Tacos of Carnitas Roasted with Orange, Milk, and Pepper
Many years ago, I worked with a cook who introduced me to this method of roasting pork with milk and fresh orange. Jose has long since retired to his little pueblo in Michoacan, but his recipe lives on in my kitchen simply because it so delicious. Pork cooked this way is moist and succulent, sweet from the natural caramelization of the milk, with the slightest hint of orange and black pepper. For an over-the-top garnish, crumble chicharrón (fried pork skin) on the soft roast meat for a porky, crunchy textural contrast. Serve the carnitas with warm corn tortillas, avocado, a crisp raw tomatillo salsa, and plenty of onions and cilantro. If you have access to heirloom pork such as Kurobuta or Berkshire, it’s exceptionally delicious—pork the way pork was meant to taste.
Mexican markets and some restaurants and tortillerias sell freshly fried chicharrón espumas, which are light-years better than the bagged ones. Chicharrón make an excellent taco in their own right when cooked until soft with tomatoes and chiles, then served with a sprinkle of cotixa cheese and raw onion.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together, game day
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturefruity, meaty, salty, savory
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt) or boneless country pork ribs
- 1 tablespoon lard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ orange, well washed
- 1 cup whole milk
- About 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- Warm corn tortillas
- Diced avocado, lightly salted, or avocado cilantro sauce (recipe follows)
- Raw tomatillo salsa (recipe follows)
- Chicharrónes espumas (skin), crumbled
- Diced white onion
- Cilantro sprigs
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Juice of 1/2 lime, or to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 4 large tomatillos, papery husks removed
- 2 tablespoons diced white onion
- 1 serrano chile, stemmed
- 8 sprigs cilantro, stemmed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the pork into 6 or 8 pieces. Melt the lard in a heavy Dutch oven just large enough to hold the meat in one layer. Brown the meat on all sides and season with salt.
Squeeze the orange over the meat and toss the rind into the pan. Pour the milk over the meat and add enough water to almost cover the meat. Sprinkle with pepper. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 2 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.
To finish, uncover the meat and break into largish pieces. Remove the orange rind and discard. Roast, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes, or until the meat is brown and crisp on the edges.
To assemble the tacos, fill a warm tortilla with shredded pork. Top with avocado and salsa, a little of the chicharrón, and finish with generous amounts of onion and cilantro.
For the Avocado Cilantro Sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a blender, using the smaller amount of water. Puree until smooth and all more water, if needed, to make an easily spreadable consistency. Taste for salt and lime, but do not overseason; this sauce should be on the bland side. I keeps, refrigerated, for 24 hours.
For the Raw Tomatillo Salsa:
Wash the tomatillos well with warm water to remove the naturally sticky coating, which is bitter. Cut them into quarters.
Pulse the tomatillos in a food processor with the remaining ingredients until a slightly chunky texture is achieved.
Taste for salt and serve as soon as possible to enjoy maximum bite and crunch.
2010 Deborah Schneider