Taos Carnitas-Style Pork Tacos


Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

This is my signature southwest New Mexican-inspired dish with seasoned grilled pork that is slow-braised and then shredded, carnitas-style. Note that the seasoning is very similar to my other Southwest recipes; the key ingredients invariably being pure New Mexican chili powder, Mexican oregano, toasted and ground cumin and coriander. Serve with Rajas de Chile Poblano, a lime wedge, Mexican cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

For the Rub:
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano leaf
1 tbs. smoked Spanish Paprika
3 tbs. whole cumin seed, toasted and ground by hand in a mortar
2 tbs. mild ground Ancho chili powder
1 tsp. hot NM Chimayo chili powder, to taste
2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. ground whole black pepper
1 tbs. Mexican achiote paste

For the Marinade:
1/2 cup XV olive oil
Juice from 2 squeezed limes
5 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

— — —

2 pounds lean cubed pork stew meat
2 large poblano peppers, blistered and sliced
1 large red onion, sliced in 1/4″ strips
1 cored and seeded red bell pepper – cut into 1/4″ strips
1/2 cup pork or chicken stock
Kosher salt, to taste

8-10 tortilla shells for serving
Lime wedges
Mexican cotija cheese, grated (you can use Monterey Jack in a pinch)
Fresh cilantro leaves as garnish – 1 cup
Sour cream
Salsa fresca
Halved garden cherry tomatoes

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°-F. Cut and reserve the red onion and bell pepper. Measure the dry rub ingredients and mix well in a medium-sized shaker jar. Place the cubed pork in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle generously with the rub. Stir to coat and add more to ensure all the cubed pork is evenly covered.  Add the XV olive oil, lime juice and mashed garlic to a small mixing bowl. Whisk aggressively for two minutes.

Add the liquid marinade to the cubed pork and stir gently to incorporate. Cover and chill for at least three hours.

Prepare a lump charcoal fire in an outdoor kettle grill. When the coals are white-hot, level and place a baking cooling rack over the outdoor grilling grate to ensure the pork doesn’t fall through the slats.  Brush the rack with cooking spray prior, so the pork doesn’t stick.  Add the pork, (cooking in two batches) to the rack and spread out evenly. Cook uncovered 2-4 minutes per side and then transfer to a 5-quart heavy cast-iron dutch oven. Add 1/2 cup chicken or pork stock. Cover.

Place the dutch oven with the pork in the preheated oven and let sit. Next, place the two poblano peppers on the outdoor grill and char, about 4-6 minutes, until the tough outer skin blisters. Rotate occasionally. Remove, run under cold water to remove the skin. Core and slice into 1/4″ strips. Reserve, covered. Add the sliced red onion and bell pepper to the grilling basket. Place over direct heat on the grill and brush lightly with olive oil. Season with Kosher salt to taste. Stir occasionally and let char – about 6-10 minutes. Remove and set aside covered in the dish with the poblanos.

Cook the pork covered in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, until tender. Remove and shred with two forks. Add the reserved sliced grilled poblano, red onion and bell pepper and stir to incorporate. Set aside, covered in the hot dutch oven on the stove top until ready to serve.

Serve on tortilla shells with sour cream, grated cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, cherry tomatoes and a lime wedge.

Serves 6-8

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

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Texas-Style Pulled Pork Tacos


This is a great, carnitas-style Tex-Mex recipe for using leftover pulled pork. Braised slow and low, the meat is super-tender. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. If you still have leftovers, they freeze wonderfully… Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

5 to 8 cups pulled pork
1/2 cup Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
1 cup chicken stock
1/8 lime, squeezed
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Serve With:

Tortilla shells, brushed with olive oil and toasted on the grill or on a heavy, cast-iron comal
Fresh guacamole
Thin-sliced red onion
Shredded Mexican cheese
Sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers
Cilantro leaves

 

Directions:

Place the leftover pulled pork and the ingredients indicated in a 5-quart Dutch oven heated at 250-degrees in your oven.
Mix well and heat covered for two hours. Stir once at one hour.

After the second hour, check for tenderness. Reduce heat to 170-degrees F., if needed until ready. Serve in toasted tortilla shells with your choice of fresh guacamole, red onion, cilantro, and shredded Mexican cheese.

 

Serves: 4-6

Leftover Tex-Mex BBQ Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

Ensure that there is enough chicken stock and BBQ sauce to just cover the pork. Braise it slow and low until tender.

 

 

Mike’s Pork Carnitas


Grilled Pork Carnitas

The Spanish definition of Carnitas is “little meats”. This is legendary, ubiquitous street food served from vendor carts all over Mexico and the American Southwest. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this cultural mainstay had a direct influence on the evolution of fajitas and possibly, in part, American pulled pork. It is very similar to the Mayan cochinita pibil, from which it was undoubtedly inspired.

