We were in San Jose del Cabo last week for a long romantic weekend. It was so relaxing, and exactly what we had wanted; a weekend of sun, good food and drinks and not a care in the world. Whenever we are in Mexico, we look forward to eating real tacos. Not the ones we get back home that are overfilled with meat as well as sour cream, cheese guacamole, and chunky (and often watery) salsa. Why doesn’t anyone at home make good tacos! I am talking about simple tacos where flavor over quantity prevails; small tortillas with a little meat or fish, some minced cilantro or grilled onions, as well as an assortment of outrageous sauces, served on the side. We found a place that had Killer Tacos Al Pastor, which was simple grilled pork with a flick of pineapple (the guy making them literally would flick a piece of grilled pineapple from a whole one sitting on a grill), along with a spoonful of minced onion and cilantro. It was outstanding, and we couldn’t stop eating them.
The day after we came home we were craving tacos and hit a local spot near us that was supposed to have authentic tacos. What a huge disappointment when our plates arrived overloaded with three tacos that were stuffed with oily carnitas, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. We then vowed that we were on the quest to make real tacos at home from now on out. Hail the real taco!
This recipe for Tacos Al Pastor takes some time and cannot be made on a whim; trust me you want to invest in the time it takes to make these. They are outstanding. I made them using a pork shoulder butt that I marinaded for 24 hours in a mixture of ancho chilies, as well as some guajillo chiles and some oregano, cumin, and chipotle paste. To give the meat a clay red color I used achiote powder as well. After marinading the meat, I seared both sides on a hot grill to give the meat a smoky flavor before braising it with pineapple juice until tender and flavorful. Before serving I roasted pineapple slices which I basted with the juices from the meat until tender and even more flavorful. All that was left was a spoonful of minced onion and cilantro, and we had Tacos Al Pastor that was pretty darn close to what we had in San Jose del Cabo.
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Tacos Al Pastor
2 whole guajillo chilies, seeds, and stems removed
2 whole ancho chilies, seeds, and stems removed
1 cup pineapple juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon achiote powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons chipotle paste
1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder butt
1/4 of a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into slices
1 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves, and stems, finely minced
1 lime, juiced
corn or flour tortillas
In a medium saucepan over low heat cook the guajillo and ancho chilies until lightly browned and fragrant. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat the olive oil and add the cumin seeds, achiote powder, oregano, and chipotle paste, stir an cook over low heat for 30 seconds.
Place the chilies along with the liquid, and the spice mixture into a food processor and process until smooth.
lace the pork into a Ziploc bag and add the chili mixture and rub into the meat. Seal the bag and place into the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before beginning the cooking process.
Preheat oven and your bbq grill to 400.
Sear the meat on the bbq grill for 7 minutes each side, then place into a dutch oven and pour the remaining 1/2 cup pineapple juice over the top.
Cover the dutch oven with a lid and place into the oven. Lower the heat to 275, and cook until fork tender; about 2 hours. Baste the meat every so often – I usually do every 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and set aside. Raise the oven heat to 325.
Place the onion and cilantro into a small bowl and squeeze the lime over the top. Stir and set aside.
Lay a sheet of foil on a baking sheet and place the pineapple slices. Baste with some of the juice from the meat. Place into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn over the slices of pineapple and baste with more juices from the meat. Roast for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Cut the pineapple into small pieces.
Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, place the meat onto the foil-covered baking sheet (remove the pineapple) and heat until slightly crispy. about 8 to 10 minutes.
Heat the tortillas.
To serve place a tortilla on a place, top with some meat, the onion mixture, and some pineapple.