Food News

Wanted: Authentic, Delicious, Crunchy Carnitas

I'm stumped. I realized looking for a true Philadelphia hoagie in a town so far from Pennsylvania might be tough, but surely my favorite taco filling would be prolific in Dallas. Where are the real-deal carnitas? So far, piquant picadillo and and sweet pastor dominate the porcine taco fillings I've come across. Everything I've had that bears the name carnitas has been a serious disappointment.

Most versions present soft, lifeless pork that could be almost any braised protein. The beef in the brisket tacos I've had have gotten similar treatment. The meat ends up stringy, soft and sad. I need something that can stand up on its own.

The first carnitas I encountered I wrote about in my Wild Salsa preview. It wasn't so much that the pork flavor was pummeled with a spicy guajillo sauce, it was the texture. If the restaurant does fry up its carnitas, any crust formed withers when meat steams inside the tightly wrapped leaf. I'd have ordered a taco instead, but sadly the option's not available. Shouldn't these tacos be everywhere?

I'm looking for small hunks of tender pork. A filling that's oily, but not absurdly so. I like flavors of citrus and a faint hint of cinnamon. But the most important part for me is the texture. I want those desiccated dried crunchy edges that give carnitas a tactile quality as important as the flavor. It's a characteristic you'll only see in carnitas that get finished in hot lard. Pork fried in pork fat. Life does not get any better than this.

Add meat cooked this way to a small tortilla with some grilled green onions and an acidic salsa and you have my perfect pork taco. But so far I'm not seeing it.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz