Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps with Pineapple & Avocado Salsa

Ben is out of town this week, so I have been left to my own devices.  Last night I got home and decided to read the first chapter or two of the kids' novel Because of Winn-Dixie, which I needed to preview before using it in a lesson.  Turns out the book is really good, and also a bit sad.  A girl named India Opal, whose mother left when she was little, moves to Naomi, Florida with her dad and ends up adopting a stray dog who helps her make all kinds of interesting friends.  Each friend has their own poignant story.  I may have ended up crying several times (just enough to need a tissue, not straight-up bawling), and finishing the whole book in less than two hours.  Now, that's what I call a fun evening!  Tonight I might watch the film version.

After reading the book, I put this pork in the slow cooker and went to bed.  When I woke up in the morning, my apartment smelled amazing.  I made the salsa, broiled the carnitas, took a bunch of pictures, and ate lettuce wraps for breakfast.  It was fantastic.  The meat is slightly sweet from the orange juice, meltingly tender in the middle, and crisp around the edges from its quick stint under the broiler.  The salsa is the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, savory, and tart, and lettuce is the perfect vehicle for getting all of the deliciousness into your mouth.  I'm already planning to make this again (and double the recipe) the minute Ben gets back.

What do you like to do when you're home alone?  Please tell me I'm not the only one who reads young adult novels and eats slow-cooker carnitas lettuce wraps at 9:30 in the morning...

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps with Pineapple & Avocado Salsa
Yield: 2-3 main dish servings or 4-5 appetizer servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 8-10 hours, largely unattended


For the slow-cooker carnitas:

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of cayenne, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 onion, chopped
1 orange, juiced
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

For the pineapple and avocado salsa:

3/4 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice, or more to taste

Pinch of salt, or more to taste
1 avocado, peeled and cubed

1 head of Boston lettuce, separated into individual leaves, for serving (optional)

To make the carnitas, mix together oregano, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl.  Rinse the pork and pat it dry, then rub it all over with the spice mixture.  Place the pork in the slow cooker and top with the onion, orange juice, and lemon or lime juice.  Place the orange halves in the slow cooker as well.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart easily.

When the pork is ready, preheat the broiler.  Remove the pork from the slow cooker, discarding the orange halves and onion.  Use two forks to separate the meat from the bones and excess fat,  and tear the meat into bit-size pieces.  Place the meat on a foil-lined baking sheet, spoon about 1/4 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker evenly onto the meat, and broil until browned on top and crispy around the edges, about 3-5 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

To make the salsa, mix together all ingredients except the avocado in a medium bowl.  Add the avocado and stir gently to combine.

Serve the pork and salsa inside the lettuce leaves for lettuce wraps, or over cauliflower rice.  The carnitas and salsa are also delicious with a fried or poached egg.

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  1. Hi Becky! It's Cora's friend Jill. Just wanted to say your blog is great--I'm going to subscribe! If you want to check out my blog, it's Happy weekend!

    1. Hi Jill! Thanks so much for stopping by. It was great to meet you! I'm having so much fun checking out your blog right now :)

  2. Oh these look excellent! Quick (annoying) question though: do you think I could sub in chicken for the pork easily?

    1. Hi Nora! Not annoying at all :). I'm sure the seasonings would still be delicious with chicken, but the cooking time would probably be much shorter. You could probably use chicken thighs and cook them on low for 4-6 hours. Let me know if you try it!

  3. I read that book as an adult, and loved it too!
    And your carnitas look awesome. I'd eat them any time of the day.

    1. Thank you, Beth! I'm glad I'm not the only adult who loved Winn-Dixie :)

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Caroline! Let me know what you think :)


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