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Carnitas Street Tacos

March 18, 2014

I’m a huge fan of Mexican food.  Tacos, burritos, tostadas, nachos, refried beans, Mexican rice, salsa, etc.  I love it all.  Be it a sit-down Mexican restaurant or a fast food Mexican taco stand, I can never get enough.  When my husband and I are trying to decide on where to go out and grab some food and I suggest a Mexican place, he always says, “really, Mexican?  That’s all you ever want to eat.”  And it’s so true!  We even try our hand every now and then at making Mexican food at home, really simple taco salads, and nachos from time to time.

One day, when my husband and I were discussing what we should pick up grocery shopping to prepare for the next week’s weeknight meals, he said to me, “how about pulled pork?”  When I heard pulled pork, I instantly got an idea in my head for something a little different.  Admittedly, I had no idea how this would turn out, so I didn’t even tell my husband I was doing this until after it was done.  And I took very few pictures along the way of the process, so bear with me as this will be more “tell” than “show”.  What did I make?  Carnitas street tacos.  So, instead of making a bbq pulled pork, I secretly took the pork butt I had bought and made slow cooker carnitas instead of a slow cooker pulled pork.  The basic idea behind how to make prepare the pork is the same, the flavors a little bit different.

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Start with a bone-in pork butt.  You can get boneless, but I really think that bone-in is much because that’s where all of the flavor really comes from.  Rinse off the pork butt and pat it dry so that it can take on the rub you’re about to put all over it.  On a separate plate, starting assembling the various spices and seasoning for the dry rub.  Start with brown sugar, as the molasses will really start to caramelize and sear into the pork.  Fresh ground salt and pepper is next.

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Then some garlic powder.  A little bit of cinnamon for a hint of spice and warmth.

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Then cumin and coriander.  Wow this sounds good.  I love the scent of cumin and coriander.

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And finally add some oregano.

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Since I also happened to have some dry rub from my favorite bbq joint in Texas, I added some of that in as well.

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Take some oil and rub it all over the pork butt.

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Mix together the spices and seasoning on the plate and then roll the pork butt in the spices and seasoning.  Use up all of the rub and make sure it coats every side of the pork butt.

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On the stove, on high heat, place a cast iron skillet.  When the skillet is hot, add the pork butt right into the skillet and let it sit on each side, including the ends, for 2-4 minutes a side.  This will sear in the flavor of the spices and the seasoning.  You’re not trying to cook the meat, just sear the outside so it’s nice and golden brown and crispy, if you can get it.  This really will make a huge difference when you throw the pork into the slow cooker.

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Meanwhile, thin slice a couple of onions.

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When the pork butt is done, transfer the seared pork butt directly into the bowl of your crock pot.  If you have a slow cooker liner, now’s the time you should use it. After cooking for 12 hours in the slow cooker, the last thing you want to do is have to clean out the slow cooker from all the caked on juices that run off your pork butt.

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407Take an orange and slice it into fourths.  Squeeze the orange juice over the pork in the crockpot, and then throw the orange peel into the crock pot as well.

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Using the same cast iron skillet you just cooked the pork butt in, add in about 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar for a little bit of acidic tang and sweetness.  And then add in about a 1 1/2 cups of stock.  I happened to have vegetable stock on hand, but you can use whatever you’d like.  The vinegar and stock will help to deglaze the skillet of all of the yummy flavors from searing the pork butt.

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Immediately, throw the onions that you’ve sliced into the same cast iron skillet.  You only need to cook the onions for 3-5 minutes.

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When the skillet is de-glazed and the onions have cooked a little bit, you can add the onions from the skillet directly into the crock pot with the seared pork.410

And don’t forget about the juices still in the cast iron skillet. The mixture of the apple cider vinegar and vegetable stock and all of the flavors from the seared pork that you deglazed from the skillet.  All those juices are poured over the pork butt in the crockpot as well.

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Now, it’s time for the crock pot to do it’s magic.  You want to set the crock pot on high and allow the pork to cook at least 10 hours, but preferably 12-14 hours.  After about 6 hours, your house will start to smell amazing.  After 10-12 hours, you’ll notice that the volume of your crock pot is about half of what it was when you started cooking the pork.

