Tacos Al Pastor

A popular taco filling in Mexico, pork al pastor is usually cooked in a huge slab on a vertical rotisserie (like Middle Eastern shawarma) and sliced off to order, so that the outside bits are crisp and golden and the inside is juicy and tender.  Since most of us don’t have a vertical rotisserie hanging around, here’s an “at home” method that replicates the flavors of an authentic al pastor taco.

Chili Marinade

Ingredients

  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles or 2 canned in adobo
  • 1/2 of a large onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 1/4 c orange juice (or lemonade or limeade)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Preparation

  1. Pour boiling water over dried chiles, soak for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Remove chiles from water, do not dispose of the water yet. Remove stems, slice open and remove seeds. Place in immersion blender jar.
  2. Broil onion and garlic cloves in toaster oven for about 5-10 minutes or until slightly soft and brown in spots, place in blender jar.
  3. Add about 1/2 c of the chile water to blender jar, purée until smooth, adding more chile water if needed to make a chili paste.
  4. Strain chili puree through mesh strainer using a rubber spatula to push through.
  5. Add salt, oregano, cumin, vinegar, and juice to strained chili paste. It should be the consistency of a thick tomato sauce.

Tacos al pastor

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lb piece of pork butt or shoulder (I used Boston butt), sliced in thin slabs removing the excess fat
  • 1 recipe marinade
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into semi-circles
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 c diced red onion
  • Tomatillo sauce (1/2 c jarred tomatillo salsa mixed with 1/2 of a mashed avocado)
  • lime wedges
  • corn tortillas

Preparation

  1. Pound slabs of pork with flat side of mallet until very thin. Place in dish or resealable bag, and marinate in chili sauce for 24 hours.
  2. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat. Fry pieces of pork and pineapple slices for a few minutes on each side or until browned.
  3. Remove from pan and let rest for a few minutes, then dice into small pieces.
  4. Fill warmed corn tortillas with pork and garnish with pineapple, cilantro, red onion, tomatillo sauce, and a squeeze of lime.

Sue’s Texas Red

Chili Purée

Ingredients

  • 5 ancho chiles
  • 3 California chiles
  • 2 pasilla chiles
  • 4 small dried hot chiles
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • boiling water

Preparation

  1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium and tear the chiles into flat pieces.  Toast them in the skillet, pressing down firmly with a metal spatula for a few seconds, until they crackle and change color.  Then flip them over and press down for a few seconds more.
  2. Remove from skillet and cover the chiles with boiling water.  Cover and let soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chiles to blender jar, add 1 cup fresh water, garlic, cumin, and oregano.  Blend until smooth (I use emersion hand blender) and strain through a medium mesh sieve.  Should make almost 2 cups of puree.

Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. coarse ground beef chuck
  • 1 lb. coarse ground pork
  • 1 medium chopped white onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 Negra Modelo beer or equivalent dark beer
  • 1 recipe chili purée (see above)
  • hot water

Preparation

  1. Over medium heat, brown beef and pork with onion, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add can of tomatoes, cook down about 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add chili puree, stir for about 4-5 minutes.  Add salt, can of beef broth, and beer.
  4. Bring to boil, lower heat, simmer, partially covered about 1 hour.
  5. Taste and check for thickness.  If sauce thickens beyond consistency of heavy cream, add hot water.  Simmer for 1 more hour.

Chili Gravy

Use this with these enchiladas.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lard (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp powdered garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano is preferred if it’s available)
  • 2 Tbsp chile powder (either homemade or a dark brand such as Gebhardt’s or Whole Foods)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water)

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.
  2. Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients.
  3. Add chicken broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.
  4. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

Makes 2 cups.