Carnitas Confit Tacos With Simple Cherry Tomato Salsa

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This post is less of an actual recipe and more of an assembly manual.  Think of it like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture but with more vowels and no  clumsy hex keys.  If you've been following along with this blog, you may have noticed that the last few posts just so happened to be for three essential components of a taco (i.e. meat, salsa, tortilla).  That wasn't on accident.  So, like the things you buy at Ikea, all you have to do here is put together the independently completed parts, use it once, then wait for it to become shit.  

Just four easy steps: 

Step 1. Heat the Meat

 

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Remember these guys?  Carnitas confit from a few weeks back.  The point with the whole confit part was that by storing the carnitas in fat you preserved them, thus allowing you to make more than what you could eat in a week (the longest you should safely leave cooked meat in the fridge).  I live alone and this technique actually came in handy for me.  I spent a few hours making 5lbs of pork shoulder one afternoon and have been slowly using it throughout the last month.  The pork pictured on that taco up top was literally a month old when I made it.  And guess what?  I didn't get sick or die of botulism or anything!  Pretty cool right?  Right!

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When you pull the confit out of the fridge all the fat will be solidified and if you try to extract the meat chunks they'll tear and everything will be dumb.  A better technique is to gently melt the fat, pull out what you need, and then put the container back in the fridge.  I put the mason jar on a vegetable steamer (to keep it off the bottom) in a pot of warm water over a medium heat.  Lard melts as a relatively low temperature so you don't need to go crazy with the heat here.  When the lard is melted, pull out the meat you need, make the sure the rest is covered up, and back in the fridge it goes.  

Step 2. Make Salsa

Every good taco deserves a good salsa.  Luckily I already told you how to make a delicious salsa verde.  I was just going to run with that on this post but then this basket of cherry tomatoes caught my eye at the market, so I called an audible.  Which brings up a good point: Never stick to your recipe if other suitable ingredients look better.  The recipe exists to serve the ingredients, not the other way around.  Always start with the most delicious products, then mold a recipe around that.  And these tomatoes looked amazing.

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To emphasize delicious summer tomatoes I made a chunky raw salsa with just six ingredients: 

  1. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  2. Juice from half a lime
  3. 1/2 medium white onion, diced fine and rinsed
  4. 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  5. 3 serrano peppers, diced, seeds left in
  6. 1 clove garlic, minced and mashed

The basic technique here is to dump everything in a bowl, add a pinch of salt, stir it up, and then leave it alone for about a half hour while the salt pulls the juices out of the tomatoes and onions.  This always the salsa to basically marinate in itself, melding all the flavors together.  It's not necessary, but totally worth it if you have the time.

A note about mashing up garlic. 

This is diced garlic.

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Those pieces are the perfect size to throw into a pan full of sautéing vegetables, but they're still too big for this raw salsa.  Left at this size, they'd release all of their pungency at once when you bit into them, overwhelming various bites and making the whole dish inconsistent in a bad way.  The goal here is to emphasize the tomatoes and have the spiciness of garlic play a subtle background note that is evenly dispersed throughout.  The best way to accomplish this is to mash it up into a past.

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To make garlic paste, simply sprinkle a pinch of coarse Kosher salt onto diced garlic, then using the side of your knife, press down and spread the garlic out on your cutting board.  Gather it back up into a pile then press and spread again.  The force from your knife combined with the coarse particles of salt will work together to break up the garlic into a paste.  Keep smashing and spreading until it looks like this... 

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Bam, garlic paste.  Add this to the bowl first, stir in the minced garlic and chiles until evenly dispersed, then add the tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, and salt.  Stir. Let sit. Salsa.  

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When I make tacos I go with the traditional generous smattering of onion and cilantro in addition to what is usually a blended salsa.  Because I wanted this salsa to be chunky and really show off how delicious the tomatoes were, I went ahead and added the extra cilantro and onion directly to the salsa.  So if making this for a different application, like as a dip for chips, it may be a good idea to cut down on onion and cilantro.  

Step 3: Make a stack of tortillas

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A very thorough guide to making perfect corn tortillas can be found here

Step 4: Assemble

Brown the carnitas in a hot pan in a little of the fat they were stored in then place on top of a warm tortilla.  Spoon some of the juice at the bottom of the salsa bowl over the carnitas, then top with the fresh salsa.  If using the roasted tomatillo salsa from this site or another pureed salsa, top the taco with a smattering of diced onion and cilantro.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over the whole thing.  

Put this in your face. 

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