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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chef Martin Lopez's Carnitas de Michoacán

When I was sixteen, I needed a job. I went through the classified ads and found a gig bussing tables at a Mexican Bar and Grill.

My life changed forever.

Not only did I realize there was good money to be made earning tips in the restaurant business, but I got to be around different people all the time. I listened to them, talked with them, watched them interact, saw how they ate, observed how they ordered and picked up on the many fascinating details of being human.

And I fell in love with Mexican flavors. Cilantro, chilis, lime, cumin, avocado, pollo borracho, carne asada, tequila and anything wrapped in a tortilla are close to my otherwise suburban gringo heart.

So for Pork Shoulder Month, I had to think about Carnitas. I was so glad Chef Martin Lopez shared his recipe with us.

Chef Martin grew up in Mexico City in a large family run by his hardworking, dedicated Mother. At the age of seven he was already a big part of feeding the family. He earned a degree in Tourism and Languages in Mexico City in 1988 then went back to school for a degree in the Culinary Arts. He has travelled all around Europe and South America, adding multicultural elements to his style that he calls Mexican Novelle.

He is a professional chef, food writer, blogger and culinary ambassador for the Hispanic and Latin community.

Here's his version of the classic Carnitas recipe:

There is nothing better than to take a walk around the plazas in Mexico for lunch or dinner and smell the amazing aromas coming from all the food vendors.

One dish that you will see almost in every corner is the amazing Pork Carnitas. This delicate tender meat is used to fill tacos, and every one claims they have “the best secret recipe” as these recipes and cooking methods are passed from generation to generation.

I am bringing you a small taste of Mexico with my version on how to make slow-simmered pork, with a quick fry at the end. Carnitas!

Carnitas are easy to make, but do take some time so plan accordingly. They are the perfect dish for a family event as you can have it ready and let your guests assemble their own tacos.

So have a big fiesta and serve Carnitas!

Your friends will remember them for years to come!


Half a white onion peeled and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups water

6 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 stick of Mexican cinnamon

4 whole cloves stems removed

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste

1 cup of pork lard

4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt cut into 4-inch chunks, fat on

1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

2 bay leaves

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice and half of a whole orange

½ cup of sweetened condensed milk


Place the water, onion, garlic cloves, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, cinnamon, stemmed whole cloves and 1 tablespoon salt in a blender and puree until smooth.

Set a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the lard and once it has heated up, add the pork chunks and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Brown the meat on all sides, stirring and flipping as each side browns, about 10 minutes.

Pour the onion mixture over the meat, let it come to a simmer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the orange juice, the half orange and sweetened condensed milk, add the 2 bay leaves, and give it a good stir. Let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover. Cook covered, stirring and scraping the bottom of the casserole a couple times and until the meat is completely cooked and coming easily apart if you pull one piece, about one hour and a half. Remove the lid, cook for another 4 to 5 minutes on high heat to give the meat a fast high heat fry.

Turn off the heat and let it cool down, scoop out the Carnitas with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind, and serve the meat in a bowl or platter. Shred with a fork, if desired, before tucking into tacos. Serve with warm corn tortillas and chopped cilantro, fresh onion, pickled jalapeños, carrots, guacamole, Pico de Gallo and salsas on the side.


Humongous thanks to Chef Martin and John Schell for sharing this. I'll put this together for my family soon.

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