My husband and I lived in Houston, TX for five years. We LOVED to eat Mexican food there. The problem was that once we moved back to Florida, our TexMex cuisine hit a wall. The salsa at most restaurants around here tastes like ketchup with a little cilantro in it. The fajitas are dry and flavorless. And the margaritas all involve Jose Cuervo mix, as far as I can tell. But then we started attending a developer conference in San Diego every year, and…
Mexican food at its best. It’s a little different from TexMex or the traditional Mexican we used to get in Texas (a long drive to Navasota for carne guisada was always worth it!). But there’s a place in Old Town called the Old Town Mexican Cafe (original, I know) that specializes in carnitas. It’s the Mexican equivalent of pulled pork BBQ sandwiches we had back in South Carolina. But instead of buns, they have the FIRST best homemade flour tortillas anywhere. And these carnitas are to die for.
Once a year didn’t count, though, so I started looking for recipes online for some of this great Mexican food. A Google search for turned up this recipe for carnitas that is supposedly provided by Old Town Mexican Cafe, but it’s not nearly as good as theirs is. So I went back to the trenches and turned up another carnitas recipe from Mean Chef that includes Pepsi as an ingredient. It turned out a little sweet but it’s really good and much better than the first one.
This is a picture of the carnitas while they are marinating. The recipe starts with the Fuego (Spanish for “fire”) spice mix. I keep this ready in my pantry inside a small Tupperware container, because it makes much more than you use for a single preparation of the carnitas.
Fuego Spice Mix
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 2 teaspoons cayenne
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic granules
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons oregano
This yields a cup of the spice mix, but the recipe only needs one teaspoon.
The next part is the Agua Negra Marinade, which the spiced meat marinates in for flavor and tenderness. This only keeps 2 days, so you’ll probably end up throwing some of it away unless you can find something else to do with it.
Agua Negra Marinade
This yields 3 1/4 cups; the recipe calls for 1 cup to be used.
- 3 lbs pork butt or 3 lbs pork shoulder
- 1 orange, quartered
- 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup Pepsi, plus
- more Pepsi, as needed
- 3/4 cup oil or 3/4 cup shortening
Fuego spice mix: Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Agua Negra Marinade: Combine all ingredients with a whisk. Can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Trim away excess fat from pork and cut into 3 inch cubes.
Dust meat with Fuego spice mix and press to adhere well.
Squeeze juice from oranges into an airtight nonreactive container, add peels, garlic,pepper, pepsi and Aqua Negra marinade- mix to combine well.
Add seasoned meat and refrigerate overnight.
Remove meat from the marinade (reserve marinade) the next day when you are ready to cook.
Heat oil/shortening in a large heavy skillet over high heat until fat is smoking; add pork and brown completely on all sides- about 15 minutes.
Add reserved marinade and simmer for about 2 hours or until pork is tender and dark brown- add additional Pepsi as needed while cooking to keep meat covered.
Remove meat and pull pork into strips. It should almost fall apart.
Serve with cheese, tortillas (flour or corn), lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and any other fixings you like.
Here’s a picture of the carnitas while they are cooking.
And here’s one of the finished product! You can see I like mine with Queso Blanco and salsa verde.