11 January, 2022
I am having such a good time with my new cast iron braiser. Every chance I get, I use it. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but I’m not 100% certain. It’s so much fun….I’m a kitchen nerd!
It browns things beautifully, it holds heat and spreads it evenly, and it weighs a ton and would, if it could be effectively swung, knock a burglar on his back for the police to come get with no trouble at all. I find it easier to control the heat using cast iron and the heavier pans help me to remember that cooking isn’t always a race. There’s amazing food at the end of a slower cooking process.
Some things are meant to be cooked and finished quick – pasta, for example. Just cook it until it’s al dente. But meat? A lot of the time, meat is so much better after being browned quickly then slowly braised or roasted to bring out all that lovely flavour and tenderness.
So, when I knew I was going to make this, in the wondrous pan, I went to Costco (of course) and picked up a package of pork loin. Turned out, it was a really big package. We always seem to have a lot, lot, LOT of leftovers in this house and we often end up giving them away to family or friends because we’re really slack about using them. I will package them and toss them in the freezer….and forget about them. I also am getting better at making meals that are smaller, however, I am never quite 100% accurate about it and always end up with something left over, however, that left over amount is rarely enough to feed more than one.
That being said, I didn’t want to use the whole package of meat for this meal – too many leftovers, so I used about half the package and canned the rest of the meat. Now I have a few jars of pre-cooked pork, all tender and shredded, just waiting for a night when nobody wants to put much effort into cooking. Pulled pork in 15 minutes sounds amazing some nights, you know?!
- 1-1/2 – 2 lbs pork roast – make it boneless. I used loin, use whatever you have. The more fat, the juicier the meat will be
- half of a large orange – really, all the recipe wants is ½ a cup of orange juice, but I chopped my orange into pieces and tossed them in because some is good, but more is better
- ¼ cup of lime juice
- many cloves of garlic – at least 3, I probably dumped in 6, rough chopped is fine
- 1 small to medium onion, chopped
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 cup chicken broth
- chili powder
- chili flakes
- I added 2 guajillo peppers all crumbled up, with no seeds or stem
You can do this two ways – you can either put the meat in the pan whole and brown all sides, then slow roast, or you can do like I did and chop into 1 to 2 inch chunks and brown all sides of those. The more brown bits, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Bear in mind that a whole large piece will take longer to cook. Pork is not like beef and rare is not good.
Whichever way you are doing this, prepare the meat and chop the onion and garlic to have them ready, as well as your orange.
Heat the olive oil in whichever pan you are going to use and brown the meat on all sides. If you’ve chopped the meat, don’t crowd the pan, cook half of the meat at a time, if need be.
Once the meat is browned, take it out and let it sit in time out while you give the onions a turn. Just stir them around until they start to soften. Add the meat back in, then the garlic, the broth, the lime juice and squeeze the orange and then toss the orange pieces into the mix.
Pop into the oven at 300 – 350F with the lid on until the meat is tender. I think I let mine bake for an hour – time flies when you’re drooling every time you go into the kitchen. I did take the lid off for about half the baking time because I wanted the broth to reduce.
When the meat is ready, take out the pan, and add the spices to taste. The catch phrase these days is to “measure with your heart” – absolutely do that. Basically, put some in, mix, and taste. If it needs more, add more. If you don’t like spice, don’t add the chili flakes or the guajillo – if you do, add some chipotle, jalapeno, more chili flakes or more guajillo.
Whenever you are unsure of spice, give the flavours time to bloom. Put some in, mix, let them mingle for a minute or two, then taste. If you are unsure, mix and let mingle again, then taste again. If you’ve got a cast iron belly, go for gold, but if not, take your time. There’s nothing worse than spending the money and time to make an amazing meal only to ruin it at the end by losing patience.
When you’ve got the spices right, cook down the broth if there’s loads (take the meat out to be shredded if you want to do so) or add some flour to make what you have thicker. I cooked mine down and when I added the spices, they took up the rest of the liquid.
In theory, you are supposed to fry the carnitas when you are done so there are crispy bits of meat throughout. I don’t actually like it this way and honestly, I was too darned impatient to do this at the end, anyway. I wanted to eat!
Serve in taco shells, wraps, on rice, with rice, with some bread – however you like. Don’t forget to take out the chunks of orange peel!