Season 12 Recipes: Bayless' Best Ever/

Pork Tacos al Pastor

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Ingredients

  • For the marinade and meat
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup (2 counces) powdered ancho chile
  • 1/2teaspoonground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1/4teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1/3teaspoon cumin
  • 1teaspoondried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3tablespoons vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar)
  • Salt
  • One-half of a 3 ½-ounce packageachiote paste
  • 1/4cup vegetable or olive oil, plus more to brush on the onions and pineapple
  • 1 1/2pounds thin-sliced pork shoulder (a little thicker than ¼-inch is ideal—the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
  • for the sauce and salsa
  • 5 to 7 large (3/4 ounces) dried red chipotle chiles (often sold as moritas—you’ll want chiles that are about 2 inches long), stemmed
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1pound (6 to 8) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1/2cup orange juice
  • 1/2cup chicken broth
  • For finishing the tacos
  • 1medium white or red onion, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 1/4 of a medium ripe pineapple, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
  • 20 warm soft corn tortillas
  • Chopped cilantro for garnishing the tacos

Instructions

Make the marinade. Place the garlic in a small microwaveable dish, cover with water and microwave for 1 minute.  Drain and place in a blender jar.  Add the ancho powder along with the spices and herb, vinegar, 1 ¼ cups boiling water and 1 ½ teaspoon salt.  Blend until smooth.  Measure out 1/3 cup.  Scrape the remainder into a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for another use.   

Scrape the red chile adobo mixture back into the blender jar.  Break up the achiote into the blender and add the oil and 1/3 cup water.  Blend until smooth.   

Marinate the meat. Use a heavy mallet to pound the meat to about half its thickness—this will ensure tenderness.  Smear or brush marinade over both sides of each slice of pork—I like more than just a light coating.  Refrigerate any unused marinade for another round of taco making.  Cover and refrigerate the meat for a couple of hours for the flavors to penetrate. 

Make the salsa and sauce.  Toast the chiles in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, turning them for a minute or so until they are aromatic and toasting smelling.  Scoop into a small bowl, cover with hot tap water, weight with a plate and soak for about 30 minutes.   

In the same skillet, roast the unpeeled garlic, turning from time to time until blackened in spots and soft, about 15 minutes.  Cool and peel. 

Roast the tomatillos on a rimmed baking sheet about 4 inches below a broiler until blackened and blistered on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and roast the other side.  Cool.   

Drain the chiles and scoop into a blender jar with the garlic and tomatillos (and all their juice).  Blend to a coarse puree.  Add enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency, then taste and season with salt.  A little sugar can help to bring out the chiles’ natural fruitiness.  Pour about 2/3 of the salsa into a serving dish.  Pour the remainder into a small saucepan and add the orange juice and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Taste and add a little more salt and sugar if you think the sauce needs it. Keep warm on the side of the grill. 

Grilling. Heat a gas grill on medium-high to high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot.  Brush or spray the onion and pineapple slices on both sides with oil. Grill, turning regularly for several minutes, until they are richly colored and softening—you want them to still have nice textureCut the core out of the pineapple, then chop the onions and the tender pineapple into small pieces. Keep warm on the side of the grill. 

Grill the meat on the very hot grill, cooking it only on one side to duplicate the delicious crusty char every one associates with tacos al pastor.  When the meat is cooked, which should take about a minute, cut it into short thin slices.  Serve with the onion and pineapple: I find it easiest to mix the meat together with the onion and pineapple, scoop a portion of the mixture into a warm tortilla, add splash on a little of the warm sauce, then top with a spoonful for morita chile salsa and a sprinkling of cilantro.  I think tacos al pastor aficionados will be happy.  

Comments

  1. This is EXACTlY the same recipe that appeared in a 2015 Food and Wine Tacos al Pastor recipe. Sliced boneless pork shoulder, spread w/ Achiote paste marinade and grilled for a minute. I can’t beleive Rick would show us genuine Tacos al Pastor, rave about how good it is and then claim THIS is the same taste and texture. Pork Shoulder is not a tender cut of meat and a brief marinade and quick grill is a sure fire way to make a very tough pork shoulder into a tough chew in a taco. There is a reason why the careful stacking of many many pieces of thinly cut tough pork onto a vertical spit and then SLOW ROASTED while the tender edges are cut off into a fresh corn tortilla is so popular in Mexico and it has nothing to do with grilling thin slices of pork shoulder on a 1500 dollar Big Green Egg grill for a minute on high heat.

