Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos

Thanksgiving is almost here and with that comes a desire to spend more time in the kitchen. My in-laws, Linda and Travis just got into town yesterday and we wanted a special meal to welcome them. I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks; Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. Rick’s cooking show on PBS was my first introduction to his talents. I believe that a meal should have a story and Rick does an outstanding job of weaving in the story of each dish.
He writes in his cookbook:
“This dish, also known as Tacos de Picadillo Oaxaqueno has the texture of a hand-chopped or shredded pork with the smoky sting of the chipotle. The picadillo you find in Veracruz and Oaxaca where smoky chile pasilla oaxaquena is the standard. Though this fillings name derives from picar (to chop), I’ve chosen a boiled and shredded version here. The hint of sweet and spice is very appealing, very comfortable.”

The sweetness and texture of the pork with the smoky flavor of the chipotle and the subtle hint of the toasted almonds are part of what sets this dish apart.

We served on warm corn and flour tortillas, added some lettuce, fresh tomato and a classic refried black bean also from Rick’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook.

Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos
From Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen…
By Rick Bayless

1 ½ lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large white onion, diced

Quick-cooked Tomato Chipotle Sauce
7-8 plum tomatoes
2-3 canned chipotles in adobo
2 ½ Tbs vegetable oil

½ tsp cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
½ c raisins
½ c slivered almonds
16-18 corn tortillas (plus extras in case some break)
Hot sauce (optional)

In a medium-sized sauce pan, cover meat with heavily salted water. Peel and roughly chop 2 cloves of the garlic and add to the pan, along with half the onion. Bring to a gentle boil. Skim off any grayish foam that rises during the first few minutes. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until thoroughly tender, about 1 ½ hours.

If time permits, cool the meat in the broth. Shred it with two forks.

For the sauce:
Heat a heavy skillet and roast the remaining 3 cloves of unpeeled garlic until soft, turning occasionally (about 15 minutes). Cool and peel. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet under a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Flip and roast the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

In a blender, pulse the tomatoes, garlic, and chiles to a medium-fine puree. Heat 1 Tbs of oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the puree and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and thickens. Season with salt.

For the meat:
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 1 ½ Tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shredded pork and remaining half an onion. Fry, stirring and scraping up the browned bits, until the mixture is crispy and golden, about 12-14 minutes.

Sprinkle the cinnamon, pepper, cloves, and raisins over the meat. Pour on the tomato-chipotle sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, 4-5 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the almonds in a small baking pan until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Stir them into the meat mixture. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.

Assembling the tacos:
Steam the tortillas in a steamer or in a microwave between damp paper towels. Scoop a couple of heaping tablespoons of filling into each warm tortilla and fold over. Add hot sauce if desired.

Prawn Tacos

Nicole, Mark and Zoe

Family Night

Mexican food has been a long time favorite of mine. I can still smell the rice pudding from Gonzales’ in Richmond. My parents would take me there, as a toddler, after church every week to meet my grandparents for a family meal. I thought of it as my reward for quietly enduring another Sunday service. The practice of bringing family and friends together around food started here for me. The practice of bringing family and friends together around food started here for me. Every part of the food we eat has a story: from the earth it’s grown on to the farmer who tends it all the way to the table on which it is celebrated. I like to know as much of the story as possible and I believe the fewer steps involved between the farmer and my table the better.

We had Kelly’s kids, Mark and Nicole and Nicole’s friend Zoë for Prawn Tacos last week. Kelly refers to them as my Mexican Spring rolls for the fresh veggies used. While we loved the meal, the conversations TacoVeggiessparked by the food were truly a highlight of the evening. Kelly captured Zoë on video sharing the role food plays in her family.

The Prawn Tacos were very simple to make and largely influenced by what we’d picked up at our CSA that week. Many of my favorite recipes arise from the challenge to use all of the bounty in our refrigerator, this meal was no different. We had frozen prawns from Trader Joe’s on hand a vegetable bin full of wonderful produce from Tolay Valley Farms and some corn tortillas. Hmmm…. what to do with it all?

Corn Tortillas
Prawns- 1.5 per taco seemed sufficient
Carrots- shredded or chopped very thin
Mustard Greens- shredded
Red Onion- diced
Cucumber- sliced thin
Tomato- chopped

YogurtSauceYogurt Sauce
Yogurt (we like Straus Whole Milk Plain) – about a half cup
Chipotle Sauce (I love the Frontera Enchilada sauce) – to taste (I used about 6 tablespoons)
Hot Sauce- to taste

Begin with the yogurt sauce. Pour the yogurt into a bowl, mix in your favorite sauce or salsa to taste then add the hot sauce of your choice. You can put out in a serving bowl along side some tortilla chips and use this sauce as a dip as well as a topping for your tacos.

After this I set up the chopping board and got busy with my vegetables while I preheated the broiler. Once done with my chopping I popped the prawns into the broiler for 7 minutes and Nicole started heating some oil to ready the tortillas. Pop the prawns out of the oven and remove the shell, breaking each prawn into several pieces.

Place your prawns on the warm tortilla, top with the vegetables and a few dollops of the yogurt sauce. Many substitutions can be made. The ingredients for this meal were dictated by what we had on hand. Many different types of greens would work. I found the bitterness of the mustard greens was balanced nicely by the sweetness of the carrot and cucumber.PrawnsOnBroilerPan

Tacos Try ours or make your own. We’d love to hear about your creations and the stories around your dinner table.