What is taco meat to you? When I was young it always meant ground beef with generic pre-mixed "Taco" seasoning. Chicken would be considered an exotic variation, and mixing your own spices was unheard of. I don't remember how old I was when I first had something other than seasoned ground beef in a taco, but I remember vividly the first time I had Carnitas.
It was a revelation. Tender pork with crispy edges bursting with flavor. It was like no "taco meat" I had ever had before, and I resolved to reproduce it in my own kitchen. It was surprisingly simple. Traditionally carnitas are made by simmering large cuts of pork in lard, then raising the temp to crisp the exterior. If like me you don't have gallons of lard, this recipe works well.
6 lbs Pork Shoulder
2 tbs cumin
4 tbs chili powder
1 tbs smoked paprika
3 tbs pepper
3 tbs Salt
1 head garlic
1 large onion
1 orange (optional)
Cut pork shoulder into approximate 1/2 lb pieces.
Rub with dry spices (salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
Brown each chunk on two sides in a skillet on Medium/high until a nice crust forms.
Slice onion into rounds and place in the bottom of your dutch oven or crock pot.
Cut garlic head in half and place cut side down.
Cut orange in half and do the same.
Add browned pork and cover with lid.
If in a dutch oven, bake at 275 F for 6 hours. If in a crock pot, cook on low for 6 hours. You can leave it for 8-10 hours in the crock pot, it will not overcook. You do not need to add water, as the meat will steep in moisture and rendered fat infused with spices, onion, garlic and orange.
15 minutes before you're ready to eat, heat a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet on high, and fry your carnitas in the rendered fat until you get deep color. Flip once, and salt to taste. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over carnitas and serve immediately.
You really don't need much with these, but a simple guacamole or salsa to add some acid and brightness is welcome.
Let me know in the comments how yours turned out!