This guest post is from our favorite ladies, Natalie and Holly, over at The Modern Proper. Their mission is to reinvent proper for the modern homemaker, one delicious meal at a time. Check out more of their delicious recipes here.
When possible, ALWAYS make your meals ahead of time. I’ve suggested it here a few times now, and I’m sure you’ve heard it countless times before I came along, as well. But as obvious as the suggestion is, it’s amazing just how often we fail at setting ourselves up for success and leave things to the last minute. Trust me when I say dinner time (and life in general) is sooo much easier when we are prepared. No kids hanging on our legs while we stand over the stove, no rummaging through the fridge trying to figure out what to feed unexpected guests, and no mommy meltdowns triggered by starvation. Not that I’ve experienced any of that, but I’ve heard it can happen. It IS entirely possible to avoid the dinner rush and enjoy a well planned and nearly effortless dinner with your family, and I make it my goal to do that whenever possible, all it takes is a little planning.
Last year my husband and I mustered up the courage to do Whole30. I cried a lot in the first week for two reasons. 1. I just really love cheese and salami and both of those were a big NO and 2. It was so much prep to stay ahead of my raging appetite and keep from feeling completely famished! If I let myself feel starving and didn’t have anything Whole30 approved to run to, I knew I was in big trouble. My saving grace in those 30 days was making large quantities of protein at the beginning of the week that kept well and tasted delicious hot or cold on just about anything, which is how this carnitas recipe was born.
While my husband and I can hardly say we stick to dietary restrictions of any kind at the present moment, I still continue this habit of make ahead protein. I find great relief knowing that when hunger strikes, I won’t be as tempted to turn to empty calories or junk food that will leave me far from my best.
While there are certain cooked meats even I don’t love cold or reheated, there are many that shine and go great on just about anything, this carnitas being at the top of the list. Carnitas is a flavor packed, slow cooked pork, shredded and then broiled giving it crispy edges. The extent of the skills needed to achieve this succulent meat begins and ends with your ability to throw everything in a pot and put a lid on it. Once it’s in there some kind of magic happens and the meat emerges beyond tender and flavorful. The broiling at the end adds just a slight crispness and puts this dish over the top. Once done, the carnitas can be used in salads, tacos, breakfast hash, rice bowls and lettuce wraps (I’m sure there’s about a million other applications, but you get the idea…it’s good on everything). This recipe has become a weekly staple and a life saver in helping me make quick, healthy, and delicious meal choices (because what’s quick and healthy worth if delicious isn’t part of the equation?). I implore you, stop the 6 o’clock panic, do the tiniest bit of advance planning, and set yourself up for success with make ahead proteins that can be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner…you can start with this carnitas. Carnitas forever. You’ll thank me later.
Make Ahead Crispy Carnitas
3 lbs pork carnitas or pork shoulder cut into 3-5 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp kosher salt (more to taste)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 onion quartered
1 large oranges, juiced and rinds reserved
1 limes, juiced
1 cup club soda
In a large dutch oven combine all ingredients, except the carnitas, including the orange rinds. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Nestle the meat into the juices, cover with lid and place in the oven. Cook the pork for 2.5-3 hours at 350F until it pulls apart with a fork. Using a slotted spoon move all the pork to a large baking dish. Move the dutch oven to a stove top burner over high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil until reduces by ⅔. This should take about 20 minutes. While the liquid is reducing, use two forks to pull the pork apart into 1 inch pieces. Once the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, using a pastry brush coat the meat with juice. With your oven broiler set to hi, set the meat in the oven on a middle rack and cook until the ends are crispy. This should take about five minutes. Remove from oven and turn the meat over using a spatula, broil for five more minutes. The meat can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator and used for just about anything.