Tacos al Pastor — so named for the Lebanese immigrants who brought their Middle Eastern foodways to Mexico in the early 20th century — is one of the country’s most popular tacos. Traditional preparation calls for marinating thin strips of pork in fruit juice, chili and spices such as cumin, achiote and oregano, stacking the layers on an upright skewer then slowly grilling it — gyro-like — on a rotating spit.
This spicy-sweet recipe is way easier, if not nearly as authentic, and results in one of the best darn tacos you’ll ever eat. Look for a lean shoulder roast (Boston butt) and trim away any excess fat.
Tacos al Pastor
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups) or 20-ounce can unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained
1 medium Vidala onion, cut into rough chunks
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 lb. lean pork shoulder, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 tsp. grapeseed or canola oil
8 fresh corn tortillas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 bunch cilantro
Reserve 1/2 cup pineapple chunks and onion and refrigerate for later use. Combine remaining pineapple, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes in a blender and blend to a paste. Place meat and marinade in a gallon-size zip-top bag, squeeze out excess air and zip closed. Refrigerate overnight.
Strain pork and discard the marinade.
Heat saute pan over high heat. Add just enough oil to pan for a thin coating and heat until oil just starts to smoke. Working in batches, add tortillas in a single layer and heat just until starting to char, about 1 minute per side, then flip and cook for another minute. Wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm.
Add just enough oil to cover the pan, swirl to coat and heat until smoking. Add pork and reserved pineapple and cook for 1 minute or until browned. Shake pan to flip the meat and cook until pork is cooked through and pan juices have cooked dry, about 7 minutes, shaking the pan frequently.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream with juice of 1/2 lime and whisk until smooth. Cut remaining 1/2 lime into 4 wedges.
Coarsely chop 1/2 cup cilantro leaves. Reserve 4 sprigs.
Serve tortillas with meat and pineapple mixture, reserved pineapple and onion, chopped cilantro, a drizzle of lime sour cream, a lime wedge and whole sprig of cilantro.
— “Pure Pork Awesomeness” by Kevin Gillespie (Andrews McMeel, 2015,$29.99)
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