Carnitas dishes spicy taste of Mexican classic

Carnitas dishes spicy taste of Mexican classic
Date Published: January 27, 2006
Serve carnitas with roasted onions and bell peppers, pinto beans and Monterey Jack cheese grated over the top. - Photo by Susie Iventosch

Carnitas is a very famous Mexican dish normally made with braised pork shoulder. The pork is first simmered in water and spices for several hours, and then braised in the oven until it gets slightly crispy. Carnitas can be eaten by itself along sides of tortillas, beans and salsa, or it can be used as filling for tacos, tamales or burritos.
Our friend Elke Reimer-Truscott gave this delicious recipe to us, which calls for juniper berries, cumin and coriander seeds, along with a bit of oregano, garlic and bay leaves.
Though I found the pork shoulder to be an extremely fatty cut of meat, the seasoning was absolutely delicious, so we tried the dish with pork tenderloin, which is a much leaner cut of meat.
In this case, we rubbed the tenderloin with salt and pepper and rolled it in the spices. A little beer poured over the top before cooking kept the meat very moist and tender. We used the same method of shredding and then braising the meat and the carnitas was not only delicious, but had little or no fat.
Elke recommends that carnitas be served with roasted onions and bell peppers, pinto beans and Monterey Jack cheese grated over the top. Cilantro rice makes a nice side dish, too.

- Carnitas
(Serves six)
4-5 lb. pork tenderloin
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 tablespoons cumin seed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 bay leaves, broken into several pieces
1 tablespoon juniper berries (available at Newcastle Produce in Newcastle)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup beer
½ cup chicken broth
For final baking:
2 tablespoons olive oil (or olive oil spray)
1 large red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 large green or yellow bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Rub pork tenderloin in spices, juniper berries, garlic, salt and pepper and place in baking dish. Pour beer and chicken broth over top and add bay leaf. Bake in 350-degree oven for one hour, or until thoroughly cooked.
Remove tenderloin from pan and when cooled, shred with two forks. Reserve as much of the spices as possible with the meat. Mix meat with onions, additional garlic and bell peppers in roasting pan. Spritz pork and veggies with olive oil spray, or simply drizzle oil over the top and mix into meat and veggies by hand. Braise in 450-degree oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until sizzling and brown. Serve with pintos, rice and fresh warm tortillas.

- Elke's Pinto Beans
1 large can pinto beans (with liquid)
½ cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
a few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium pot with lid, simmer all ingredients until onion is tender, about 10 minutes.
Serve piping hot with carnitas and tortillas.
Susie Iventosch can be reached at