No tortilla needed: crispy carnitas find happy home in butter lettuce

    Crispy carnitas wrapped in Bibb lettuce with avocado and cherry tomatoes

Crispy carnitas wrapped in Bibb butter  lettuce, topped with avocado and cherry tomatoes — positively magical.

Sometimes I make life harder than it needs to be.

For the past few months, I’ve been stressed out about work and life and instead of opting to make things easier on myself, I decided to dedicate a few weeks to the Whole 30 — which meant eliminating sugar, grains, legumes, dairy and alcohol from my diet. It’s certainly not something I can sustain for a lifetime (nor do its creators expect people to) but it was a great way to get my eating habits back on track after too many weeks of packaged meals.

While I’ve been successful at the Whole 30 before, my downfall this time was poor calendar planning. I got side tracked by my dad visiting (cocktails), Memorial Day (beer flights and fish ‘n’ chips) and a girls night (pink wine and pasta), so while I managed the first 14 days just fine, things slipped after that. Sadly, water will never taste as good as beer and fried rice is tastier when it’s not made with cauliflower. It’s just the way things are.

I do intend to give the Whole 30 another real run again in Junly after my husband and I are back from (gorging ourselves on) vacation and summer produce is at its prime. I just need to keep repeating to myself, “Water is delicious. Water is delicious…”

Even though I didn’t last past two weeks, I did at least make some dinners that were lovely enough to revive my desire to spend some time in the kitchen doing more than heating up frozen Amy’s burritos — which is what my diet consisted of for the month of April. It was a dark time.

Anyways, these crispy carnitas would be even better eaten in tortillas (let’s be honest) but I promise you, even wrapped in Bibb lettuce, they were magnificent. The key is to leave the pork roast whole so that you can slice or shred it afterwards and then fry it up. If the pieces are too small prior to cooking — I say this from experience — they will shred in the liquid and while the pork will still be divine, it will be too wet to get crispy.

And let’s face it, pan-fried pork butt is a beautiful thing.

Crispy pan fried porky goodness

Crispy porky goodness…

I started with a 2-3 pound pork butt and used a recipe I had made before, this one from My Heart Beets. The cooking of the pork couldn’t be easier, especially with the use of a crockpot. Just mix some spices, mince some peppers and garlic, squeeze some citrus and let it roll. (I was surprised the first time that the recipe didn’t include much liquid – just the lime and orange juice – but by the time the pork was tender, it was swimming in delicious porky juices.)

Remove the roast from the liquid and slice or shred it. Heat up a heavy-bottomed skillet and pour in some lard, butter or oil. Once it’s hot, sear the pork until it’s crispy. It might look a little dry but trust me, it’s not, the fat content keeps it melty and tender. Once the pork has a nice crispy crust, add in some of the liquid to keep it juicy.

Then get the fiesta started!

The fixin's: braised pork (not yet fried), cilantro, lime, pico de gallo and cabbage.

The fixin’s: braised pork (not yet fried), cilantro, lime, pico de gallo and cabbage.

Crispy yet tender, this pork is perfect wrapped in a lettuce leaf or a tortilla.

Crispy yet tender, this pork is perfect wrapped in a lettuce leaf or a tortilla.

Crispy carnitas lettuce wraps #whole30

Crispy carnitas – dinner for one!

Crispy carnitas lettuce wraps #whole30

Crispy carnitas lettuce wraps #whole30

The good stuff!

Regardless of what you wrap it in, these carnitas are awesome – and as the summer heat is on its way, using a crockpot is a great way to keep the kitchen cool. Just one more reason to put this dish on your dinner menu!

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12 thoughts on “No tortilla needed: crispy carnitas find happy home in butter lettuce

  1. I’m impressed you lasted two weeks! You get to eat, what? Meat, fresh vegetables and fruit? It does sound like it would be good for you but . . . .

    Your photos make the meal look fabulous, as always!

    • Mostly just meat, eggs and veggies, limited fruit. Meals like this make it easy – super flavorful and filling and simple to make. It’s actually not too difficult to stay “compliant” (in Whole30-speak) but eventually the lack of cheese and beer gets to me. They are the two best food groups. 😉

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