Every Saturday throughout Mexico, people wait in line for the long-cooked pork “little meats” to appear in stores and stands. These hungry shoppers buy carnitas wrapped in a tortilla, spice them with a salsa, and off they go to finish the marketing. Along with ground beef, pork carnitas is the quintessential tortilla filling and favorite snack throughout Mexico. There’s no escaping that the dish takes a long time to cook—worth every minute of the wait. But there is an escape from the traditional method of stewing the pork in lard. In a bow to modern guidelines for lower cholesterol, we simmer the pork in wine and water. The results don’t lack an iota of flavor. In fact, we think the dish is better this way.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
3 pounds boneless pork butt or 4½ pounds bone-in
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
18 corn or 12 flour tortillas, warmed or crisped just before serving
1. Cut the pork butt into ½-inch cubes or strips. If using bone-in pork, reserve the bone. Place the meat and bone, if you have it, in a large heavy pot, along with the garlic, oregano, bay leaf, wine, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to mix the ingredients. Partially cover and cook at a bare simmer for 2 hours.
2. Remove the cover and add ½ cup water. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the pork is very soft and shreds easily when prodded, about 1 hour. (If the pork begins to stick to the bottom of the pan during the last part of cooking reduce the heat to prevent burning.)
3. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir gently with a fork to break up and shred the meat.
4. To assemble spread about 1/3 cup carnitas in the center of a tortilla. Top with Well-Filled Guacamole, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream. Fold and serve.
Cubing boneless pork is easier than carving one’s way around a bone-in pork butt, but adding the bone to the pot lends a definite depth of flavor to any stew. We recommend using bone-in cuts, dropping the bone into the stew pot, and fishing it out when the dish is done.