When the time’s up, you can turn the crock pot off and prepare the pork!  By time, the pork is completely cooked through and falling off the bone.  Upon opening the crockpot, you’ll see that the meat of the pork has separated from the bone that’s in there.  Just get rid of the bone all together.  Pull the meat out and use two forks to shred the pork.  Remove the fat cap on the pork butt as you go as well – it’ll fall off easily and you don’t really want to eat it.  Now’s when you should also take the time to skim the oil off the top of the pork juices that remain the crock pot.  One easy way to do this, especially if you’re making this dish the in advance, or the night before you’re going to eat it.  Shred the pork into one container, pour the pork juices from the crockpot into another large container that you can seal.  Take that sealed container and put it into the refrigerator overnight.  The oil and fat off the pork will rise to the top and the incredible pork juices will remain at the bottom.  Due to the temperature of the refrigerator, the oil will solidify into one blob that sits right on the top of the container.  The next morning, take a fork or a spoon and skim the solids off the top and all you’re left with is the delicious pork juices.

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In order to prepare to make carnitas street tacos, you need a few items first.  You’ll need some pico de gallo – trust me here, it’ll be so much better if you make your own simple pico de gallo fresh to serve with these tacos.  The flavor, the cilantro, the hint of lime, the tang from the pico de gallo will be a perfect compliment to the carnitas.

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You will also need corn tortillas.  Personally, I’m a flour tortilla kind of girl, and I always buy flour tortillas, but this dish is 100% better using corn tortillas instead of flour.  So, if you’re like me, just this once, go for corn tortillas.

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Take the shredded pork and portion enough for each tortilla you’ll be making.  Throw the portions of shredded pork onto a flattop grill heated on the stove.  As the shredded pork begins to warm up, take a couple of spoonfuls of the lovely pork juices you’ve reserved and ladle them right over the shredded pork.  This will add moisture to the shredded pork, but also re-infuse the pork with all the flavors of the yummy juices they were cooking in from the crock pot.  Warm the shredded pork thoroughly, and allow the meat to crisp up a bit for a bit of added texture in your tacos.

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While the shredded pork is warming on the grill, take out a clean flat pan and heat it to medium-high on your stove top.  When it’s warm enough, start heating the corn tortillas.  Throw down a corn tortilla in to the pan, allow it to heat on one side, then flip it to the other side.  You want it to be warmed through on both sides.  If it gets a little color on it, don’t worry.  The only way to serve corn tortillas is warm and doing it on the stove top is simple and quick.  As you warm each tortilla, start piling it open faced on a plate.

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When the shredded pork is completely warmed and maybe a bit crispy on the edges, remove it from the flat top griddle and start piling the shredded pork right into the center of the corn tortillas you just warmed.  Remember, corn tortillas are not that big, so there’s no need to overload the tortillas.02.10.14 0212

After all of the tortillas have been loaded with carnitas, it’s time to pile on the pico de gallo you just made.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of the fresh pico de gallo directly on top of the shredded pork that’s sitting on top of the corn tortilla.   How much you add is dependent upon how spicy or flavorful you want your street tacos to be.  And that’s it.  It’s time to enjoy your carnitas street tacos.  It’s best to serve these bad boys as soon as you make them.  The corn tortillas are best when they are still warm and pliant.  The tacos will taste best with the shredded pork is still warm from the flat top.  Combine the warm tortilla and the warm pork with the cool, tangy and crisp bite of the pico de gallo and you have the best carnitas street tacos.  Let your tacos sit for a bit and the juices from the pico de gallo will start to seep into the corn tortilla and make it fall apart.

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Besides, the carnitas street tacos will look so good and taste even better you won’t be able to stand wait to devour them.  I’ve made these for my husband and for my parents and everyone has told me that they taste restaurant quality!  They are so simple and easy to make because your crock pot does all the work for you.  Yes, they are time consuming and it’s almost impossible to cook them and serve them on the same day.  But you’ll have so much carnits from one crock pot cooked pork butt that this is a meal that you can enjoy for days.  Carnitas street tacos involve 3 simple ingredients: shredded carnitas pork, homemade pico de gallo, and corn tortillas.  You can’t get much easier than that.  This is the perfect meal to prepare in advance and have on hand for lunch or dinner the next day, or better yet, elegant and tasty enough to serve at a casual party.  Both my husband and my parents loved my carnitas street tacos, what better compliment can you receive than that?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2014 3:30 pm

    Oh yum…your tacos sound delicious. I like that you added orange to your pork.

  2. March 26, 2014 10:54 am

    Those look amazing. Your pico looks really good, too. i want to try to make these myself.

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