It is officially summer in Portland.
I always have a bit of a conundrum on my hands when it comes to cooking in the summer. You see, it doesn’t often get hot in Portland – but when it does, the whole city loses its mind. No one has AC, the stores all sell out of fans and cooling devices, and people generally revert into a state of animalistic panic. Its cute, really.
However, I have recently found myself buying into the madness. I simply melt into the couch and have no will to live. Or, at the very least, I have no will to cook. Because – lets face it – who wants to turn on the oven when its hot as blazes in the kitchen?
Well, my friends, the good news is: slow cookers (otherwise known as crock pots). A slow cooker generates little heat, does all the work for you, and produces delicious meals while you laze on the couch! It is the perfect solution for the summertime cooking blues (Much thanks to The Kitchn for reminding me of this fact. I had nearly forgotten how awesome a slow cooker is in the summer!).
So I was excited about the prospect of using my slow cooker and my friend Beyth was having a little birthday fiesta (tacos & margaritas!), and so I had a good reason to cook up a crock pot full o’ meat. Specifically, pork. And, more specifically…carnitas. I poked around online and found a few promising recipes – but nothing that really stuck out to me. So I ended up taking elements from a lot of recipes, and just combined ingredients and made it my own. Actually, Nich worked alongside me on the carnitas so I should say that we really made it our own.
To be completely honest, I don’t exactly recall what all we put in with the pork. I do know that we included onions, garlic, chipotles (in adobo sauce), cinnamon sticks, a dried red chili, and beer. Yes, beer. We also braised the meat longer than most recipes call for – a lot of recipes said to cook the pork on high for 6 hours. We went the low & slow route – which I firmly believe gives you a juicier and more tender meat. We started cooking our pork at 11pm on a Monday evening and didn’t shred the meat until noon the next day.
1 large pork shoulder (4-6 pounds), trimmed and cut into 2 or 3 large pieces.
2 – 3 chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce
1 dried red Mexican chili
1 – 2 cinnamon sticks
1 yellow or white onion, diced
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/4 (up to 1/2) cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
1 can/bottle of light colored beer (We used Miller High Life)
1 tsp cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste
*original recipe called for 1 cup of beef broth/stock, but I didn’t have any so I just used water and a little bit more orange juice and seasonings.
Season the cubed pork with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne. Combine the onion, garlic, chipotles, dried chili, and seasonings in a crockpot. Stir well.
Add the pork and toss with the vegetables and spices. Pour in the liquids – the liquid should just cover all the ingredients. (start with the beer & orange juice and add water or stock until meat and veggies are covered). Season the entire mixture with salt and pepper. (Don’t over-season – you can always add salt & pepper once its done!)
Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours. (Ours cooked for 10 – 12 hours)
Remove roast from slow cooker and let cool on a rack or cutting board. Shred pork, using two forks to pull meat apart.
Return the shredded pork to slow cooker and stir to combine with veggies and juices. You can keep the pork on warm or low until it is ready to eat (just keep an eye out to make sure it still has plenty of juices. You don’t want dry carnitas). To serve, use a slotted spoon (and make sure to remove chilies, peppers, cinnamon sticks, etc).