Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Chuckwagon: Shredded Beef Carnitas (Sort Of)

The slow cooker is really the great tease of the food world. You gather your ingredients, put them all in the stoneware vessel, turn a knob and, well, wait. Usually for hours.

Meanwhile, ever so slowly, the wonderous smells of your food start to emerge and waft around you. As you go about your daily tasks, you are tempted and seduced by the ever-stronger aroma of food that you cannot have. It is a good exercise in forebearance and discipline.

This is not a problem if you are gone all day while it is cooking, but be ready for the big barrage when you open that door and are confronted by a wall of deliciousness. Even if you are in and out of the house all day, when you return, the aroma gets stronger; while you are away, it is at the back of your mind.

This is one of my favorite slow cooker recipes for a lot of reasons. Since it is ideal as a filling for tacos and such, it goes a long way. It can be adapted and added to, depending on your tastes and heat tolerance. Lastly, it freezes well and can be a real frozen "ace-in-the-hole" when the food stores are running low.

Oh, why the "Sort Of" in the title? Well, I know how real carnitas are made and they are really easy. I also know they are not done in a slow cooker. For a great, easy and tasty recipe that is closer to traditional carnitas, try this one by Mexican cuisine Renaissance man Rick Bayless.

Shredded Beef Carnitas (Sort Of)

  • 2.5-3 lb. boneless chuck or rump roast
  • 1 10oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers plus 1 tbs. of the sauce from the can*
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 tbs. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

* These particular chipotle peppers are sold in a can with an adobo sauce. They can be found with the Mexican foods in most grocery stores.


  • Put roast in slow cooker.
  • Add (in this order) tomatoes/green chiles, broth, garlic, chipotles, sauce, onion, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Turn slow cooker to "LOW," cover and cook for 4-6 hours. When done, the meat should be tender and falling apart.
  • Remove the beef from the liquid and reserve some of the liquid.
  • Let cool briefly.
  • Shred beef with two forks until, well, shredded enough for whatever you are using it for.
  • Moisten beef with some of the liquid until it is damp but not sopping wet.

Serve this with any/all of your favorite trimmings. I particularly like guacamole and a little lime juice on the beef, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. This, as I said, can be used as a taco filling, served along side rice and beans by itself or however you want to enjoy this succulent, tasty roast.

So, gird up your discipline, get it all together and let 'er rip. On second thought, maybe plan to be out of the house all day so you are not tempted. Even if you are around, the pay-off is well worth it.

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