I resisted the slow cooker for so, so long. It’s not that I thought a gazillion people who love love love their slow cookers were wrong. It’s just … I thought I just didn’t like soup enough to get one. I kind of thought that’s all your really made in a slow cooker.
This fragrant, intensely flavorful Mexican carnitas recipe is pretty much proof positive of that very fact. Well, this recipe and the fact that you can make gluten free bread in your slow cooker. Don’t have a slow cooker?
You can easily make these carnitas on the stovetop. Did I mention that you can make the meat up to a few days ahead of time and just store it in the cooking liquid in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least 2 days? Yeah. You can.
Speaking of traditional, I cooked the shredded meat in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven, since I just couldn’t bring myself to shallow fry it in lard (although oh my gosh how good would that be??). If you’re a purist, though, go for it! And then invite me over. I’d love at least a taste…
Whichever way you go, these carnitas will fill your home with the most wonderful smells and make everyone hungry for Mexican food all.day.long.
For serving: chopped tomatoes, diced avocados, chopped fresh cilantro and lime
In a medium-size bowl, place the minced garlic and salt, and press together into a paste with the back of a large spoon. Add the cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika and brown sugar, and mix to combine well. Rub the mixed spices all over the raw pork. In the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker (or a large, heavy-bottom stockpot on the stovetop), place the bay leaves, and then the pork on top of the bay leaves. If using the slow cooker, pour 3 cups of stock into the basin, taking care not to wash all of the spices off the pork. If using a stockpot on the stovetop, use all 4 cups of stock.
If using a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for about 9 hours, or until the pork is tender and falling apart. If using a stockpot on the stovetop, cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 3 hours, or until the pork is tender and falling apart. As soon as the pork is done by either method, using tongs, remove just the pork from the pot and place on a large, clean surface. While it is still hot, shred the pork by holding the meat with the tongs in one hand and pulling the meat apart with a fork in the other hand. Set the meat aside. Discard the bay leaves from the pot, and strain the rest of the liquid into a medium-size saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by about one-third. At this point, the meat can be stored, in the reduced liquid, in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When ready to serve, simply remove from the liquid and continue with the rest of the recipe.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the shredded meat on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the preheated oven to bake until just beginning to brown and crisp (about 15 minutes). Remove the meat from the oven and drizzle with the reduced cooking liquid. Divide the meat among the flour tortillas, add the chopped tomatoes and avocados, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and drizzle with more liquid before serving. Serve with lime.