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Tacos al Pastor

When I’m home, as I was recently, my mission is to eat as many tacos as I possibly can – and that means tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, and if I can swing it, even more tacos for dinner.

Texas Monthly, the award-winning magazine that’s all about us, declared the tacos at Fuel City, a truck stop about a half-mile from the Dallas jail, the very best in the state, so on a recent trip home, between breakfast and lunchtime, I drove over, put some gas in Mom’s truck, and got in line.

Figured I’d try the tacos al pastor, since I’d just been in Mexico City, and saw these sold all over the place by the street vendors, especially the ones near the metro stops. You can’t miss the Middle Eastern, shawarma-style rotisserie that this pork is cooked on, and its orangey color from the smoky chile – but what’s interesting is that there’s a distinct sweetness to this, too. The secret: pineapple.

I stood outside and ate my tacos, served with a bit of fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a bit of salsa (chopped white onions are also an option, but hey, you just never know who you’re gonna kiss, right?), and thought that I was just gonna die they were so good. Plus, with tax – a buck fifty!

I know.

Then, a few weeks later, I was back in Paris, craving these silly things — with not a taco stand in sight – and what, I ask you, was a cowgirl to do?

I decided to make some of my own.

Which was tricky, I suppose, considering the no-grill and no-backyard-rotisserie rule, but I decided to forge on.

With the idea that I needed to merge the smoky chile, pineapple, and pork, I decided to get out my trusty slow cooker, and let it do the work. I used pork shoulder and cut it up in smallish pieces, but next time, will make them a bit bigger, I think. Also, I’m going to remove the cover for a bit at the end, so it won’t be quite so liquidy.

Most tacos al pastor recipes call for marinating the pork for hours and hours in the pineapple and then grilling it, which I may try next. I’ll let you know how that goes on the indoor grill pan, and what the neighbors have to say about that, since they’re always complaining about “les odeurs” from my kitchen, but I like to point out that the people next door are the constant cabbage-boilers, not me, and really, I think that they’re just jealous, anyway.

This is way too good to share, even if I wanted to.

Tacos al Pastor

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips
½ pineapple, sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large white onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
½ cup Cointreau (a Frenchy twist, eh?)
3 ancho chiles, roasted
2 guajillo chiles, roasted
4 chipotle chiles (in adobo sauce)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 ½ teaspoons Mexican oregano
sea salt

1. Roast the guajillo and ancho chiles. With scissors, cut off the stems of the chiles, then cut them once down the middle, split them, and remove the seeds and membrane. On an ungreased comal or cast-iron skillet, over medium-low heat, press the chiles down with a spatula until they begin to turn dark. You’ll smell them before you see that they’re ready — just be sure not to burn them. Now place the chiles in a bowl of hot water and let them reconstitute for about 15 minutes.

2. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet, and add the onions and garlic. Turn the heat on low and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-10 minutes.

3. Puree the guajillo, ancho, and chipotle chiles in a small food processor or blender. To do this, add as much of the chile soaking water as necessary to make the puree smooth and easy to blend. Keep this going for at least 5 minutes — you want a super-smooth puree. The more you blend this, the better it’ll be. Trust me on this.

4. Now, put the pork and onions/garlic mixture, chile puree, pineapple chunks, spices, tomatoes and Cointreau in the slow cooker, set to low for 4 hours.

Serve with homemade corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, white onion, lime, and your favorite salsa.

Note: If you don’t have a slow cooker, this will also cook nicely on the stovetop, on low, for 2-3 hours. It’ll be ready when the meat falls apart.