Peanut Butter Beef Carnitas
One way I like to keep dinner fresh and exciting is by combining ideas from different cuisines around the world. Carnitas, which is classic Mexican fare, is made by braising meat until it’s so tender it falls apart when you go to cut into it. Instead of using traditional Mexican spices to flavor my carnitas, here I went with ingredients reminiscent of a Thai curry.
A nice balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, the flavorful peanut butter sauce literally makes this dish. Mango salsa provides bursts of fresh flavor and a nice sweet contrast to the sauce, and crushed peanuts on top add texture. I served my Peanut Butter Beef Carnitas open-face on toasted slices of sourdough bread, but of course you can roll it in any kind of flatbread you like or even serve it on a bed of rice. It’s fusion food at its finest.
- Yield:8 servings
- Prep Time:20 minutes
- Cook Time:2 hours 10 minutes
- Total Time:2 hours 30 minutes
For the Peanut Butter Beef Carnitas:
3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 cups water
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4 or 5 large pieces
1 medium-large onion, halved and sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
For the Mango Salsa:
1 small white onion, diced
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
8 slices (or 16 if they’re smaller) sourdough bread, toasted
1/4 cup large salted peanuts, crushed.
For the Peanut Butter Beef Carnitas, whisk together the Thai red curry paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, coconut palm sugar, ginger, crushed red pepper flakes, and water in a medium bowl and set aside.
Heat the coconut oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high to high heat. Once hot, add the meat and brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Cook the meat in batches, if necessary, so the pan isn’t overcrowded.) Add the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Add the Thai red curry paste mixture, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer (covered) until the meat is very tender and easy to shred with a fork, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (Add water if necessary so the pan doesn’t get too dry.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a dish.
Whisk the peanut butter into the sauce remaining in the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer, and then turn the heat off; pour all but 1/2 cup of sauce out of the pot. (Serve the extra sauce along with the carnitas for drizzling on top.)
Shred the meat with 2 forks and return it to the pot with the 1/2 cup of sauce; heat briefly to re-warm. Taste and add salt if desired.
For the Mango Salsa, stir together all ingredients, cover, and refrigerate until serving. (Make this while the meat is cooking.)
To serve, top a slice of toasted sourdough bread with beef carnitas, drizzle peanut sauce on top, and then add a spoonful of salsa and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.