Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Patience Rewarded With Porky Perfection

I used to think I didn't like Mexican food. I spent far too much of my life eating in bad restaurants, believing that taco salads, 'fiesta rice' and sloppy grey tinned refried beans were Mexican food. And then I moved to Arizona.
Granted, AZ has its share of gringo-owned chains, decorated with dusty serapes and sombreros but luckily there are just as many independently owned little gems serving up exciting, vibrant regional dishes.

Because of the large Mexican population in Arizona and being married to the son of a Mexican, I came to LOVE their food and set about trying to perfect a few recipes.
My husband showed me how to make beans like his Grandma's and my friend David Schuttenberg, head Chef at El Cabrito in Manhattan, NY has been a brilliant source of recipes and inspiration. Here in the UK, we have born-again senorita Thomasina Miers educating British palates about the real deal in her Wahaca restaurants and on TV shows like Market Kitchen and The Wild Gourmets.

I have got a bit better understanding now of the ingredients and methods used in proper Mexican cookery and while I still have a TON to learn, I thought I'd give roasted pork shoulder a go. I had planned to make carnitas, but when the time came I just didn't fancy it, so I thought I'd slow roast my pork instead. Had I planned ahead, I would probably have brined the meat overnight first, but the result as it was was lovely.

The cooking time is long, but the amount of time spent doing actual work is minimal.

Chipotle-Rubbed, Roasted Pork Shoulder Tacos.
serves 4, takes 4 1/2 hours

1 kg (2/2lbs) free range pork shoulder (Skin ON if you can get it!)
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp ground chipotle chilli powder (Or hot, smoked paprika)
Boiling water
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 gloves garlic, halved.
tbsp coriander seeds
1 Medium onion, sliced
stems from a bunch of coriander
500ml (1 pint) homemade or good quality free-range chicken stock
250g dried pinto beans OR 2 cans cooked, ready to eat pinto beans

To serve-
handful celery leaves
handful coriander (cilantro) leaves
a few large handfuls shredded white cabbage
thinly sliced onions
sliced radishes
sliced green chilli
sliced ripe avocado
fresh lime juice
hot sauce (for me it's Frank's Red Hot)
Flour or corn tortillas

Crank your oven up as high as it will go and pop your kettle on to boil. In a roasting tin big enough to hold the pork, but not much much bigger, put the garlic, coriander seeds, lime zest, sliced onions, coriander stems, chicken stock and lime juice. If your butcher has not already scored the skin, use a very sharp knife to score through the top layer, into the fat but NOT into the meat. Place the pork on a wire rack in the sink and pour the kettleful of boiling water over the skin, which will make it shrink and the cuts open up. Rub the sea salt and chipotle (or as my husband calls it, 'chipplepoltlay' :-) all over the skin and rub well into the cuts and around the rest of the meat. Place the meat, skin-side-up in the roasting dish on top of the aromatics and pop in the oven.
leave the pork in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 150 degrees C (300F), remove the dish long enough to cover tightly with foil, then cook for 4 hours, removing the foil and cooking uncovered for the final 2 hours.

If you're using dried beans, start yesterday by soaking them over night in cold water, then simmer for 2.5 hours in unsalted water until tender. Season with salt once they're cooked.

If you're using canned beans, just warm them up in the can liquid over a low heat.

Remove your gorgeous, mahogany coloured piece of pork from the oven and set skin-side-down on a chopping board. Use a sharp knife to cut through the meat and skin, making large, rough chunks. (If the skin is too hard to cut through, separate it from the meat and cut through it separately, using the scores you made as a guide) The meat will be so tender, you'll be more pulling/squashing it apart than cutting it. Yum, right?

Serve heaps of this incredible, tender meat and crunchy skin in your tortillas with the crisp shredded cabbage, onions, radishes, avocados, herbs and chilli. Squeeze copious amounts of lime juice, sprinkle a little sea salt and some hot sauce over your tasty handfuls and try not to made obscene noises while you eat them. You can eat the beans either on the side or tucked in with the rest of the tasty goodness, which how I prefer them.

Pork Tacos

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