Fries are my #1 weakness. Followed very closely by chips. If there are fries in sight, they will ALL be gone if I am in the room. No matter what. I have really good willpower and I eat super super healthy, but, if french fries of any type are involved, I am 100% DONE. What better way to indulge than to make these queso covered fries with homemade-slow-cooked-for-10-hours carnitas, topped with more crumbled cheese and pico de gallo. SO GOOD. My mom and I thoroughly enjoyed these. They are a bit time consuming, so feel free to swap out store bought queso or fries. I’d highly recommend making the carnitas from scratch. If you put the pork shoulder in the crockpot in the morning, it’ll be ready by dinnertime.
For the carnitas:
carnitas adapted from this recipe
2 1/4-2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried cumin
2 bay leaves
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (can also use a jalapeño)
1 orange, cut in half
salt and pepper
For the pico de gallo:
2 medium vine ripe tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
For the queso:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 c. + 2T. whole milk
2 T. flour
2 c. colby jack cheese, shredded
2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
pinch of cayenne
For everything else:
3-4 russet potatoes, cut into wedges or french fry shape of your choice
1/2 c. crumbled queso blanco cheese (you can also use queso fresco or Cotija, but I love queso blanco for its flavor and firmer texture)
chopped cilantro for garnish
Begin by making the carnitas. Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper liberally, and rub into pork shoulder. Mix the oregano and the cumin with olive oil and rub all over pork. Place the pork in a slow cooker and top with the chopped onion, garlic, and serrano. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and add the two halves into the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high 4 hours. I cooked mine for about 10 hours on low.
Once the meat is tender, remove from slow cooker and let cool slightly before pulling apart with a fork.
You can let this cook all day and run errands or do whatever you have to, but I made the pico de gallo at this time so it could sit and marinade in the fridge all day. To make the pico de gallo, combine chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and lime juice in a small container. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Next, make the queso. You can make this closer to when the carnitas are about to be done. (If you refrigerate it and make this ahead it will seize up and the texture won’t be right). Sauté onion, garlic, and serrano pepper until softened, about 4-5 min. Add cumin and chili powder. Add flour, and cook for a minute. Slowly whisk in milk, and thicken for 3-4 minutes, stirring so bottom doesn’t burn and so that there aren’t any lumps. Add cheeses a bit at a time until melted and queso is smooth. Season with pinch of cayenne and salt and pepper.
To make the fries, preheat oven to 450℉. Toss fries in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, make sure it is a light coating. Place on a nonstick baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. You may need to flip them 1 or 2 times. This time could differ depending on the size of the fries.
To assemble fries, place them on a big serving platter, top with handfuls of the shredded pork, drizzle over the queso, top with desired amount of pico de gallo, and then top with crumbled queso blanco and more chopped cilantro.
Happiness on a plate.