Iron Chef Claudette Zepeda's Secret Ingredients For Unbeatable Carnitas

Claudette Zepeda
Claudette Zepeda - Tasty / YouTube

Claudette Zepeda is a decorated Mexican-American chef who won challenges on "Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend" and "Iron Chef México." Zepeda, who was the executive chef of the once prominent regional Mexican restaurant El Jardin, is known for using audacious methods of cooking regional Mexican cuisine. One Mexican dish that Zepeda has a bold recipe for are carnitas ("little meats" in Spanish), which is a Mexican pork dish. Carnitas are typically prepared by braising or simmering deeply marbled cuts of pork with seasonings and lard for a few hours so that the meat can become soft enough to be shredded. That shredded meat is then roasted to give it a delectably crunchy texture. You can enjoy this delicious pork by making pork carnitas tacos, or by filling your burritos or enchiladas with the meat. Zepeda has a bold list of ingredients to give carnitas a strong boost of delicious flavor.

Zepeda seasons carnitas with orange juice, milk, and Mexican-style cola. These bold ingredients actually combine to seep into the melted pork fat to give it an infusion of sweet nutty flavor.

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How Chef Zepeda Incorporates Orange Juice, Milk, And Cola In Carnitas

Milk, carnitas, and Mexican cola
Milk, carnitas, and Mexican cola - Tasty / YouTube

Claudette Zepeda's unique approach to making carnitas more flavorful involves slow cooking the pork so that the meat becomes deliciously tender, so you'll want to incorporate her special ingredients in recipes such as slow cooker carnitas tacos. First, Zepeda creates a boiling mixture of cubed pork shoulder, onions, avocado leaves, black pepper, salt, garlic, and bay leaves to add layers of flavor. Then it's time to mix in those special ingredients.

After the mixture has boiled on high heat over 20 minutes, Zepeda adds ½ cup of orange juice, ½ cup of milk, and one 12-ounce bottle of Mexican-style cola to the pot. She then lets the mixture continue to boil until about half of the liquid ingredients evaporate. This process should take about an hour, after which you can continue to cook your carnitas. When the meat is done cooking, expect that sweet nutty flavor when tasting your carnitas.

Chef Zepeda Adds An Extra Ingredient To Carnitas Tacos Once They're Done

Carnitas taco
Carnitas taco - Robert Patrick Briggs/Getty Images

When the carnitas is finished cooking, Claudette Zepeda layers the flavorful meat on corn tortillas that also have guacamole, pickled vegetables, cilantro, lime wedges, cilantro rice, and pinto beans. Although those carnitas tacos may seem ready to serve, she adds one more ingredient to the dish to give it some extra flavor. Zepeda pours a little bit of lime juice all over the carnitas tacos, which adds some sweet and sour flavor.

There are other ingredients you can incorporate in your carnitas recipe to enhance the flavor profile of your meat as well. You can take carnitas up a notch with sweetened condensed milk to help the meat caramelize, which makes it even more flavorful. If you'd like your carnitas to be spicier than a conventional recipe, you can include cinnamon, cayenne, and chipotles in your seasonings. The cinnamon will make your pork meat even sweeter, adding to the sweet nuttiness created by the orange juice, milk, and cola. The cayenne and chipotles will make the final dish spicy hot, giving it the heat that you want. But you'll still have Chef Zepeda to thank for those secret ingredients that make your carnitas unbelievably good.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.