Cook's Illustrated (May/June 2008)
Though we had mixed results with fish tacos, the latest Cook's Illustrated inspired us to get back on the taco bandwagon. It wasn't hard to convince us, seeing as the though the recipe uses pulled pork, made from braised pork butt. Not sure what a pork butt is? Neither were we.
Turns out, a pork butt -- sometimes also called a Boston butt -- is the upper part of the pork shoulder. We were surprised to find that a 4-pound pork butt at Safeway was only $.99 a pound, making this dish affordable as well as extremely tasty!
The only tricky step comes at the end. Once the pork has braised in the oven for several hours, you remove it from the oven, toss with the reduced braising liquid, and then broil it on a wire rack on a baking sheet so that it is nicely browned. We didn't have a wire rack of the sort that the magazine has in its photo, so instead we used baker's racks. The slots were a little wide for this purpose, but it worked just fine. (If you know of other ways to improvise a rack like this, let us know!)
Cook's suggests several toppings for the tacos, like minced onion or sliced radishes. Neither of those seemed right to us, so we improvised a corn salsa (the recipe is below)
Then we topped the tacos with some Lizano Salsa that our friends Regi and Kate had brought us from Costa Rica. It's not salsa like you're probably used to. It's a smoky-sweet, peppery sauce that's just perfect on top of pork or chicken. You can probably find it in a Latin grocery store -- or maybe even in the international aisle of your regular supermarket. Or you could use it as an excuse to go to Costa Rica.
Anyway, we garnished the tacos with cilantro.
They're incredibly delicious! We loved our corn salsa, but if you make these tacos and use other toppings, we'd love to hear from you!
Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas) Tacos
Cook's Illustrated (May/June 2008)
This photo: Cook's Illustrated
1 4-pound boneless pork butt, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
juice of 1 lime
2 cups water
1 medium orange, halved and juice (seeds removed)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Add all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. On the stove top, heat the ingredients until they begin to simmer, stirring to combine the spices and meat. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. After the dish has been in the oven for 1 hour, stir it so as to turn the meat, and continue cooking for one hour more. Meat should be very tender and falling apart.
Remove from oven and remove the pork from the dish, transferring it to a bowl. Keep the liquid but discard the bay leaves, onion and orange rinds. On the stove top, place the Dutch oven over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid has thickened and is reduced to approximately 1 cup.
Turn oven to broil and lower racks to near the bottom of the oven. In the bowl, pull each piece of pork in half using two forks. Pour in the reduced liquid and add salt and pepper to taste. Place the pieces of pork on a wire rack on a baking sheet (we used cooling racks that we had for baking, which worked just fine). Broil the meat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side until well browned. Serve immediately in the tortillas of your choosing.
The Bitten Word's Improvised Corn Salsa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 16-oz. package frozen corn, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and sautee until beginning to brown. Add corn and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion and corn have nicely browned and both are beginning to caramelize. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Mix in lime juice and cilantro leaves. Serve on top of tacos.