Carnitas make for one of the best taco fillings: slow braised pork, shredded and then crisped up before serving, is perfect unadorned in a warm corn tortilla. But what if you're looking to take it up a notch? In Pati's Mexican Table, Pati Jinich presents a different version of braised and shredded pork, this time fancied up with orange juice and a fragrant, tangy ancho chile sauce. With a generous pour of apple cider vinegar, the finished dish tastes almost like Mexican pulled pork—and I wouldn't consider that a bad thing.
Why I picked this recipe: Carnitas are one of my favorite taco and burrito fillings, so it was a no-brainer to try this chile and citrus-laced take on shredded pork.
What worked: Ancho chiles and oranges are a match made in heaven; tender pork shoulder makes it all the better.
What didn't: I needed more like an hour of simmering time on the pork to turn it tender, so I added about 1/3 cup more water and juice to the pot to keep things going. Don't clean out the pot once you've cooked the pork; the rendered fat and juices left behind will help flavor the sauce.
Suggested tweaks: Jinich offers the suggestion to prepare the sauce with braised chicken instead of pork, should you prefer poultry. Be sure to use bone-in, skin-on pieces (preferably dark meat) to keep things moist, tender, and flavorful.
Reprinted with permission from Pati's Mexican Table: The secrets of real Mexican home cooking by Pati Jinich. Copyright 2013. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder) or loin, preferably with some fat, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, or more to taste
- 4 ancho chiles (2 ounces), rinsed, stemmed, and seeded
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped white onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 16 flour tortillas, warmed
Place the pork in a heavy 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven. Add the orange juice, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked away and the meat is lightly browned and has rendered most of its fat. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the chiles in a bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until softened.
Place the chiles, along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, in a blender or food processor, along with the onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, cumin, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and vinegar and puree until completely smooth.
When it is cool enough to handle, shred the pork with your hands or two forks and place it and any juices in a large bowl.
In the pot in which the meat was cooked, heat the oil over medium heat. Pour in the chile puree, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and darkened. Toss in the shredded meat and juices and cook until the meat has absorbed most of the chile sauce, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste for salt.
Serve the meat rolled up in the warm flour tortillas or with the tortillas on the side.