As you probably know, I love pork in all it’s forms. Bacon, ribs, sausage, loin roast, chops, and especially carnitas. Carnitas are made from pork shoulder, also known as pork butt, which is a meaty and fatty cut of pork. Carnitas are cooked in large quantities of lard, almost poached in the fat. This make them tender and juicy on the inside, with a crispy outside. But an easier way to do them is to braise the pork until tender, shred the meat, then roast it in the oven until the pork gets crispy. So good.
But, all I had was a turkey thigh and big ideas. Turkey thighs are also a meaty and (slightly) fatty cut of meat, so why couldn’t I make carnitas out of a turkey thigh? The key would be the spices I used, not just on the meat but also in the braising liquid. Off I marched to my pantry, were I looked through all my chile powders. You can’t grow up in California and not have a varied selection of chile powders on hand at all times. I decided to go with ground ancho and chipotle chile for the spice rub. Both are available everywhere now, and the flavors have found their way onto the American palate. I grabbed some chicken broth, and then knocked over a jar of cinnamon sticks. The light bulb above my head lit up, and so I grabbed the cinnamon sticks too. Spicy, sweet, savory…oh yeah.
Succulent Spiced Turkey Carnitas
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground ancho chile
1/4 tsp ground chipotle chile
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 lb turkey thigh
2 TB olive oil
1 qt low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp oregano, preferably Mexican
1 cinnamon stick
zest of 1/2 medium orange
In a small bowl mix salt, ancho chile, chipotle chile and cumin. Rub spice mixture onto turkey thigh, refrigerate and let marinate at least six hours to overnight.
The orange zest does not need to be fine. I peeled half an orange, then scraped the white pith from the inside. You’ll have three or four large pieces.
When ready to make the carnitas, heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Brown the turkey thigh well, as the carmelization adds to the final flavor of the dish.
Add the chicken broth, oregano, cinnamon stick and orange zest. Bring this to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Turn the meat once or twice while braising for even cooking. The thigh will take about 1 1/2 hours for the meat to become very tender. Remove the meat from the broth and place onto a cutting board. Remove the skin and discard. Using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces.
Place the shredded meat back into the broth to keep it moist. Because I am using turkey I decided to eliminate the roasting step to crisp up the meat, because I did not want the meat to dry out.
Toast some corn tortillas on the stove by placing them directly on the open flame of a burner. Using tongs, move the tortilla over the flame, turning often, until softened and slightly charred.
Place a little of the turkey carnitas into your tortilla and top with salsa verde, pica de gallo, or whatever you like on your carnitas. I had some fresh arugula leaves, and put them on my carnitas along with some salsa. Delicious!
I neglected to get a picture of the turkey carnitas with the arugula because my family ate them so quickly!