Good evening everyone! It's no secret that our favorite food medium to dabble in is Mexican cuisine. We love that Mexican cooking typically uses fresh ingredients and creates amazing flavor combinations. We've tried countless different variations of tacos, burritos, grilled chicken, fried rice - each time seeing new ways these basic building blocks of cuisine (tomatoes, peppers, avocado - etc.) can transform a recipe. When our latest issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived and it had a brand new Mexican recipe within its pages, we knew we had to try it.
The Recipe: Pork Tacos
Original Recipe Found In: Cooks Illustrated May & June 2012 Issue
What You'll Need:
10 Large Dried Guajillo Chiles (Or New Mexican Chiles)
1 1/2 Cups Water
1 1/4 Pounds Plum Tomatoes (Cored) or Cherry Tomatoes
8 Garlic Cloves (Peeled)
4 Bay Leaves
3/4 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
3 Pounds Boneless Pork Butt Roast
1 Lime (Cut into 8 wedges)
1/2 Pineapple (Peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 thick rings) or Canned pineapple rings
1 Small Onion (Diced)
1/2 Cup Coarsely Chopped Fresh Cilantro
6 Inch Corn Tortillas (Quantity based on number being served)
Begin by placing your chiles in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Allow the chiles to warm for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they have softened and become fragrant. Remove the chiles from the Dutch oven and chop off their stems.
In the same Dutch oven, combine the chiles, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, sugar, cumin and cloves. Set the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once the mixture is simmering, reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chiles have softened completely and the tomatoes are easy mashed.
While your sauce is cooking, begin slicing the pork. If you have a fattier roast, carve off the excess fat, leaving only about 1/4 of fat around the edges of the roast. Once trimmed, slice your pork against its natural grain and into 1/2 inch thick slices. There is going to be a hefty cooking process for these slices, so don't worry about being too thick on the cuts.
Most pork roast come packaged in a twine "netting" that keeps the roast in a manageable shape. Thankfully, once you cut this twine off, the indentations of where the twine was remains. On most roast, this twine is spaced about 1/2 inch apart, making easy to follow cutting guides right on the roast.
After 20 minutes, transfer the chile mixture to a large blender and process the mixture until it is evenly blended and smooth. Strain this mixture through a mesh strainer, making sure to extract as much liquid as you can. (It helps to use a wooden spoon or spatula to press the solids agains the mesh - that will push out any excess liquid hiding within the solids).
Transfer this liquid back to the dutch oven and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Carefully layer in your pork slices evenly amongst the liquid. Make sure all of the slices are submerged into the liquid and then partially cover your Dutch oven (leave the lid slightly askew so some steam can work off the top). You may need to assess the amount of liquid here and add an extra 1/2 cup of water based on the quantity you were able to strain from the mixture. I found our liquid to be a little low (it didn't look sufficient to cover the pork in the Dutch oven) so I opted to add some more fluids. You results will vary on the juiciness of your tomatoes.
Allow this mixture to simmer for 90 minutes. About halfway through cooking, turn the pork slices and give the mixture a slight stir.
After 90 minutes, remove the pork from the sauce and transfer it to a large plate. Lightly season both sides of the pork with salt, and then cover the plate in aluminum foil. Set this plate aside.
Whisk the sauce well to combine (it will have separated during cooking) before transferring 1/2 cup to a small bowl to be used during the next step. Pour off another 1/2 cup of the sauce to be used later. The remaining sauce can be reserved for future recipes (it freezes well).
Bring a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Using the 1/2 cup of reserved sauce from earlier, brush one side of the pork with the sauce and lay it, sauce side down, onto the grill. Allow the pork to grill until it is brown and crisp, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Brush the other side of the pork with the remaining sauce and flip the pork - allowing it to cook for the same 5 to 7 minutes or until it becomes golden brown. Transfer the finished pork to a cutting board and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
Next, lightly brush the pineapple slices with olive oil and lightly season each side with salt. Place the pineapple rings on the grill and allow them to cook until the internal sugar begins to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the pineapple slices from the grill and dice with a chefs knife. Transfer the diced pineapple to a serving bowl.
Carve the pork slices with your chefs knife, cutting the slice crosswise into 1/8 or 1/4 inch pieces. Bring the remaining 1/2 cup sauce to a light simmer in a pot and toss in the chopped pork. Stir until all pork pieces are evenly covered.
Spoon a portion of pork into the warmed corn tortillas, followed by a spoonful of the grilled pineapple. Add some of the chopped onion and cilantro on top and season with the lime wedges. Enjoy!
These may be some of the best tacos you'll ever have. The guajillo chile is an almost fruity chile that delivers a great smoky flavor to the final dish. The pork tastes like it has been roasting over a smoker for a full day. What's amazing is even after all of that cooking - the pork is still very juicy and (obviously) tender. Throwing the pork on the grill adds a nice crunchy crust to the outside of the pork and greatly intensifies the overall flavor.
The tomato based sauce is a rich combination of subtle heat from the chile and slightly sweet from the sugar. The grilled pineapple actually ends up being the unsung star of the taco. It's sweet, caramelized flavor balances the tomato sauce nicely. While this is certainly not your standard weeknight recipe, it would make a great weekend feast. If you're a fan of tacos or Mexican cuisine, do yourself a favor and give this dish a try!
That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie takes to the kitchen tomorrow night with a dish that pulls from an entirely different region's cuisine. Be sure to stop in tomorrow night to see what she has cooking. Until then,