Travel at Home

Fiesta Time! A Recipe for Mexican Tacos de Carnitas

by Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski

Tacos de Carnitas. Photo by Kim Schröder and Antine Ozer.

After twelve months of careful planning, Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski hit the road for a year-long sojourn with a single mission: to find the best waves and meals in Central America and turn them into a travel-surf cookbook. Salt & Silver is a compilation of the duo's photographs, experiences, and favorite recipes that take readers on a journey from Cuba all the way down to the southern tip of Chile.

On our way to the ocean near Sayulita, we were constantly passing carnitas shacks. Carnitas, meaning "little meats," are an essential taco ingredient. In this case, pork is cooked for several hours in lard and spices until it's tender and juicy and practically falling apart. In Mexico, you often see tin vats filled with oil and meat simmering over dying embers by the side of the road. Of course, carnitas aren't exactly good for you, but sometimes you have to sin a little. Forget pork roast and dumplings: Here come tacos de carnitas!


Serves 4


18 slices bacon
2 1/3 c. lard
1 1/4 c. sunflower oil
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 dried bell pepper
3 dried chile peppers
1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 3/4 pounds pickled ham hock
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, diced

Base and Toppings
16 tortillas
various salsas


1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Fry the bacon in the pot for about ten minutes. It should produce a lot of grease. Add the lard and, as soon as it melts, add the oil.

2. Crush the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and combine bay leaves, smoked paprika, dried bell pepper, dried chile peppers, marjoram, cumin, and oregano to make a rub. Rub the ham hock thoroughly, saving any of the rub that doesn't stick.

3. Place the meat in the oil and add the leftover rub and the garlic cloves to the pot. Decrease the heat so that the oil bubbles very gently. Now you'll have to wait three hours, turning the ham hock every half hour.

4. Remove the pork from the oil and drain it in a colander for five minutes. Transfer it to a large cutting board and separate the meat from the bone using a meat cleaver. (If you don't have a cleaver, use a kitchen knife.)

5. Chop the pork, including the fat and rind, into small pieces. Season it with a little salt and distribute it on the tortillas with a little diced onion, and nothing more.


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Text excerpted from Salt & Silver, © 2016 by Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski. Reproduced with permission of Andrews McMeel Publishing, all rights reserved.

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