We all have that go-to meal – the one Grandma used to make, the one we bring to parties, or the one we whipped up using leftovers that turned out to be a keeper. In this series, we’re sharing our community’s go-to recipes, along with the memories and stories that make them worth making again and again.
Food brings people together – whether it’s shopping for groceries, preparing a meal or, of course, eating! When Marketing Analyst Miguel R. was growing up, trying out new recipes with his father was a favorite pastime. No matter what was going on in their lives, they found a special bond through cooking new dishes together.
“My Dad loves to explore the latest food trends from around the world. When I was fifteen, he found a Carnitas recipe and asked for my help in trying it out. We experimented with different spices to find the perfect harmony of flavors – it was a lot of trial and error. When we found the right balance, we knew we had a new, delicious staple recipe on our hands. Ever since then, it’s our favorite dish to share with friends and family.”
Originally from the Philippines, Miguel has been a long way from home since attending the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and then moving to Alabama to work at Shipt. Sharing his favorite recipe with new friends has brought him comfort and made him feel connected to his family across continents.
“This past New Year was my first holiday in Birmingham. I was really homesick,” said Miguel. “I made my Carnitas recipe for a large celebration and it was the hit of the evening! It was a great ice-breaker and made me feel connected to home. Since then, I moved to San Francisco to continue working for Shipt. I’m looking forward to making Carnitas for my new friends here!”
Miguel says: Carnitas means “little meats,” which is funny because when I make Carnitas I tend to eat more than a little. Jokes aside, Carnitas should be a staple in your repertoire because this recipe is versatile, no-nonsense and difficult to mess up. The only secret is patience – good Carnitas takes time. It’s perfect for every occasion – football games, cold nights and summer afternoons – and your friends are sure to thank you. I like to eat my Carnitas with salsa on a corn tortilla and when I feel more decadent, in a croque madame.
- 3-6 lbs of pork top round (or shoulder)
- Miguel says: make sure to get a cut that’s marbled.
- Red chili flakes
- Neutral cooking oil (grapeseed, vegetable, etc.)
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 whole orange
- 1 yellow onion
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup of rum (optional)
- Miguel’s tip: Use rum to bring out more flavor!
- Cut the pork into large chunks, about the size of a fist. Season liberally with cumin and red chili flakes.
- Chop the onion, slice the orange and crush the garlic.
- Miguel’s tip: Don’t peel the orange because you want the bitterness of the rind to balance out the flavors in the dish.
- Pat down the pork with paper towels.
- Miguel’s tip: The dryer the exterior, the greater the surface area the crust will have, which is important to develop the flavor.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add a tablespoon of neutral cooking oil. Sear the pork until a dark brown crust develops on the outside. The pork should not be fully cooked yet, just seared on the outside. Set aside in a bowl.
- In the same pot, add the chopped onions and allow them to sweat. Add the garlic and bay leaves. Continue to sweat, making sure not to burn the garlic.
- Once the garlic has browned, add in the alcohol. The alcohol will help remove the crust that has developed on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the orange slices and pork to the pot. Fill the pot with water until the meat is barely covered. Season with more cumin and red chili flakes (to taste).
- Bring to a simmer and leave on low heat for 2-3 hours (Low Heat). Every so often, skim the surface with a spoon and remove the fat.
- Test the tenderness of the meat by using two forks to break it apart. If the meat comes apart easily, it’s ready. Once the meat tenderizes, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Miguel tip: Once it’s done, the Carnitas will have a texture similar to pulled pork. I typically then take the Carnitas and dry fry in a skillet until a crust has formed. This creates a crispiness on the outside that brings depth to the juicy and tender Carnitas.
- Serve with corn tortillas, salsa, chopped cilantro, and black beans.
Carnitas Croque Madame
Miguel says: This is a decadent dish to serve at weekend brunch or when you’re looking for a weeknight comfort-food fix,” said Miguel. “A croque madame is the ultimate sandwich – bread with Mornay (cheese) sauce and ham, toasted to a crispy golden brown. Adorn this pile of cheese, bread and meat with a fried sunny side up egg for the ultimate sandwich. The runny yolk mixes with the Mornay to create the most delicious taste. This already rich sandwich can be improved by substituting the ham with Carnitas!
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Heat the flour and butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Mix with a wooden spoon until golden.
- Slowly add the milk and whisk until there are no lumps.
- Add shredded Gruyère, salt and pepper. Mix until the sauce thickens.
- Toast two pieces of bread. Lay out the toasted bread on a baking sheet, pour the Mornay sauce over the bread and broil at 500℉ for 5 minutes, or until golden spots appear.
- While the bread is broiling, fry an egg in a saucepan.
- Assemble the sandwich by adding a few spoonfuls of Carnitas in between the cheesy bread and top with the fried egg. Enjoy!