Cucina Valentina

Cucina Valentina

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Pork Carnitas with Mango Slaw and Lemon-Chipotle Crema





Wow, what a week this has been!

I have been on vacation for ten days because, this is still hard for me to comprehend, as we still feel like kids most of the time, but my husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary! 

To commemorate this monumental occasion, my sister and her husband flew in from New England.  If I had to pick a theme for this stay-cation it would overwhelmingly be WINE.  Mike and Lesley love their vino every bit as much as we do, so it was utterly convenient that delivery of the rest of our fall wine shipments coincided with their visit.

Thank you, Dark Star Cellars!


Dark Star Cellars specializes in rich, deep reds, and what goes better with bold Cabernets and Zinfandels than spicy cuisine?

The last of my 2016 jalapeno crop turned red on the vine, making them even sweeter.

Here in southern California, where you can find taco shops and carnecerias on almost every corner, we take our Mexican food for granted.  Living in Connecticut is about as far away as you can get from the border, so, knowing my family loves Mexican food every bit as much as wine, I wanted to make this all time favorite.

Years ago, during one of my first visits with my New England family, I wanted to make one of my favorite Mexican dishes as a thank you for welcoming me into their lives (a story yet to come).

I remember going to every grocery store looking for refried beans.  Not one person I asked had ever heard of such a thing!  I was astounded.  Only 3000 miles away, this was certainly a different world!

One of my favorite secret seasonings (not so secret anymore) is Chef Merito's Fajita Seasoning. In our neck of the woods we can find his pollo and carne seasonings in most every grocery store, but the fajita is elusive.  I finally ended up ordering a case online.

It is a wonderful blend of salt and spices that enhances the flavor of any meat, not just Mexican food.  I sprinkle it on steaks along with a little brown sugar, and, wow, the result is out of this world!  It is also the secret to my husband's award-winning baby back ribs.  Uh-oh.  I may catch a ration for letting this slip...

This recipe can be made in a crock pot just as easily as the French oven.  Just sear the meat in a heavy pot with plenty of Tuscan Orange infused Olive Oil, deglaze with tequila, then transfer to the crock pot.

 I like to make sure I get a decent, golden brown crisp on the pork before adding the liquids.

When it comes to the vegetables, I always have a variety of peppers in the fridge and in this recipe, they are interchangeable.  You can use poblanos, Anaheim chilis, serranos, even green bell pepper if that's all you have on hand.

The same goes for the citrus.  If you only have oranges, use them.  Ditto for limes or lemons.   

A rough chop is all that's needed, as you want the pieces large enough to fish out of the liquid once the pork is done.

We planned to take this particular Carnitas to a Halloween party, so I doubled the batch to eight pounds of meat!  It was far too much for my French oven so I squeezed it all into my crock pot.  It barely fit, as you can see.


One of the traditional Mexican dishes I love to make extra of and keep on hand is Ancho/Guajillo sauce.  It makes a great enchilada sauce, chicken or carne asada marinade, etc.

My version is a rough adaptation of Guy Fieri's which I will post in the future.  In involves toasting a variety of dried chilies in a pan with cumin.  Once toasted, you pour heated chicken broth over the chilies and let steep.  Part of the liquid is used in the sauce, but I always have extra that I let cool then freeze in bottles for a multitude of later uses.

When used as the liquid in this recipe it gives a wonderful depth of flavor, but chances are you don't have any lying around (yet anyway) and in that case, chicken broth works just fine.

I can tell you that when this is cooking all day, neighbors may start sniffing around your door.  The aroma is incredible.


The somewhat sweet mango slaw is the perfect accompaniment to the rich, savory pork.  Topped with the light, lemony zing of the crema, each bite elicits a serious party of flavor in your mouth.

 Time to pour the wine and let the feast begin!




Pork Carnitas


4 lb boneless pork butt or loin 
1 orange
1 lemon
3 limes
10+ garlic cloves, halved
4+ jalapeno
1 onion
1 poblano
ancho broth/chicken broth
2 T Tuscan Orange olive oil
2 T Tequila 
Chef Merito Fajita Seasoning
chipotle chili powder
black pepper
1 T Braggs aminos

corn tortillas
feta cheese 


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cut pork into large chunks and place on wax paper.  Sprinkle liberally with fajita seasoning, chili powder, cumin, thyme, pepper and flour.  Toss to coat.

Rough chop the onion and peppers.

In a large French oven, sear pork in Tuscan Orange olive oil until nicely browned on all sides.  Deglaze with Tequila.  

Add onion, peppers and garlic.  Zest and quarter the orange.  Squeeze quarters and toss in, along with zest.  Halve the limes and lemon.  Squeeze in juice then toss in halves as well.  Add ancho water/chicken broth and Braggs aminos (or soy sauce) to just cover.  Cover and cook in oven 3+ hours until pork is tender and falling apart.

Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard citrus.

Place pork chunks on a large platter and remove any remaining fat (especially if using a pork butt).  Using two forks, shred pork into 1" pieces and place in a large casserole or rimmed sheet pan.  With the slotted spoon, fish out garlic, onion and pepper pieces and scatter on top of meat.  Spoon some of the juice over the meat and broil until it begins to crisp up, tossing a few times during broil.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with Mango Slaw and Lemon Chipotle Crema.  Top with avocado slices and feta cheese.



It doesn't hurt to have a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas on hand while making this Mexican feast.










Mango Slaw




1 mango, julienned
1/2 small cabbage, thin sliced
1/4 red onion, thin sliced
1/2 c cilantro, rough chopped
1 t honey
coconut white balsamic vinegar
Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
1/4 t cumin
1/8 t poppy seeds (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 t lemon olive oil  

Toss all ingredients until well mixed.

Lemon-Chipotle Crema




1/2 C Fage non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 - 4 T Cashew Milk
1 t honey
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper to taste  

Whisk all ingredients until well blended.

I keep this crema in a plastic squeeze bottle in the refrigerator.  If it's too thick, thin with a little more milk.