    Tacos al Pastor is Shepherd’s Style spit roasted meat and is what happens when Lebanese and other Middle Easterners migrate to Mexico and bring their Doner Kebab or Gyros style of meat cooking to Mexico. If you leave the stacked and slow grilled meat out of the equation you have lost the most important part of the recipe. Mexico has really mastered the cooking of tough cuts of meat into tasty and tender thinly sliced meat for tacos and this isn’t it. Plus a copycat Food and Wine recipe doesn’t inspire confidence in this season’s recipes to come

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for writing. First let me say the next time you’re in Chicago on a Wednesday, I propose a taco summit. I’d love to treat you to a real-deal Tacos al Pastor dinner from Xoco, where a magnificent cone of red chile- marinated pork is roasted by charcoal.

      The whole point of this recipe was to develop something that was similar to that incredible taste of authentic Tacos al Pastor, but one that was achievable at home. Because no one has a trompo at home.

      In fact Rick’s televised intro to the recipe — and this is verbatim — goes like this:

      “I’ll tell you right away that when you make Tacos al Pastor at home, they’re going to be different than what you would buy from a place that has one of those great big vertical spits.”

      And then he goes on to explain how the spit functions to char the edge of the meat while leaving the inside tender, and that lacking a spit, the best we can do is grill one side of the the thinly cut pork.

      So is this recipe the real-deal? The one true taste? No. It can’t be and we freely admit it wasn’t intended to be. Which is why we developed this at-home recipe.

      As for your explicit charges of plagiarism, all I can tell you is that’s neither remotely correct nor something we take lightly.

      Are they similar? Maybe, but I’d say that’s only because they’re both a recipe for the same dish: Yes you need a marinade, you need pork, you need pineapples, you need a grill. Yes, those ingredients appear together in the list of ingredients. But there are key differences too.

      Here, let folks judge for themselves: https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/tacos-al-pastor

      One final note: during the extensive testing of this recipe — because that’s something we do routinely — Rick and the culinary team actually experimented with a small tabletop vertical spit. It was a disaster and we don’t recommend it.

  2. Cooking on a spit or Al pastor allows the hefty amount of connective tissue in a pork shoulder or leg to soften and dissolve, even if it is thinly sliced first and stacked into a huge inverted cone of meat. The vertical spit slowly turns for hours and only the outer surface is grilled. The interior is slowly roasted. To suggest that thinly sliced pork shoulder can be grilled in a minute and yield a tender cut is just not true. Pounding it will not help to tenderize the sliced shoulder as it contains such a hefty amount of silverskin and connective tissue. Pounding chicken breast or a piece of boneless veal yes, but pork shoulder, no way. Shoulder meat needs long slow cooking and Al pastor gives you that plus a nice grilled surface. A pork tenderloin cut is more suitable for a 1 minute grilling than a piece of pork shoulder meat. And the amount of spice and sauce on each piece of meat that Rick used is nothing like the rather austere and simply grilled Al pastor.

    Boning out a whole pork shoulder is a time consuming and rather tedious task for the weekend cook. Buying a boneless cut of pork is likely to yield much faster and more tender results when quick grilling pork at high heat. I don’t know of any meat market that sells boneless pork shoulder sliced thinly and ready to grill. Country ribs is sliced pork shoulder but it has a ton of bone and connective tissue as part of the faux riblet.

    My only suggestion to try to salvage this recipe is to marinade the thinly sliced shoulder meat in fresh pineapple juice (along with the rest of the marinade) to tenderize the shoulder cut. Not too long or you will make it rather pasty in texture. But please call it something else like grilled pork taco fajitas for taco tuesday.

    1. Disagree with David’s comments. Spit “roasted” (grilled actually) tacos al pastor are commonplace here in the San Diego and Tijuana area. The interior isn’t slowly roasted. The thinly sliced, layered pork is spun on the trompo accordingly to cook and crisp up the exterior layer which is shaved off with a sharp knife, into a waiting handheld tortilla. Also, practically any carniceria north or south of the border is going to have thinly sliced pork for exactly this purpose.

      Keep up the excellent work Rick!!

  3. Wow…. I’d like to dine at David’s restaurant.

    Maybe Rick should call his next restaurant “Cut & Paste”?

  4. has anybody tried braising the pork shoulder slices with the marinade for a while and THEN flash grilling them to get the char? That sounds like it might work.

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