The redemptive power of pork.


Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Last year my Mexican husband gave me workout clothes for my birthday. I think  that this year, with a really good recipe for his favorite dish, tacos al pastor, I can get jewelry. Can you help? – Colleen

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

I was intrigued. First, I had never met Colleen, the coworker of my good friend Ali. Secondly, I had eaten al pastor tacos, but never made them. The recipe for pork shoulder, which begins with a three-day, wet chile rub and ends with seven to eight hours of roasting on a vertical spit, capped with raw onion and pineapple, is the result of a Lebanese migration to Mexico, where the locals adapted shawarma, similarly spit roasted beef or lamb, with local ingredients. The result is crisp-crusted, tender meat, delicious enough to rate a carat or two.

I wrote Colleen back:

I’m intrigued. Let me cook the four day version. I’ll also prepare a quick version and taste them side by side. If the results are worth eating, I’ll come show you and your friends how to make it. 

In the #testkitchen we sliced the pork thinly and served it in warm, corn tortillas topped with pineapple, onion and cilantro. The results? The quick version is darn good. The slow version is amazing!

I wrote Colleen again:

I don’t mean to be pushy, but you should pay me a little more and I’ll bring the slow version, so you can compare.

She said yes.

Colleen, her friends and I had a wonderful evening together. They sent their husbands next door, along with all the kids and drank lots of good tequila while hand-pressing fresh tortillas, eating fish tacos*, and, most importantly, learning to make al pastor.

So, did it work? Last fall Colleen stopped by my demo at Eastern Market. “Colleen,” I said, “I have to know. Did you get jewelry?”

“Yes,” she said. She most certainly did.

*The fish tacos were really good too. Get the recipe here.

Tacos al Pastor Auténtico

Serves 10

Ideally the pork is roasted for 7-8 hours, but if you’ve only got 5, you’ll still enjoy a darn good meal!

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 ancho chile, 2 guajillo chiles, 2 arbol chiles*
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs cumin seed, toasted
  • 3-4 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 tbs epazote
  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 5 1/2 lbs
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 whole pineapple, peeled and sliced in 1″ rounds
  • 1 large onion, sliced into 1/2″ rounds

For serving:

  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro

*Most of these dried chiles can be found in the international food aisle at your grocery store. If you can’t find Arboles, use an extra Ancho chile.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Directions:

  • Toast chiles in a dry pan over medium heat for 3 minutes per side. Boil in water for 10 minutes.
  • Seed chiles and place in food processor with garlic, cumin seed, 3-4 sprigs cilantro and epazote. Purée.
  • Rub pork shoulder with purée and marinate in refrigerator for 3 days.
  • Heat oven to 225.
  • Remove pork from fridge and rinse clean, pat dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • Sear pork for 4 minutes per side over medium high heat in an oven-safe skillet. Using wooden skewers to hold in place, top the pork shoulder with onion and pineapple slices. Roast for 5-8 hours.
  • Thinly slice meat, chop cooked onion and pineapple. Skim fat from pan juices. Serve pork in warm tortillas with fresh cilantro and raw onion.

Tacos al Pastor Rápido

Serves 10

If you’ve got to make this fast, a quick 1 hour marinade will do the trick. Keep it in longer for fuller flavor.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 ancho chile,1 guajillo chiles, 2 arbol chiles*
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs cumin seed, toasted
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1/2 pineapple, cored and chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 tbs epazote
  • 3 lb boneless pork loin roast, or 3 lbs boneless pork chops
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 pineapple cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • Corn tortillas

*Most of these dried chiles can be found in the international food aisle at your grocery store. If you can’t find Arboles, use an extra Ancho chile.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Directions:

  • Toast chiles in a dry pan over medium heat for 3 minutes per side. Boil in water for 10 minutes.
  • Seed chiles and place in food processor with garlic, cumin seed, 1 onion, chopped pineapple, 3-4 sprigs cilantro and epazote. Purée.
  • Slice pork roast into 1” thick chops and place in bag with purée. Marinate 1-4 hrs.
  • Warm oven to 400. Remove, pork from marinade, rinse, pat dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • Warm 1 tbs oil, over medium-high heat, in a 12″, oven-safe, heavy bottomed skillet. Brown pork chops, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  • Spoon marinade over pork and place in oven. Roast about 20 minutes until pork reaches 145 degrees.
  • Remove pork from pan and simmer remaining sauce over medium heat to thicken. Season to taste.
  • Heat remaining 1 tbs olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle pineapple with sugar and lightly sear, to brown sugar. Chop pineapple.
  • Thinly slice pork and serve with pineapple, sauce, fresh cilantro, raw onion and warm corn tortillas.

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