I love East Tennessee from the bottom of my cold, black heart. But I do get a bit bewildered with this area whenever the threat of bad weather appears in our local forecast. I’m a native Tennesean so I understand where some of this craziness comes from. But the crushes of people that show up at our local Krogers grocery stores, trampling whoever might get in their way as they cram their carts full of milk, bread and toilet paper whenever a flurry is forcasted – that I don’t understand. I’ll also admit to being appalled whenever our area gets a couple inches of snow and school gets cancelled for days. And the way people drive here whenever it snows. Hot damn, it’s a mess.
I know part of my lack of patience is because I spent the bulk of my teen years outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A few days after we had moved to Wisconsin, a huge blizzard hit our area. Now those of you in the South need to understand that this was a Wisconsin blizzard, not a Tennessee blizzard. Instead of two inches of snow, think two feet. School is rarely cancelled in Wisconsin but my first day of school at North Lake Elementary was put off for three days because of the weather. Add to that weather craziness the delightful fact that our septic system broke and maybe you can understand why my whole family wondered why we had been sent to Hell and that it looked like it really had finally frozen over.
I got very used to this kind of weather. I bought wool sweaters and learned that if I waited for the bus with wet hair, it would freeze in Medusa-like strands. I learned to make the most of winter by strapping on cross-country skis and building snow forts with my brother. I learned to drive in snow and realized that while it wasn’t the funnest thing in the world, it wasn’t necessarily courting death to try to do this. In Wisconsin, it snowed and you got on with life because if you waited for it to get finished snowing before doing anything, stuff would never get done.
All of these experiences have made me less than impressed with the “winter weather” that we get in East Tennessee. But it also ties into why I love snow days so much in East Tennessee. In Wisconsin, you got on with life when it snowed. Here in East Tennessee, it’s such an event that most people here treat it like a holiday. Granted – my husband and I work from home so we can’t really use the excuse that the snow is keeping us from getting to our place of employment. But I also won’t pretend that the holiday spirit doesn’t inspire us and the most likely place for that inspiration to show up is in our kitchen.
Carnitas are one of my favorite foods of all time. What’s not to love about them? They’re bits of pork that are slowly braised and then fried in their own fat.
They’re the perfect food for a snow day. Easy to make but making them seems to change the day into a bit of a party. Especially if you consume margaritas with them. Which you have to – it’s a rule. Carnitas were made to be consumed with margaritas. Or beer.
I’ve tried several recipes for carnitas but when it all comes down to it, I think easier is better when you make these. I don’t like spices to get in the way of such carnal, porky goodness. Lime and salt are all that I need. I also tend to cut them smaller than seems to be the norm. I’m all about the crispy goodness. I serve them very simply – either with corn soft tacos (homemade if you can do this) or tostadas. I sprinkle them with minced onion and cilantro, squeeze a lime wedge over them and dig in. These are best eaten with the soundtrack of snow falling in the background.
Feeds 4 hungry people
2-3 pounds pork shoulder, cut in one inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
Place pork in a single layer in a heavy bottomed pan. If you need to, use two pans to keep the pork in one layer. Squeeze lime over pork and sprinkle with salt. Add enough water to cover pork. Place over medium-high heat until water comes to a boil and reduce heat to low so that the water is simmering. Cover. Cook until pork is tender. This takes roughly an hour. Ours took 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Remove lid. Turn heat up to medium and boil water off. This takes about 30-45 minutes(it took us 40 minutes). Once all the water has evaporated, turn heat back down to low and let meat sizzle in the fat until good and brown. We usually cook ours for about 45 minutes, turning frequently.
Serve with tostadas or soft corn tortillas. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and onion and squeeze a lime over the whole mess and eat. Carnitas reheat like a dream. Just place them in frying pan and reheat over medium heat for five to ten minutes.
Please click here for a printable recipe!