M: There’s a lot of good Mexican food to be found around Raleigh. When taking my nieces out to dinner, the destination is (sometimes frustratingly) predictable, as El Dorado is the only choice.  A popular lunch option near my workplace is the very good Gonza’s. But my favorite places always seem to be the less… established, maybe.  I used to stop at a gas station with a little stand set up in the corner that served fantastic burritos.  That place is gone now.  Another favorite was promoted by a handwritten cardboard sign tucked in the window of their ramshackle building.  Also gone, but those quesadillas were stellar.

Some of the best tacos I’ve ever had were served through a take out window hand cut into the side of a single wide trailer parked in a gravel lot out on 401 near Fuquay-Varina.   Eight or nine picnic tables were set up out front under canopies. Most of the clientele conversed in Spanish, which is always a good sign.  A paper plate loaded up with tacos (beef, pork or tongue) and a can of soda was the specialty and never disappointed.  Then one day we pulled up for lunch.  Instead of a bustling business, we found just a deep set of tire tracks where the restaurant had been hauled away.  Doesn’t get much more closed than that.  Some of the locations may come and go, but South-of-the-border cuisine is a permanent fixture of modern Southern food culture. And to that I say hooray.

I’m a huge fan of pulled pork, but this recipe may change my first inclination on what to do with that pork shoulder in my fridge. I don’t often use lard, but there is no substitute here. Rich, crispy and incredibly flavorful, I was knocked out by this one. Pork simmered to perfection in lard and coca-cola, I’m not going to pretend this is health food.  I don’t care. It is spectacular. If possible, go with the pork stock option over water (it makes a noticeable difference). Carnitas is traditionally a special occasion food prepared at home.  That is soon to be my tradition as well. And now I don’t have to worry about my favorite Mexican food driving away.

Recipe: Carnitas

Summary: Pork simmered to perfection in lard, milk, pork stock and coke. This recipe is just the thing for your pig pickin’ leftovers. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.


  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 7 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Whole Coriander Seeds
  • 2 T Salt
  • 5 Lb Pork Shoulder, cut into 1-1/2″ chunks
  • 2 Lb Pork Ribs, cut through bone into 2″ pieces
  • 3 c Lard
  • 1 c Whole Milk
  • 3 c Pork Stock or Water
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Orange
  • 1 c Coca-Cola
  • Warm Corn Tortillas, pickled jalapenos, raw onion and chopped cilantro, for serving.


  1. Stir cumin, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander and salt together in a large bowl and toss meat in to coat.
  2. Melt lard in a dutch oven over medium high heat.
  3. Add meat and cook until well browned (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Add milk and stock and reduce to simmer until meat falls from bones (about an hour).
  5. Remove bones and bay leaves and add zest, juice and cola.
  6. Increase heat to low boil and cook down until liquid is cooked off and meat becomes crispy and dark brown (30 minutes or so).
  7. Spoon off fat and serve with tortillas, jalapenos, onion and cilantro (M: I added sour cream to the topping options as well).

Originally: Carnitas

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