In "Regrets," one of the short stories in my book Travel Advisory, a character refers to carnitas as "Swollen slabs of brown and fatty flesh -- hooves and haunches, maws and jaws, cross-hatched tripes, deflated udders, unidentifiable viscera gleaming golden with grease. Stringy, squiggly, plump as pillows, flat as pennies. All on offer in a hole in the wall, protected behind a glass shield, kept warm under an infrared lamp. Carnitas: Mexican mystery meat. This is as deep into a pig as you can go, puerco profundo."
Carnitas are, in fact, hunks of pork, shoulder or butt, mixed with the rest of the pig -- liver, heart, snout, skin, even reproductive organs. They are braised in water or milk, seasoned, subsequently fried and then chopped into bits before being made into tacos. The squeamish order pura maciza (only the white-meat flesh of the pig, unadorned by anything that has to do with bodily functions). But the surtida -- the whole lot mixed together -- is sublime. Before I was diagnosed with high cholesterol, I ate it all the time.
My friend Nick Gilman, pictured above at a presentation for his charming culinary guidebook, Good Food in Mexico City, not long ago on his website touted La Reina de la Roma, on Calle Campeche between Monterrey and Medellín, as his favorite purveyor of carnitas. I couldn't agree with him more. Whenever I whistle in the dark past the cardiologist, I make a beeline for that changarro.