Carnitas tacos: $1.40/serving

It’s been a very long time since I’ve found a pork roast for less than $3 a pound anywhere except Winco, but I happened to be walking by at the precise moment the Fred Meyer butcher came out with the markdown cart, and snatched this one up before anyone else could even glance at it. It’s not a fabulous deal, but it’s within budget. To celebrate, I’m breaking one of the tenet rules of the $35 a Week Plan: Don’t meat the centerpiece of the meal. This meal is pretty much all meat (save for the tortillas, pickled onions and cilantro), but since I only do it once or twice a year, I’m only slightly repentant. Besides, if you’re going to go all out with pork, carnitas is the way to do it.

As below, it makes about 6 servings of pork. When you run out of tortillas (the amounts below make for 20 small tortillas), you can use regular bread for sandwiches. Pickled onion recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’ “Authentic Mexican,” tortilla recipe lifted from the back of the masa-flour bag, carnitas recipe a Franken-recipe based on past successes and failures.

For the pork:
• 1 pork roast (butt or shoulder is best, but this roast was loin, which was fine), 1 1/2-3 lbs.: $6.77
• 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped: 6 cents
• 1 tsp chili powder: 5 cents
• 1 tsp dried oregano: 2 cents
• 1 tsp ground cumin: 2 cents
• 1 tsp kosher salt: 1 cent
• 1/2 tsp black pepper: 1 cent
• Juice and zest of 1 orange: 25 cents
• Juice and zest of 2 limes: 50 cents
• 2 bay leaves: 2 cents
• 1 cinnamon stick: 7 cents
• 1/2 cup chicken broth: 4 cents
• 1/4 cup triple sec: 10 cents

For the pickled onions:
• 1 onion (red onion is by far and away the best for this, but I only had yellow, so I had to make do), sliced: 10 cents
• 1/4 tsp black peppercorns: 1 cent
• 1/4 tsp cumin seeds: 2 cents
• 1/2 tsp dried oregano: 2 cents
• 2 cloves garlic, cut into large chunks: 2 cents
• 1/4 tsp salt: 1 cent
• 1/3 cup cider vinegar: 10 cents

For the tortillas:
• 2 cups masa flour: 20 cents
• 1/4 tsp salt: 1 cent

• Cilantro (Aerogarden): $0
TOTAL: $8.41/6 = $1.40/serving

I used the slow-cooker for the roast, but you could just as easily reduce the time and use a Dutch oven. Combine the cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, and black pepper and sprinkle over the roast. This time I tried to stud it with garlic cloves as well, which was stupid and didn’t work, so I recommend either just throwing the garlic in with the rest of the ingredients, as I normally do, or crushing them and mixing them with the spices to make a paste, then spreading the paste over the roast.

Pour the orange and lime juices, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and chicken broth around the roast. (Save the triple sec for later.) Cook on low until falling-apart tender. For my “slow” cooker that boils after about 4 hours, it only took 6 hours, but for others it may take as long as 9 or 11 hours.

While the roast is cooking, grind the black pepper and cumin seeds (for the onion) in a mortar and pestle. (If you’re using large-leafed Mexican oregano, add that too.)

Put the sliced onion in a medium saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

Drain. Return onions to the pan and add the spices, salt, cider vinegar, garlic, and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for a few hours.

When the roast is finished…

…remove it from the cooker and shred it with two forks. Pour the liquid in the slow cooker into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced and thickened (I admit I didn’t pay attention to how long this took, but it was probably more than 5 minutes, less than 10). Remove from heat, stir in triple sec, and season to taste. Pour over the shredded pork and mix well. Preheat broiler. Spread pork onto a baking sheet and broil until top is browned and starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes.

To make tortillas, mix the masa flour with 1 1/4 cups water and the salt. Follow directions and photos outlined in this post.

If you don’t have a tortilla press, you can roll them out with a rolling pin.

Assemble tacos with pork, a pinch of pickled onions, and a bit of cilantro.

4 responses to “Carnitas tacos: $1.40/serving

  1. Mmm. Carnitas are so good – though as you say the trouble is that nobody eats a nice moderate serving of them! As for tortillas – I always have trouble trying to use a tortilla press. Is it easier to roll them?

    • I’ve actually never tried to roll them—the tortilla press has always worked great for me using parchment paper to line it. What kind of press do you have, and what has the trouble been?

  2. These look and sound YUMMY… shared with my Facebook Page, I’m sure they will love to test it out. Cheers Mr.CBB

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