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Carnitas: Little Meats, Large Flavors
After spending hours cooking, carnitas can fill a host of Mexican mainstays. Peek under the lid of this Michoacan favorite with Groupon’s introduction.
Though their name translates, vaguely enough, as “little meats,” carnitas are entirely and specifically pork. To get the intense flavor Leah Eskin of the Chicago Tribune memorably described as “something like bacon-wrapped pork roast,” hunks of pork are traditionally simmered until they turn tender and begin to release their own fat. As the water boils away, the meat comes into contact with its fat once again and, having been steamed to tenderness, now sizzles to produce a crisp shell around a juicy interior.
Carnitas are a specialty of the Mexican state of Michoacan, and on both sides of the border they’re so beloved that many restaurants focus all their attention on the dish. At a typical carnitas counter, you’ll specify how much meat you want by the price or pound—and how much you want of meat, fat, or offal—and be left to apply garnishes of salsa, cilantro, and onion according to your taste or how soon your edible mosaic of the Mexican flag project is due. They’re also an extremely popular taco filling, but even on their own, there’s more flavor going on than just the palatal pork explosion; before it hits the cauldron, the meat is generally marinated in citrus, salt, and other herbs and spices.