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