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October 14, 2017

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos (6 hours)

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Story

This is a great weekend recipe, when you know you are going to be out and about all day but want to come home to some comfort. I’ve been making these tacos for years,  inspired by our favorite Houston taco truck that is faithfully stationed across the street from West Alabama Ice House day in and day out and seemingly always open. The rich simplicity of their carnitas tacos is mind boggling for a copycat. How did they get the meat to be so good that it really needs no toppings at all yet the simple addition of just the smallest sprinkling of onion, cilantro, and salsa to make this one a transcendent taco experience. It has vexed me for years, and while I still don’t know the secret, I personally feel  these tacos are a pretty good substitute.

Ingredients

the chili braise
2 dried ancho chilis
2 dried guajillo chilis
1 dried chipotle chilis
1 onion small dice
3 cloves of garlic
1 t cumin
1/2 coriander
1 t oregano
1 lime
2 cups of chicken stock

the pork
4 lb pork shoulder cut into about 8 (2-inch) pieces
1 T salt
pepper
neutral oil for browning
1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks (or 1/2 cup of pineapple juice)

Cilantro, onion and corn tortillas for serving

Recipe

First, generously season the chunks of pork shoulder with salt and pepper. You may be tempted to skip this step since it is going in a slow cooker, but you have to brown this meat. It is also the case for cutting it into a bunch of smaller chunks,  this is what lends itself to more crispy brown coating.  Coat the bottom of a large enamel dutch oven with a neutral oil like grapeseed or whatever you have on hand. Heat it to medium high and when you place a piece of meat down and it sizzles, that means its ready for the first round. Brown every side of the chunks evenly and do it in batches as to not overcrowd the pan. Then, place the meat in your slow cooker while you prepare the braising sauce. Wipe out you dutch oven because you will use it again later. Place your dried peppers in a bowl and cover them in boiling water. Let them site for about 20 minutes to rehydrate. Note: don’t throw the chili water out, you will be using it. Meanwhile chop your onion and garlic and put it into a blender. Followed by the seeded, deveined, and chopped chili peppers to the blender with a touch of the chili pepper water to loosen the mixture. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and juice of the lime to the blender with a big pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Heat your enamel pot with a tablespoon or two of oil. Then add in the braising sauce and cook it to meld the flavors and add another layer of richness. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add in the chicken broth and cook 5 minutes more. Add the braising liquid over the meat in the slow cooker along with the pineapple chunks and cook for 4 hours on high then 2 more hours on low. Serve with raw small diced onion, chopped cilantro leaves, extra lime wedges for squeezing, and salsa on corn tortillas. Best served with a ice cold Coca Cola or cerveza.

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