Sort of, but not exactly. See, confit is a French cooking and preservation method. The idea is to salt and flavor meats that are then slowly cooked in their own fat (or added fat) and later preserved in said fat. Carnitas are not preserved in the fat, though I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be, except for the fact that they wouldn’t last that long at the Price household.
I’ve had incredibly beautiful and delicious duck confit in Paris. They usually use the leg and thigh portions of the duck because these are fattier cuts. When they bring it out, the duck skin is slightly crisp and glistening, almost see-through. The meat is super tender and flavorful, enhancing the duck’s earthiness to the umpteenth degree. It is very aromatic, you can pick up the scents of garlic, thyme, sometimes ginger and clove.
Similarly, carnitas are made with a fatty cut of pork, most often a butt or shoulder roast. It is seasoned and slowly cooked in its own fat. The resulting meat is fall-apart tender and flavorful. Some places will serve it slightly crisped and topped with grilled onions and peppers.
There are many reasons I love making these at home. It’s super cheap: pork butt/shoulder roasts can usually be found for as low as $1/lb. It’s incredibly easy to make: once the pork is sliced, there’s very little fussing about. It feeds an army and works well as an entrée, a taco, or pretty much anything you can dream up. And finally, I love pork. Do you need more reasons?
Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands of versions and recipes. But I find that the simpler, the better and over the years I’ve come to figure out how I like ’em. I use just a few aromatics and pre-mixed fajita seasoning. If you can’t find the fajita seasoning, just use equal parts salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Here’s my super secret recipe…, yah. not really.
Carnitas (little pieces of meat)
1 Pork butt or shoulder roast, boneless (about 5lbs)
2 tsp fajita seasoning
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp oregano
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 poblano pepper, seeded & sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
Cut the roast into pieces that are about 1-inch thick and season with the next 3 ingredients (don’t discard too much of the fat). Place the seasoned in a dutch oven or heavy-bottom pan, trying to keep it on a single layer. Add about 1 cp of water, just enough to have it come up around the pork, but not necessarily cover it.
Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. It will simmer for about 45 minutes before the liquid evaporates and it begins to render the fat. At this point, remove the lid, lower the temperature and begin to brown the pieces of pork. Turning them a few times for the next 15-20 minutes.
You can cook cook the onions and peppers in a separate saute pan, just until softened. Serve with tortillas, rice and/or beans.