Today is Cinco de Mayo, and today I learned what that holiday actually means! Cinco de Mayo celebrates a victory of the Mexican army over the French in 1862. After a civil war in the late 1850s, the Mexican government was almost bankrupt, and declared that it would take a period of time to recuperate before continuing to pay off debts to other countries. France, which was controlled by Napoleon, decided to send forces to Mexico to demand reimbursement for their debts. The Mexican resistance defeated the French forces on the 5th of May, and a new reason to throw corporate office parties was born.
These days, Cinco de Mayo in America is a day to celebrate Mexican-American culture. I do not have any sort of Mexican heritage, but I wanted to learn a bit about a traditional Mexican dish, carnitas, and share it with you.
The word carnitas translates to “little meat.” It is a dish of meat, typically pork, that has been shredded into small pieces. Carnitas originate from Michoacán, one of Mexico’s 32 federal states that is located in the central region of the country.
Traditional carnitas are cooked for hours in oil or lard until they become very tender. These chicken carnitas are a little unconventional (they’re chicken!) but making them in a slow cooker as they stew in their own juices and chicken fat definitely lends a tenderness and moistness that is characteristic of this dish.
Carnitas are typically served on tortillas, with cilantro and a variety of other toppings.
Another alternative is to make your own tortillas! I’ve rounded up a couple of different AIP-compliant tortilla recipes that use a variety of ingredients:
I have plans to up my tortilla game in the future, I’m working on a whole post on that topic. Stay tuned! In the mean time hopefully this is enough information for you to get your tortilla on. If not, you can always eat these carnitas straight-up with a fork, mixed into a salad, or tucked into a lettuce wrap.
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- 1 Tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- juice of 1 orange
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup water or broth
- 1 lime
- Cut the onion in half and slice it into thin half-moons. Line the bottom of your slow cooker with onion slices.
- Mix together the salt, coconut sugar, garlic, ginger, and onion powder. Rub the spice mixture on the outside of the chicken pieces, then place them on top of the onion in the slow cooker. Peel the garlic cloves and tuck them between pieces of chicken in the slow cooker. Pour the orange juice and water/broth over the chicken. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until fork-tender.
- Preheat the oven to 500°.
- Take the cooked chicken out of the slow cooker and shred it with two forks. Smash the cooked garlic cloves and mix them and the cooked onion slices into the shredded chicken. Spread the chicken out into a cast iron pan or glass baking pan, and add back the liquid from the slow cooker. Cut the lime in half and squirt it over the pan of chicken.
- Bake the chicken directly under the heating element until it begins to brown and get crispy. Remove and serve.