I’ve never been to Mexico. I’ve never even been to a state that borders Mexico. I’m so far removed from Mexican culture that people from my area celebrate Cinco de Mayo by sipping on buy-one-get-one-free margaritas at Chili’s.
Drinking tequila and eating tacos at a chain restaurant is a weird way to celebrate Mexico’s underdog victory over the French during the Franco-Mexican War, but in America we need very little reason to throw a party.
I need very little reason to eat (authentic) Mexican food whenever I can get it. No Mexican dish speaks to me more than carnitas, meaning “little meats.” Usually a pork butt or shoulder cooked in lard, carnitas is a dish offering layers of satisfying elements – crispy, yet succulent; greasy, yet clean-flavored; simple, yet rich.
My recipe for carnitas in the crock pot is less than traditional but tastes authentic (and better than anything on the menu at Chili’s). I like mine with corn tortillas, some onion, a squeeze of lime, and good salsa.
Cinco de Mayo Carnitas in the Crock Pot
1 3-4 pound local pork butt (bone-in)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned), seeds removed and minced
3 tablespoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotle peppers
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
Whatever toppings you like
Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork butt, then slather with the adobo sauce and the minced garlic. Mix together the cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle powder. Rub these seasonings into the pork butt. Place the sliced onion, minced chipotle peppers and chicken stock in the bottom of a crock pot. Place the pork butt on top.
Turn the crock pot on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours or until the pork is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove from the crock pot and shred with a fork.
Place the shredded meat onto a baking sheet and douse with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is crispy and browned on the edges.
Serve with corn tortillas and your favorite toppings. (Oh, and don’t let those onions left in the crock pot go to waste!)