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Let carnitas star in Cinco de Mayo dishes

Melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful and juicy with irresistible caramelized crunchy bits, this pork carnitas is brimming with classic flavors like Mexican oregano, cumin, chili powder and a surprising bright note of citrus. I’m so excited to share this divine recipe, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish and is Mexico’s version of pulled pork. This recipe yields restaurant-quality pork at a fraction of restaurant costs. It uses very inexpensive cuts of heavily marbled pork that is slow roasted for hours (or cooked in a pressure cooker, instructions below) until the meat is completely tender. The pork is cooked so well it completely falls apart and practically shreds itself.

Before serving, the meat is broiled and caramelized to make those signature delicious crispy bits.

Carnitas can be the star of your taco Tuesday, nacho platter, build your own burrito bar or served simply with a fork, some salsa and a lot of napkins.

Choosing the right cut of pork is essential for the tender juicy quality we’re looking for. This recipe doesn’t work with lean meats, so no lean pork loin and, for the love of all that is holy, don’t try this with chicken breast. You’ll want pork shoulder or pork butt, with or without bone. Incidentally, they’re the exact same cut of meat from the shoulder of the pig. The name “butt” comes from Colonial days, when butchers in the Boston area would pack the pork shoulder in barrels they called butts.

One reason this cut is so perfect is the fat melts into the meat during cooking, adding moisture and great flavor. Another benefit of this cut is the cost, as the shoulder is one of the least expensive cuts, often on sale for less than a dollar per pound. Frugal and fabulous.

One more thing: This recipe calls for Mexican oregano, which is entirely different from regular Mediterranean oregano. Mexican oregano is earthy and grassy with citrus notes and is related to lemon verbena. Mediterranean oregano is more subtle and related to the mint family. You can find Mexican oregano in the ethnic spice section of the grocery store, usually less than a dollar.

This recipe is so easy but please don’t skip the last step. Caramelizing the meat under the broiler to concentrate the flavors is what takes this dish over the top.

PORK CARNITAS

Yield: 6 servings

What you’ll need:

4 pounds pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)

1 lime, juice and zest

½ orange, juice and zest

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) *for pressure cooking method only

Here’s how:

Cut the pork shoulder into big chunks, about 4 inches and place in the slow cooker. Add the zest and juice of the lime and half an orange and stir to coat the meat in the liquid.

In a small bowl mix the cumin, oregano, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the meat, stirring until the meat is well coated.

Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for seven to eight hours. Just wait until you can smell this slice of heaven.

When it’s cooked, using a slotted spoon, remove the pork to a rimmed baking sheet (covered in foil or with cooking spray). Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a small saucepan and boil to reduce until thickened. Pour this lovely liquid over the pork and shred with two forks, coating the meat with the sauce. Turn on the broiler and place the pan o’ goodness under the broiler until some of the edges are brown and crispy, about five minutes.

Pressure cooker (Instant Pot) method: Follow the instructions in the first paragraph above. Place the meat in your cooker and add one cup of broth. Lock the lid and set the steam release vent to the sealed position. Press the “manual” button and set the timer on high pressure for 40 minutes.

When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Then manually release remaining pressure by moving the steam release vent to the “venting” position.

Follow the instructions for broiling the meat above.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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