In my last post, I discussed my yearning for a vacation. And, the obligations of life and lack of funds to afford me a proper vacation. Thank the lord for Cinco de Mayo being right around the corner, so at least I can have a siesta-fiesta! I mean, come on, tacos and margaritas can put everyone in a good mood. Right?
I know there are a billion recipes floating around the blog-esphere of spectacular Mexican food for your Cinco de Mayo shindig, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t chime in and provide you with at least one to add to your little black book of recipes. Since the occasion is special, I decided to bust out and share one of my absolute favorites- Carnitas. Jerk Carnitas Tacos with Pineapple-Jalapeno Salsa to be exact.
Boneless pork butt is marinated in spicy, sour, sweet heat jerk flavors and braised in a liquid rich with beer, acidity and aromatics to form little morsels of love, Carnitas. Literally translated as “little meats”, these Carnitas are melt in your mouth tender on the inside, crisp on the outside and packed full of Mexican-Jamaican flavor fusion. Piled high and packed into soft tortillas, these Carnitas need to be at your Cinco de Mayo party.
These Carnitas are so wickedly delicious, you could serve them plain with a little bit of the cooking liquid (au jus) on the side, however why stop the party there? To accompany them I prepared a super easy pineapple-jalapeno salsa. Its sweet, sour, spicy and fruity delectability is a match made in heaven when paired with the Carnitas. However, it is seriously stellar on its own. It is so addictive I had to make a second batch, because Boy ate the entire first one scooped up with chips while I wasn’t looking. But I didn’t mind, because like I said, this salsa is a breeze to whip together. Lesson to take away from this, make double the amount of pineapple-jalapeno salsa… just to be safe. 🙂
For additional taco toppings I used shredded purple cabbage for a little bite, color and crunch. Wedges of avocado to add a creamy, smooth, rich element and jalapenos sliced into rings to mimic the heat of the Carnitas and salsa. A squeeze of fresh lime juice and roughly chopped cilantro perfectly finishes and enhances all of the flavors going on in the tacos.
One of the (many) great aspect of tacos is they are all about limitless possibilities and add-ins. I think they should be made personal, therefore I encourage you to use toppings that you love and crave. Switch out the cabbage for lettuce and the jalapenos for poblanos. Add in diced tomatoes and red onion. Add a dollop of sour cream, crema or guacamole for a cooling effect. Or, if you like things super spicy, add a drizzle of Sriracha.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by letting your culinary creative juices flow and create a Jerk Carnitas taco of your wildest dreams. Just be sure to include the pineapple-jalapeno salsa… it’s far too delicious to be skipped 🙂 Until next time, where I do have one more Cinco de Mayo recipe for you, Cheers!
- Jerk Sauce:
- 2 Scotch Bonnet Chiles – stemmed, deseeded & roughly chopped (can substitute habaneros)
- 5 Scallions – both white and green parts, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 1 small Sweet Yellow Onion – roughly chopped
- 5 cloves of Garlic – peeled and smashed
- ½ Bunch of Fresh Thyme – leaves only (about 1 TBS)
- 2 medium fresh Bay Leaves – stalks removed
- 1 tsp Ground Allspice
- ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 TBS Coarse Kosher Salt
- 2 TBS White Wine Vinegar
- 1 TBS Honey
- 1 TBS Dark Jamaican Rum
- 3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or more as needed to thin out sauce
- 3 # Boneless Pork Butt – Cut into 2’’ Cubes
- 2 TB Salt
- 3-4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or as Needed for Browning Pork Cubes)
- 1 (12 oz) Lager Beer
- 1 Cup Orange Juice
- 1 Cup Pineapple Juice
- ½ Cup Beef Stock (unsalted)
- ¼ Cup Lime Juice
- 1 Yellow Onion – Peeled and Halved
- 3 Cloves of Garlic – Peeled and Halved
- 2 fresh Bay Leaves – stalks removed
- 1 tsp Cumin
- ½ tsp Dry Oregano
- 2 tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Pepper
- ¾ tsp Chili Powder
- ¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Pineapple-Jalapeno Salsa: (yield about 2 cups)
- 1 ½ Cups Fresh Pineapple –coarsely diced
- 1 Jalapeno – stemmed, partially deseeded and finely diced
- ¼ Red Onion – diced (about ½ cup)
- ¼ Cup Cilantro Leaves, packed – roughly chopped
- 1 Scallions – thinly sliced
- 2 TBS Lime Juice
- 1 tsp Honey
- 1 tsp Dark Rum
- Splash OJ
- Sea Salt, to taste
- For Serving:
- Corn Tortillas
- Purple Cabbage – thinly sliced
- Avocado – halved, seed removed and thinly sliced
- Jalapeno - sliced
- Lime Wedges
- Hot Sauce
- Make the Jerk Sauce: Place chiles, scallions, onions and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until all ingredients are minced. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. If sauce is too thick add more oil, more tablespoon at a time, until a smooth pourable sauce is achieved.
- Place pork cubes in a large nonreactive baking dish or Ziploc bag. Pour in jerk sauce and roll/stir pork around until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, turning pork occasionally.
- Make the Pineapple-Jalapeno Salsa: Combine all the salsa ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To Cook Carnitas: Remove pork from refrigerator and transfer to a colander to drain of jerk sauce/marinade, discarding sauce. Allow pork to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Set a Large Dutch Oven, or large sauce pot, over Medium – Medium High Heat.
- Add ONE Tablespoon of Oil to Pot. Add Pork, in batches and being sure to not over crowd the pot. Brown in oil, about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 6-8 minutes. DO NOT disturb Pork Cubes while they are cooking on each side. After all sides are browned, use tongs to transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Repeat browning process, adding one tablespoon of oil before browning each batch, until all Pork Cubes are browned and removed from pot.
- Deglaze Pan with Beer, Orange Juice, Beef Stock, and Lime Juice; scraping up brown bits from bottom of the pan.
- Add Onion, Garlic, Bay leaves and remaining Carnita ingredients. Add browned pork cubes and any accumulated juices back to pan.
- Bring to simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low – medium low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and cook Pork 2 Hours, or until are fork tender.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer Carnitas to a baking dish, or sheet pan lined with aluminum foil.
- Strain cooking liquid into a large bowl or container. Set aside.
- Place Oven Rack on Upper-Middle Rack and preheat oven to high broil.
- Add ½ Cup of the strained cooking liquid to the Carnitas and toss to coat.
- Broil Carnitas 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven, flip and again toss to coat with liquid. Continue Broiling an additional 4-5 minutes.
- Serve Carnitas tossed in additional strained sauce or use two forks to shred meat to desired consistency.
- For Taco Assembly: Top each tortilla with a small amount of shredded cabbage, carnita meat, sliced avocados, pineapple salsa, jalapeno rings and a drizzle of reserved strained cooking liquid. Serve and enjoy.
*To Prepare Carnitas in Advance:
1. Prepare carnitas through step 10.
2. Remove Carnita meat to a container and allow to cool slightly before covering and transferring to the refrigerator. Strain the cooking liquid and transfer to a separate container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate.
3. When ready to use- allow the carnita meat and liquid to come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Toss the cold carnita meat with ⅓ cup cooking liquid. Warm in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and proceed with recipe as directed (step 13).