Friday, May 22, 2009
Pork is an amazing, wondrous meat.
I've often considered going vegetarian - for health and environmental reasons - but it's always pork that keeps me an omnivore.
I like it smoked, baked, braised, cured - you name it, I'll eat it. I could abstain from all other meats for the rest of my life, just leave me my delicious oinky friend and I'll be just fine.
That being said, I bought a whole pork loin a while back and have since been finding different ways to use it. Following in the steps of my lovely, frugal mother, whenever I see a sale on a protein I stock up. I'd portioned the loin into different sizes for different purposes and finally found myself with one last piece left - a 1.5 lb. roast.
I figured I'd just treat it like any other roast, but as I was perusing the interwebz looking for what to do with it I decided that I'd much rather have carnitas. I already had everything else in the house that I'd need to make a delicious latin-style meal, but was unsure how well the substitution of loin for shoulder would go.
Traditionally carnitas is made using a boneless pork shoulder, also known as a Boston Butt (god only knows how it became both a butt and a shoulder). It's browned in a dutch oven and then slow-braised at a low temp for several hours. When it's fork tender it's pulled apart so it can soak up the residual juices - and then depending on tastes you can throw it back in the oven without a lid for a while to crisp up, or keep it tender and soft.
Although pork loin has a minimal amount of fat, there's relatively little marbling - nothing in comparison to what a shoulder roast has got going on. Nevertheless, I figured it was worth a shot. If it goes horribly wrong we can always order pizza, right?
I am very happy to say that it turned out amazingly well. Surprisingly well. Shockingly well.
I could eat a whole damn pot of it given the time, opportunity, and exemption of weight gain from eating that much pork at once.
I am aware that this is not a traditional recipe. However it is delicious, it's lower in fat than the traditional style, and it's damn easy to make.
You should eat this.
1 1/2 lb. boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (14 oz) can beef broth
2 garlic cloves, smashed and then minced
2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 325 F.
In a large ovenproof skillet or dutch oven with lid, heat the two tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high heat. Season all sides of the pork loin generously with the kosher salt. Sprinkle the chili powder and cumin over all sides of the loin as well. Place the loin in the hot oil, and allow to cook, undisturbed, until it is browned. Repeat until all sides of the loin are browned, about 2-3 minutes each side. Pour in the beef broth, add garlic and the bay leaves. Cover with the lid and put in 325 F oven for two hours. After two hours check the loin, most of the liquid should be gone and it should be fork tender. If it is not, continue braising, checking every 30 minutes until it is. Using two forks, pull the meat apart and toss in the residual juices. If crispy carnitas is desired, return to the oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until the top is crispy. If not, serve as is with warmed tortillas and whatever condiments are preferred.