Braised Pork with Pumpkin: Carnitas con Calabaza
Although carnitas are a specialty of Michoacan, serving them with pumpkin is more common in Veracruz, where I bought a hard, meaty, pale orange pumpkin and carried it back to Oaxaca to make this dish, only to discover that the same kind of pumpkins had just shown up in our local markets. Winter squash such as butternut or acorn could also be used, keeping in mind that a dark green-skinned winter squash should have a few streaks of yellow in it to indicate ripeness and fullest flavor.
- 2 pounds boneless stewing pork, cut into 2" cubes
- 2 tablespoons lard or corn oil
- 1 small white onion, cut into thick slices
- 1 cup chicken or pork broth
- juice of one orange, freshly squeezed
- 2 sprigs dried thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pumpkin or winter squash, about 3 pounds
- 4 taplespoons raw pumpkin seeds without hulls, toasted (see article or previous recipe)
- 4 small dried red chiles, such as arbol, seeded if desired, and soaked in hot water to soften
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
In a heavy bottomed, deep pan, brown the pork in the oil until golden. Add the onion slices, brown until deep golden, but not burned, then remove onion slices. Add the broth, juice, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Lower heat, cover pan, and simmer until pork is tender. Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until all liquid has evaporated. Remove pork from pan with a slotted spoon to drain off excess fat.
While the pork is cooking, cut the pumpkin into 8-10 pieces, removing seeds and strings, and place in a stockpot with salted water or chicken or pork broth to cover. Cook at a low boil until tender. Drain and mash pumpkin, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Place toasted pumpkin seeds, chiles, chopped onion, garlic and cumin in a blender with the ½ cup reserved liquid and blend to a smooth puree. Add the puree to the mashed pumpkin, mix well and taste for salt.
Spoon the pumpkin mixture onto plates and top with carnitas or mix pumpkin with carnitas if preferred.