2 heads garlic
3 dried chiles (such as California, guajillo or New Mexico varieties)
1 bunch oregano
2 bay leaves
6 lb. pork shoulder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (12-oz.) can cola
Crumbled cojita cheese, for garnish (optional)
1 red onion
1 jalapeño pepper
Salt, to taste
Juice of 2 to 3 limes
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
5 cups water (or some portion of milk or cream)
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks)
1 cup polenta
Grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese, to taste
For carnitas: Cut onions, oranges and garlic in half, place in the bottom of a roasting pan and add chiles, oregano and bay leaves. Lightly season pork with salt and pepper and place atop fruit and vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. As pork cooks, the pan will start to collect juices; you can baste every half-hour or so. When the pork begins to be easy to shred, remove foil and add cola. This will help caramelize your carnitas and add a richness of flavor. Cook an additional 30 to 45 minutes or until sauce thickens. You can either serve carnitas immediately or let it cool. (Discard fruit and vegetables.) To reheat, shred the meat into chunks and crisp in a pan, finishing with a little of the pan juice for extra flavor.
For pickled onions: Slice onion in half moons and slice jalapeño thinly. Season with salt and add lime juice; toss and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. The onions will get a nice pink color. Check seasoning (heat, acid and salt) before serving. If desired, add chopped cilantro to bring up the freshness and color. Onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For polenta: Heat water and butter together on stove. When liquid comes to a boil, stir in polenta by the handful, letting it stream through your fingers so that it does not clump. Let simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and tastes good, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add some grated cheese; check for flavor and do a final seasoning. Store in a warm place until you are ready to eat.
To serve: Heat a pan on the stovetop with some of the fat from the carnitas. Shred the desired amount of meat and crisp in the pan. Big chunks or little pieces, the size is up to you. Just make sure you heat it all the way through. Serve over creamy polenta with pickled onions displayed artfully on top. Garnish with crumbled cojita cheese, if desired.
Hint: Great paired with Patrick Mulvaney's coleslaw.
Serves 12 to 15