Yucatan Carnitas

This dish was originally prepared by the Mayans in earth ovens and wrapped in banana leaves. After roasting slowly in its own juices, the meat was served in flour tortillas with pickled onions. This recipe is my version of carnitas, and it is at its best served up while camping under the stars at the Canyon de Guadalupe, a remote, rustic hot springs campground in central Baja.

I have cooked it up at home before beginning the trek to the Canyon with a small group of close friends. When the moon rises it is time to take out the pork, shred it, and reheat it in a large tin over the fire. On one occasion we discovered the next morning that a mountain lion had padded by our tent and gotten into the food supplies during the night. Of course the group still goes to the Canyon, but has not happened along our old friend. Just in case, we no longer sleep near the food.

2 tablespoons cracked pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup orange juice
4 lb. pork shoulder roast
16 8-inch tortillas, warmed

Place garlic, herbs and spices in blender with orange juice and pulse until ingredients are sufficiently emulsified, no longer than 1 minute total. Make several deep cuts in pork roast. Place pork in shallow glass or plastic dish and pour marinade over it; rub into cuts. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours.

Place pork and marinade in Dutch oven and cover. Cook in 325-degree oven, turning and basting occasionally until very tender, about 3 hours. Remove from oven; let stand 30 minutes.

Remove bones and fat from pork; pull meat into large shreds. Serve about 1/3 cup of pork onto each warm tortilla, allowing each guest to add condiments before folding in sides of tortilla. Of course carnitas should always be served with guacamole, salsa, and chopped cilantro, all as fresh as possible.

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