Monday, April 27, 2009

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Take that swine flu.

Yesterday I bought some pork shoulder and we sprinkled it with spices, let it sit overnight, and then this morning, while I worked on my deadline, I popped the chunks into the slow cooker with some lard--yes LARD-- and set it and forget---erm...forgot it.

Well, I guess strictly speaking I didn't forget it because the aroma was something crazy.

The "recipe" I used was cobbled together from reading lots of different versions of how to make carnitas. I suppose purists will probably say it's pretty inauthentic, but um... it tastes really freaking good.

Pork Carnitas, My Style

4 lbs pork shoulder (butt) cut into large 4-5 inch chunks and excess fat trimmed)
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano (try to get Mexican oregano specifically, which is different from Greek oregano)
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper
3 long pieces of orange rind
3 bay leaves
2 sticks cinnamon

About 1 lb of lard (manteca) try to use fresh lard with no preservatives if possible.

Cut and trim the pork shoulder, sprinkle it with oregano and coriander and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Put it in a non- reactive bowl with the bay leaves, cinnamon and orange rind and cover. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning melt the lard. Put the pork and seasonings in the slow cooker (including the cinnamon, bay and orange rind). Pour over the melted lard and set the cooker for 6 hours on low.

When the cooking is done, remove the pieces gently from the lard (they will be fragile, so a slotted spoon might be helpful) and put them in a bowl, discarding the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind. Shred the meat with two forks.


Already the slow cooker has gotten a lot of action.

We made duck confit -- fabulous fabulous way to do it, in the slow cooker. It's basically the same recipe as our original version, but instead of the oven, we put it in the slow cooker set to low and let it go for six hours. Falling off the bone good...

We also tried Nook and Pantry's idea for Duck Rillette.

When you make confit, there's always a nice layer of juices and gelatin that forms from the slow cooking. When you separate out the duck fat -- especially if you like to save the duck fat for future use as I do--you try to solidify the leftovers and you get a layer of what I like to call Duck Jello. Extremely yummy and flavorful duck jello.

Take that and mash it up with some duck fat and shredded duck confit meat to make a fabulous spread that's great on country bread with mustard and cornichons.

We confit the neck, which I know sounds stupid, but I hate wasting anything, and even though there are lots of bones in the neck, there's also lots of meat. We pull the skin off the neck, cut it up and render the fat from the skin, and confit the neck with everything else. Since you have to shred it to get it off the bones anyway, that meat makes a perfect addition to the rillette pate.

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