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assembled carnitas taco“Taco about” a good filling for make-your-own-taco-day. I Googled my Mexican guru – Rick Bayless – for his thoughts on carnitas. Pork confit is what he recommends slow-cooking the pork in, but without access to non- hydrogenated lard (you know, the white stuff), I needed another suggestion to achieve the tender, juicy, Mexican pulled pork. Most of what I’ve read strongly recommends using lard for glistening chunks of pork, rather than on-the-dry-side, finely shredded pork. I will need to find some good lard to try it that way too. I found a lot of recipes that called for braising pork in milk. Why not?

In the traditional Mexican kitchen, carnitas are typically cooked first at a high temperature to promote browning, then simmered low and slow until they are richly tender. In my kitchen, I browned the pork and then slowly braised it in a milk mixture.

I served this with an apple-cabbage slaw in sriracha and a grilled pineapple and tomatillo salsa.

What you need:

  • EVOO
  • 3 lbs boneless pork butt, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 large Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 1/4 c pickled jalapeño slices
  • 1/4 c jalapeño pickling liquid
  • 1 tsp fresh lime zest
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

For assembly:

  • Grilled Pineapple and Tomatillo Salsa
  • Corn or flour tortillas, warmed, for serving
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Crumbled queso fresco or cojita cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges (1 per person)

What you do:

  • Season pork with salt and pepper.
  • Heat EVOO in lg French oven.
  • Add to French oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 min.
  • Transfer to bowl.
  • Add garlic and onions, stirring to scraped up brown bits, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 min.
  • Return pork to French oven and add remaining ingredients.
  • Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Cover and continue cooking until pork is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  • Transfer pork and about 1 c of the liquid to a large bowl.
  • Roughly shred the pork into smaller pieces; don’t over shred – you want to retain as much juiciness as you can.
  • Add 1 c of the braising liquid to the pork and, using two forks, roughly shred the carnitas into bite-size pieces.
  • Season with salt, if desired.
  • For build-your-own-taco night, display all ingredients and let everyone build their own.