,” thing. Now, we stay at home and recreate the meals we’ve grown to love…and even some I thought up on a whim. This recipe is a combo of the two.
The time we spent stationed in El Paso was precious to our entire family. We made life-long friends and had so many amazing (and sad) experiences there. El Paso is a town that is a world apart from the rest of America; an American city that lies within walking distance of Mexico. We’d drive to our favorite places with a clear view of Ciudad Juárez outside our car’s windows. I would go back to El Paso in a heartbeat. Not just for the food, but also to be reunited with my dearest friends who gave us all a love for Mexican- real Mexican- foods.
Tacos al pastor was a dish my husband fawned over. Usually flavored with pineapple (or piña in Spanish) and roasted on a spit, tacos al pastor (or Shepherd’s-style tacos) were always Hector’s first pick at our favorite Mexican joints. Carnitas (translated as “little meats” because they are bite-sized pieces of pork) are, instead, simmered in lard (or oil) and become tender through slow-cooking. This carnitas bowl is a riff on that recipe. By now you should be aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of lard. However, even I have my limits. We’re not doing that here.
In an effort to create a dish that combined the sweet and savory of tacos al pastor with the rich depth of flavor as slow-cooked carnitas, I made a few alterations. First, I seasoned them with my Mexican Spice Blend and allowed them to marinate overnight. As an alternative to cooking my carnitas in lard, I have given them a quick sear in the liquid of the Gods instead. I riffed on the sweetness of piña from the tacos al pastor by using a ripe mango. Since the acidity of pineapple also acts as a tenderizer, I incorporated a hearty amber lager in the form of the classic Mexican brew: Dos Equis. We don’t lose the slow-cooked flavor of traditional carnitas because we utilize the God-send to all humankind- the crockpot.
The carnitas bowls’ awesomeness is revealed in the versatility of how they can be served. In the cookbook (which is on sale here and can arrive by CdM if you order now) you’ll find recipes for a delicious cilantro-lime rice, as well as my perfect pico de gallo and guacamole; all of which you can add to your Cinco de Mayo Carnitas Bar.
Additionally, try some of these ideas for toppings:
- Cheeses such as: crumbled cotjia or queso fresco, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Sharp Cheddar or pepper jack
- Veggies like: diced tomatoes, shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce, sliced green or diced yellow onions, fresh or pickled jalapeños, and/or chopped cilantro
- Sauces like: Mexican hot sauce, this cilantro-avocado sauce, or your favorite salsa.
As always, a great margarita or beer is perfect for washing it all down. No, not for the kids! Serve them a Topo Chico instead.
Pues, Amigos, let’s get cooking carnitas!
Yield 8 servings
Customize your bowls with your favorite taco bar condiments! Sub out the pork for brisket or chicken.
3 tbsp Mexican Spice Blend (link in post)
juice of 3 limes
3-4lbs boneless Boston butt pork roast, cut in large chunks
3 tbsp lard (or vegetable oil)
1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle dark Mexican beer (or chicken stock)
1 tbsp Mexican Spice blend
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large mango, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- Cilantro-lime rice
- Borracho beans (link in post)
- pico de gallo
- chopped veggies
In a large glass or plastic bowl, marinate the pork pieces by tossing them into the first measurement of Mexican Spice Blend and the lime juice. Make sure the pork is fully coated. Allow to marinate for at least 3 hours or, preferably, overnight.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the lard until it is melted and small drop of water jumps when dropped into it. Add the marinated pork pieces in small batches and sear*. You don't want to cook the pork through, instead you want to caramelize the meat. Remove the pork from the skillet with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a paper-lined plate. Continue this process in small batches until you have seared all of the meat.
After removing the last batch of meat from the pan, allow the pan to return to temperature and add the onions, both peppers, and garlic. Sauté until the veggies have caramelized*.
Deglaze the pan by adding the beer (or chicken stock) and scraping off the bits of food that have stuck to the bottom during the searing process.
Into a crockpot, place the seared pork, followed by the vegetable/beer pan mixture. Add the spices, mango, the tomato sauce, and the bay leaf. Stir to combine.
Turn the slow cooker on to high and cook for 4 hours. Alternatively, you can cook it on low for 8 hours.
Once the cooking time has elapsed, carefully remove the large chunks of meat and the bay leaf (discarding the bay leaf) with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving platter.
Using an immersion blender (or after carefully transferring the liquid to a blender- and working with the lid vented to prevent an explosion) blend the cooking liquid until smooth.
Shred or cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and stir it back into the liquid. Serve, as desired, in bowls.
*see notes section*
searing: is the dry-heat cooking method of cooking a cut of meat rapidly and at a very high heat to extract a deeper flavor in the overall dish. During the searing process the surface of the meat undergoes a chemical change in which the proteins, when they are introduced to high heat (such as a cast iron skillet or pan) causes the sugars in the meat to caramelize thus creating a depth of flavor and a deep color that is desirable when cooking meats.
caramelize: the process of browning sugars in a food by exposing it to heat