Friday, July 13, 2018

In the style of the Shepherd

Around here, the little Akre crew can dig on some Mexican food. As children of the 70's, Neil and I are nostalgically fond of the good ol' American Tex-Mex ground beef taco with crunchy shell, cheddar, onion, tomato, lettuce, etc., you get my drift.  Make no mistake, I still make these kind of tacos every time we have one of those busy weeknights. I.LOVE.TACOS.

But, as we have aged and evolved, we have been fortunate enough to actually experience Mexico and myriad really, good, authentic Mexican restaurants and Mexican people here in the U.S.  As time has gone by, our knowledge (by "our," I mean Americans in general) of true Mexican food has gradually been realized.  True Mexican style tacos are something relatively new to many Americans, as many of our brethren still flock to the standard Tex-Mex "Somebody's San Jose" and order crap like the "Speedy Gonzales" or the ubiquitous "Lunch #3."  

One of my favorites is Tacos al Pastor.  I've always wondered about the "al" part of this name, so I checked into the history of this dish.  From what I've read, this dish was actually introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants.  It was inspired by schwarma, also one of my favorite dishes, so this is all starting to make sense.  If you are unfamiliar with "al Pastor," it is a mixture of marinated pork, onion and pineapple served in a warm corn tortilla and topped with finely diced onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.  

So, as you can probably deduce by now, I like making stuff at home.  I recently got a shipment of beautiful boneless, center cut pork chops.  Pastor time!  It is surprisingly easy to make and so worth the small amount of effort.

Guajillos:  I use these for enchilada sauce, my tamales and now for this!
Chop up those finishing touches for your tacos

Boneless pork & pineapple in marinade
Draining off marinade

Cookin' up that goodness!

Taco al Pastor with homemade refried beans
Tacos al Pastor
5 dried Guajillo chiles
1 chipotle pepper 
1 med onion, chopped
1 can pineapple chunks 
1/8 cup vinegar
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1 lb (roughly) boneless pork, cut into small cubes
1 Tbs canola oil
Corn tortillas
Chopped cilantro
Chopped onion
Wedges of lime

1.  Boil about 1 cup water and soak chiles for about 10 min to soften.  Cool, then remove stems and seeds.

2.   Chop onion, strain pineapple and reserved the juice.

3.   Transfer guajillo peppers, chipotle pepper, half of the chopped onion, 1/2 of pineapple juice (save the rest for another use), vinegar, garlic and cumin in food processor.  Puree until smooth.

4.   Transfer mixture to saucepan and bring to a boil; cook until raw onion taste subsides, about 2 minutes.  If you want it spicier, add some adobe from the can of chipotles. Cool then combine in a ziploc bag with pork, remaining onion & pineapple.  Refrigerate and marinate at least 2 hours, up to 24. 

5.    Drain meat/pineapple mixture & discard marinade.  Heat a bit of oil in skillet.  Add pork and pineapple and cook until dark golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. 

6.   Dry "fry" corn tortillas in skillet to soften.  Add meat, pineapple, finely chopped onion, cilantro and give it a good squeeze of lime.

I served our tacos with homemade refried beans. These are so simple, you'll wonder why we ever bothered buying them in a can.

1. Take a 30 oz. can of pintos and "lightly" drain them.
2. Heat about a Tbs oil and add a couple of garlic cloves.
3. When they are lightly brown, crush them up with a fork.  Or, if you prefer, just use minced garlic.  The point is to flavor the oil. 
4. Add beans, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, salt to taste.
 5.  Cook about 5 min until beans are heated.  Mash with potato masher until consistency you like.  Squeeze in some lime juice, stir and enjoy! 



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