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The Taco Off: Gordo’s Carnitas Tacos

Was there ever a better way to serve up tender, juicy meat with bright salsa and crisp lettuce than on a taco? (The answer, at least according to Chef Gordo, is no.) What pairs better than tacos with Gordo’s Mexican cheese dip? (The answer to that is a bit more complex – Gordo’s goes with everything!)

 

Gordo’s TACO OFF

 

But which kind of taco is the best kind of taco? Do you even have to choose? For the purpose of this blog series, yes, you do! Welcome, folks, to the first addition of THE TACO OFF! We’ll duke it out and decide which taco filling is the greatest of them all.

 

First up in our series, carnitas tacos. Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish. In Mexican cooking, carnitas refers to roasted or braised pork, traditionally cooked in a copper cauldron over an open flame. Most of us home chefs here in the States, including yours truly, don’t have ready access to the gas flame and copper pot set up. Never fear – cast iron and your (inside) stove will do.

 

If you want to enjoy carnitas without having to tend to them for the better part of an afternoon, may I humbly suggest Gordo’s Slowcooker Carnitas? Go here to get straight to the recipe. Just don’t forget to enjoy your carnitas tacos with Gordo’s Mexican Salsa or my unparalleled white Mexican cheese dip – any flavor!

 

At their simplest, which is still very, very tasty, carnitas are made with lard and salt. Time and patience are the main ingredients in fall off the bone, crispy on the outside, mouthwatering carnitas. If you’ve got the time, Stovetop Carnitas make a wonderful taco filling. Will they triumph over our future competitors, Seitan Tacos and Carne Asada tacos? Check back in with us over the next two weeks and find out!

 

Gordo’s Stovetop Carnitas

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds pork (Use pork butt for best results – make sure to get some cuts of meat with a good amount of fat on them.)
  • ¼ cup lard (Lard, despite popular opinion, is not the evil fat you’ve heard about. There are many types to choose from. When picking yours, the important thing to remember is to go with unhydrogenated lard if you can find it. The very best choice is unhydrogenated, pastured hog lard.)
  • 6 to 8 cups of water, whichever is enough to cover the meat.
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt

 

For the Herb Sachet

 

  • Cheesecloth and Baker’s Twine
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks
  • Rind of 1 large orange, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon Ancho Chile Pepper powder
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 small stick cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground yellow mustard

HOW TO PREPARE:

Begin with the herb sachet. Lay out the cheesecloth, making sure to include multiple layers as needed to make sure the finer spices won’t leach out of the bag. Place all the sachet ingredients in the center of the cheesecloth. Tie it up into a bag with the baker’s twine. For easy removal, leave a length of the twine long enough to tie to the handle of your cast iron pot. When it’s time to remove the sachet, you’ll have a much easier time.

 

Place the herb sachet, lard, salt and pork in your cast iron pot. Pour water into the pot until all the meat is covered. Covered, on medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Still covered, reduce to a simmer until the pork is close to tender, about 45 minutes.

 

Remove the pot’s cover. Increase the heat to medium high and reduce the liquid. Eventually, the liquid will evaporate and the pork will begin to fry in the lard that remains and its own fat. Stir frequently until the pork is evenly browned. In doing this, you are building up the crispy, caramelized crust on the carnitas. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes – don’t overdo this, since you’ll dry out the meat if you do.

 

Serve with warm tortillas (perhaps a puffy taco?) and Gordo’s salsa.

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