Whenever I get a new cookbook, my favorite tradition is to settle into my favorite chair on the back patio, read the intro, flip through the recipes, and earmark the ones I’m dying to make first. So let’s just say that when I got my hands on Gaby Dalkin’s latest, Eat What You Want, it was quickly worse for the wear since I earmarked roughly 50 of the 125 recipes. But you know what? I’m a firm believer in actually using my cookbooks, and the true marks of a good one are olive oil drips, chocolate fingerprints, and notes scrawled in the margins.
Gaby’s book has already carved its place in that category of favorites: from her banana bread pancakes to the LA chop salad, every recipe feels supremely cookable and undeniably crowd-pleasing.
One recipe that immediately jumped off the page was her Pork Carnitas, from the Taco Night section. Even though this Austin girl loves her Tex-Mex, I’m equally a fan of more Baja-leaning Mexican cuisine, and Gaby nails those Cali-Mexi mashups every time (see her Avocado Migas on p.25 of the book for proof.) And although we make tacos multiple times a week at our house, I’ve always been a little intimidated to try making carnitas myself. I think the massive cut of meat has always scared me — but thanks to this very simple preparation, I’m finally ready to give it a go.
Says Gaby about her Taco Night menu (which also includes smoky pinto beans, spicy mexican fruit salad, green rice, and cucumber margaritas, all found in Eat What You Want):
“This menu is an ode to one of my obsessions: carnitas tacos. It’s my go-to dish for entertaining, and I’ve perfected the art of making it a total showstopper because for this bad boy, we’re going bone-in WHOLE PORK BUTT, bo ssam style (hat tip to David Chang and Momofuku for forever changing my bo ssam game by inventing the perfect slow-roasting method versus the traditional boiling.)
These dishes are a master class in how to make a perfectly balanced meal — not too indulgent, not too skimpy. The key is using lots of big, bold, and bright flavors that play well together, pairing them with tons of seasonal fruit and veg, and topping it off with a refreshing cocktail or two.”
Can’t wait to hear if y’all make this! It’s on our agenda for this very hot Austin weekend (temps are forecasted in the 100’s.) Thank you for sharing this recipe with us, Gaby!
ICYMI: We talked life, love, and burritos with Gaby and her husband Thomas at their house in LA last year. Read the story right here.
- 1 whole bone-in pork butt (8 to 10 pounds/3.6 to 4.5 kg)
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1?2 cup (65 g) plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 limes
- 2 oranges
- Butter lettuce cups
- Charred flour and corn tortillas
- Chipotle Salsa
- Pico de Gallo
- Pickled Onions
- Pickled jalapenos, chopped white onions, cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges in individual bowls
- Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix together the sugar and 1/2 cup (65 g) of the salt in another bowl, then rub the sugar-and-salt mixture all over the meat. Cover the pork with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Remove the pork from the refrigerator and brush off the sugar-and-salt mixture. Score the fat cap of the pork butt in a crosshatch pattern, place the pork in a roasting pan, fat side up, and roast for approximately 7 to 8 hours.
- After the first hour, baste hourly with the pan juices. After an additional 5 hours, remove the meat from the oven. Stir together the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and sprinkle the spice mix over the top of the roast. Place the pork back in the oven and let it cook for another hour or so. If the spices start to burn, tent the pork with aluminum foil. The meat is done when it’s super easy to tear apart with a fork. It should basically collapse when you try to pull it apart.
- To create a crust, turn up the oven to 500°F (260°C) and juice the limes and oranges over the pork. Roast the pork butt for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a dark caramel crust develops on the meat.
- Serve hot, with the accoutrements. Invite diners to create lettuce wraps with pieces of the pork and whatever toppings they desire.