Contrary to common thought, Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexican Independence Day. It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican Army defeated the French in 1862. It is a day largely ignored in Mexico today, but U.S. beer companies jumped on board in the 1980’s and turned the day into an American celebration. Leave it to the USA to homogenize a historical event into an intensified beer blast.
Not to be left out, however, tacos seemed like a really good idea. (Tacos are ALWAYS a really good idea!) We decided to make authentic Mexican carnitas tacos. We turned to Roberto Santibañez, chef and owner of the Fonda restaurants in NYC, author of 3 cookbooks, and a member of The Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council. Can’t go wrong with those kind of credentials!
First 2 ingredients were: “4 lbs. of fatty pork shoulder and a quarter cup of lard.” We can’t go there. So we substituted with a 1 lb. organic pork tenderloin. We set it in the crock pot to cook low and slow, along with 1/2C orange juice, 6 smashed garlic cloves, cinnamon, Mexican oregano, and a couple of bay leaves. (Recipe at the bottom of this post.)
After 8 hours, we let the tenderloin cool, and then shredded it. (It fell apart like buttah!) After shredding, we put it back in the broth to stay warm. Then we shredded some cabbage, charred our tortillas, and pulled some pickled onions out of the fridge. (Go back here for that recipe.) When we were ready to eat, we put some of the pork in a cast iron pan to crisp up on one side, while keeping the other side tender. Then we built the tacos, grated a little Cotija cheese over the top, and added avocado and fresh cilantro. YES, it WAS as good as it looks here. Maybe even better. The nutrition facts beat the odds, too. Carnitas Tacos for the win-win!
Authentic Carnitas Tacos
- slow cooker
- 8 oz pork tenderloin
- ¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 8 stone ground, organic corn tortillas
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 2 Tbsp pickled onions
- 8 tsp crumbled cojita cheese
- 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish
- 8 slices lime
- Turn slow cooker to low. Peel and quarter onion. Peel garlic and smash with side of chef's knife. Add onion and smashed garlic cloves to slow cooker, along with orange juice, oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon. Stir.
- Add pork tenderloin to cooker, spoon liquid over pork. Cover and cook 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, remove pork from pot. Tent with foil and let the meat rest for 20 minutes.
- Chop cabbage and cilantro. Char tortillas over stove top of gas range, or under broiler.
- Shred the pork with two forks. Place in a skillet and warm it back up. Do not stir. Bottom pieces will get crispy, while top pieces stay tender.
- Plate tacos with cabbage first, then pork, pickled onions, cojita, avocado, and cilantro. Serve with a slice of lime.