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Next week Adam and I are very lucky to have an entire week off from work to visit Northern Arizona with his family.  It will be a balmy 80 degrees every day, and dry!  None of this humidity that everyone is so used to in Ohio.

There will be 15 people staying in a giant cabin in the woods, and I will have the pleasure of making dinner one of the nights that we are there.  After much deliberation and searching through cook books, I finally decided to make Pork Carnitas from Rick Bayless’ book, Authentic Mexican.  What’s better than juicy pork ribs crisped in their own rendered lard?  Oh yes, slathering them in guacamole.  And that’s why I chose carnitas!

I am no whiz at frying.  I’ve known that for a long time.  In fact, I cook bacon in the oven to avoid the spatter from frying it on the stove.  I hate getting surprised by a rogue oil droplet flying out of the pan, and I haven’t fried things often enough to have the timing down.  So, I figured that a practice run of the main course was in order.

I started with just over 3 pounds of delicious, fatty Country Style Pork Ribs.  Don’t trim off any fat, because it has to render into the cooking water.  Once the water boils off, the fat is left to fry the outside of the ribs.  Genius!  So, start with the ribs in a large stock pot (my Le Crueset worked wonderfully here, thanks to the porcelain coating), large enough to keep the ribs in one layer on the bottom.  Cover with water until it is 1/2″ above the ribs, then add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water.  Boil the ribs at a simmer (not a rolling boil) partially covered for about 40 minutes, or until “just tender” as Rick says.  When the ribs are tender, turn the boil all the way up to evaporate the water as quickly as possible.  This part still took a good 20 minutes I think.  Once the water has boiled off you will just have the ribs left in a surprising amount of rendered lard.  Turn the heat down to about medium, and watch the ribs carefully/turn them often until the outsides are just crisp, which took about 20-30 minutes for the biggest pieces.  Don’t let them get too dark, because you’ll end up with dry/stringy ribs!  Thankfully that only happened with a couple of small pieces, and I learned my lesson.

Aren’t they golden and delicious looking?  Any decent carnita should be served with a side of delicious guacamole, and according to Rick, can be eaten just as crispy ribs with guac, or cut up into bite sized pieces and served in corn tortillas with guac.  Adam and I ate them as is, and were impressed with the results of my first attempt!  At least now I know they won’t be an utter disaster for the family!  Since that is only the main course, I will also be serving guacamole and salsa with tortilla chips (not for me) and sliced veggies (definitely for me) for dipping, homemade coleslaw (the dressing is surprisingly easy), and Custard Ice Cream with Cinnamon and Vanilla (also a la Rick Bayless)!  The dessert uses a full 20 egg yolks, meaning it should taste like frozen creme brulee (a.k.a. heaven).

Here’s hoping that no one has suddenly turned vegetarian on me!  They probably wouldn’t be happy eating just guacamole for dinner…though I wouldn’t mind!