No. 325: Pork Carnitas & An Ode to Spring

I blinked and it's Spring.

There are buds on the trees, flowering dogwoods all over the mountains, baby bunnies hopping through the yard and butterflies hovering over the tulips. It's downright gorgeous outside.

When and how did this all happen? One moment I'm raving about holiday cooking and all the time one has to cook when they aren't working and just spending time with family. The next moment I'm staring at 10-month-old babies who are pulling up to stand all over the place and threatening to walk.

What the what!?

Side note: I think quarterly posts may be my new normal despite my best intentions. For all my desires to get here to chat food with you all on a more regular basis, I tend to prioritize a glass of wine and the DVR in my spare time these days.

I know, unacceptable. I promise to do better!

Family matters

Since the holidays we have had some wonderful additions and adventures to the family.

First, we welcomed a new au pair from South Africa, Ms. Calene! She is phenomenal and the babies adore her. We love her just as much. We are so lucky.

Ms. Calene and James

We've also had a busy spring of UNCA basketball. for the past three months Mr. McC has spent at least one weeknight and most Saturday or Sunday afternoons working basketball games.

Kiddos at the game

The kiddos and I have gone to cheer on the Bulldogs as much as we can (as long as the game is before bedtime and they wear their headgear) and were thrilled to see them make the NCAA tourney! A first round loss to Villanova hurt, but since 'Nova is now in the Final Four we feel pretty good about how it all went down.

Now that the kiddos are 10 and a half months old, we have figured out how to go do things with them. Lots of walks, hikes, trips to the Biltmore Estate and NC Arboretum have made the beautiful spring days fly by.

And of course, some of their adventures have been with Mom and Dad to Sam's Club. Don't they look thrilled?

Baby adventures

Anywho, it's been fun and busy! But don't worry, there has been some cooking.

Pork Carnitas

I was disappointed by a previous carnitas attempt last year, so I went to a trusted source for this recipe. The Pioneer Woman has rarely steered me wrong.


2 poblano peppers, seeded and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 4 1/2-pound bone-in pork shoulder
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
Optional for serving: Corn tortillas, sliced radishes, pickled jalapeno slices, pico de gallo, hot sauce, lime wedges and fresh cilantro leaves

To make

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Put the poblano and onion slices in the bottom of a heavy pot. Mix the cayenne, cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper together in a bowl, then use the mixture to season the pork shoulder. Put the pork on top of the vegetables. Add the chicken broth, jalapeno slices, lime zest and juice and orange zest and juice. Cover and cook until tender, 4 to 5 hours.

Turn the heat up to 450 degrees, remove the lid and cook until the surface crisps slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pork to a board and let it rest until cool enough to handle, then remove the fat and shred the meat with 2 forks.

Strain the vegetables from the sauce and set aside. Put the meat in serving dish, add the vegetables and pour over some of the sauce.

Serve the shredded pork with warm corn tortillas, radishes, pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo, hot sauce, lime wedges and cilantro leaves.

The results

Juicy and delicious, this was a fantastic take on carnitas. It was easy to prep in the midst of my work day and my house smelled divine all afternoon as this simmered away in the oven.

The poblanos and jalapeƱos don't make this too spicy. They simmer away to the point of adding the right amount of flavor and don't overpower, just perfectly compliment the citrus.

Remember, for carnitas it's all about the meat. Pick a pork shoulder with a nice fatty cap that will melt into the meat as it cooks. That will help ensure a juicy and delicious end result.

We served ours with avocado spread, corn tortillas, a bit of salsa verde and a touch of shredded cheese. Perfection.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina