Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Joy of Lard: Carnitas & Tomatillo Salsa

For those who read this site on a regular basis, you’ll know that I am a fan of quite a few food blogs. The Paupered Chef is one of those, and a few weeks ago, he posted a story about his new year’s party.

The party featured authentic beef carnitas, and not just any carnitas, but pork that had been fried in lard for over two hours. Needless to say I was intrigued.

It so happened that I was in Houston soon after reading the article, and Houston has Fiesta supermarkets. With a Fiesta comes the ability to buy large quantities of lard.

Just glorious isn’t it? That’s two pounds of tamale lard.

The real beauty of this recipe is the simplicity. In addition to the lard, I needed about three pounds of pork shoulder.

Anthony’s Butcher shop in Jackson was able to supply with this well marbled Boston butt which was cut into three inch slabs.

All the pork needed was a simple marinade.

This is about a half cup of lime juice and tablespoon or so of salt.

I added the pork to this marinade and threw it in the fridge for about an hour. With pieces this large, I made sure to flip them a few times.

While the pork was marinating, I started making the tomatillo salsa that was needed to make the perfect carnitas soft taco. link

This presented some difficulty. I wanted to roast rather than boil the tomatillos, but my oven’s broiler is constantly on the fritz. So I decided to roast the tomatillos in the oven for a few minutes and then gave them a slight char on the stove.

They didn’t turn out too bad.

To round out the salsa, I added some lime juice and some sliced jalapenos. The last thing in the salsa was half cup of cilantro leaves.

This really is your classic green salsa. I was just worried about the amount of cilantro.

The tomatillos were first into the processor, and then everything else. A few pulses later:

A very simple salsa, but I was pleased with the results. My only real complaint is that the recipe lacked any heat. Even though I added three jalapenos, the recipe called for them to be seeded and deveined, leaving no heat at all.

With the salsa made and the pork almost finished marinating, I started to melt the lard.

Starting on medium heat, I added in the pork.

According to the Paupered Chef, the pork would start slowly with only a few lazy bubbles, but I found my experience to be quite the opposite.

Regardless, I left the pork to fry, only to come and flip it in about 45 minutes. Soon the, pork took on a beautiful golden brown color.

In no time at all, the frying bubbles had really picked up the pace.

Nearing the two hour mark, I took a look at my carnitas.

A little piece had broken off; I fished it out and took a look at my three hour investment.

I was surprised at how dense the crispy exterior was, but beyond the crispiness was an interior of tender and delicious pork.

The two larger pieces were quickly removed.

I left them to rest for a few minutes, and I then went to work, shredding them with a fork.

What do you get when you add carnitas and tomatillo salsa to a warm tortilla?

A delicious result

I suppose the real question is “was this worth the time and effort?” I’ll admit that I got a little anxious frying for two hours, but the results were tasty though not as euphoric as described on the Paupered Chef. Regardless, I was excited to have given this recipe a try, if only for the idea of frying pork in lard for multiple hours.

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