Taco Tuesday: Taco de carnitas
Many are the crimes committed against carnitas, a surprisingly delicate meat. You will find it boiled instead of braised, tossed in a deep-fryer, chopped into tiny pig-nubs that may as well have been hacked from pigeons in a park. Carnitas is less a cut of meat than it is a technique, truly slow-cooked food simmered until the liquid evaporates and the meat seethes in its own rendered fat. It is a specialist's dish. If the windows are splashed with pigs sweating in big, two-missionary pots, you are probably in the right place.
In Pasadena, the cheerfully roasting pigs are all over the place at Mi Casa, a taqueria up on Fair Oaks. The local firefighters are big customers –- an entire inside wall is given to their autographs -– and people line up on weekends for the menudo and the beef barbacoa. But the restaurant owner comes from Michoacan, an area of Mexico famous for its carnitas mastery; he was famous for his carnitas in the neighborhood long before he opened the restaurant. And the carnitas is superb: soft with barely crunchy edges; juicy but not overwhelmingly rich; with a porkiness developed only over hours of careful cooking –- and taken off the fire before the flavor becomes unpleasantly strong. Generously portioned, sluiced with a lime-intensive tomatillo salsa, the tacos are well worth the five-minute trip up from Old Town.
812 N Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626) 449-7086.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo credit: Jonathan Gold