In this recipe the meat is braised in a pot, and the reduction process keeps it very moist. Traditionally, in central Mexico, it was prepared in lard. Yes lard. Here, lard is not needed because the meat renders in its own fat. Achieving a good char, or carmelization in the last step is essential. This is why I use cast-iron on a very hot outdoor charcoal grill.

The best tortillas are made from scratch, and any Mexican vendor worth his street cred always makes them from scratch. Your tomatillo salsa should be fairly spicy — a great contrast to the perfectly-seasoned pork.
This recipe is even better the second day. Reheats well if not overcooked.

Here is my version. Enjoy—

Ingredients:

One 3.5-4lb. bone-in pork shoulder roast with some fat
3 dry bay leaves
1 tbs. pure NM Chimayo chili powder
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1.5 tbs. ground cumin, toasted from seed
2 tsp. dry Mexican oregano leaf
1 tsp. ground coriander
6 cloves garlic – crushed
12 dry chiltepin peppers, crushed in a mortar, to taste
2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
cold water
1 large orange, juiced
1 large Spanish onion, sliced* or serve with Rajas de Chili Poblano

8″ flour or corn tortillas
Lime slices (optional)
Fresh cilantro
Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Charcoal for grilling

Preparation:
Cut the roast into fist-sized pieces, then place in a heavy 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven and coat with the dry spice ingredients, ensuring that all sides are evenly coated. Leave the bone in the roast. It will add incredible flavor.

Add the crushed garlic and sliced onion* ensuring it is evenly distributed. Juice the orange and add the juice to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover the roast pieces, but do not submerge – the liquid and fat will render out and you don’t want too much water. Generally, the roast should be 3/4 covered. Add the bay leaves.

Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 2.25 to 2.5 hours, until the liquid has reduced and very little remains. Turn twice during this time. When tender, remove the pieces and pull apart into 2″ bite sized chunks. Trim away any excess fat and discard the bone and bay leaves.

At this point you should have an outdoor charcoal grill preheated with enough coal for a medium-hot fire.
Preheat a 12″ heavy cast-iron skillet, (coated with some non-stick cooking spray) on the grilling grate until very hot (a drop of water should vaporize on contact in the skillet.)

Add the chunked pork to the skillet and spread out evenly. DO NOT TOUCH for two minutes, until a nice carmelized char has formed on one side. Using a wide spatula, carefully flip the pork over and repeat. Remove from the fire and immediately transfer to a warmed covered serving dish.

Serve in tortillas with Rajas de Chili Poblano, lime slices and hot Tomatillo Salsa Verde. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serves 8-12

pork carnitas simmering in a cast-iron pot

Grilled Pork Carnitas

Grilled Pork Carnitas

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas


Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

No other dish comes close to the excitement and flair of a hot skillet of fajitas served for hungry guests. The aroma, sizzle and spice create a memorable experience that is perfect for just about any occasion – indoors or out. Fajitas are an Americanized version of Mexican flank steak (faja meaning “belt”.) Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak.

The fajita is truly Tex-Mex cuisine (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak — and with that bit of history, enjoy the recipe. I’ve tweaked and niggled it for over ten years.

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds skirt, flank or sirloin steak
1 huge spanish or red onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large green bell pepper or poblano, cut in strips (if using poblanos, you must remove the tough, outer skin)
1/4 cup washed fresh cilantro leaves (more for garnish, if desired)
Juice of one fresh lime
1 large ripe tomato
Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE MARINADE-
Mike’s fajita rub
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Juice of 3 fresh limes (a very effective natural tenderizer)
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup XV olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

FOR THE GRILL-
Wood charcoal (please, gas grills just don’t do this recipe justice.)
Mesquite wood chips
12×12″ aluminum foil square

 

Preparation:

Aggressively pierce the flank steak with a needle tenderizer on both sides, sprinkle generously with rub (working it in with your fingers) and place in large ziplock bag. Mix the marinade ingredients well in a bowl and add to the bag. DO NOT SLICE UP THE STEAK AT THIS POINT. YOU WILL DO THIS AFTER YOU GRILL IT. Coat well, remove the air and place the sealed bag in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Rotate occasionally.

Prepare your mesquite chips for the grill by either soaking them in water for a couple hours OR by placing them dry in a wrapped aluminum foil packet with several holes punched in the side. Either method works well. If you cannot find mesquite chips you can also use hickory.

When ready to grill, cut up your vegetables and set aside so you don’t have to rush everything at once.

Prepare the grill with real wood charcoal; when they turn white, throw on the mesquite chips. Sprinkle a little more fajita rub on each side of the steak. Grill until it is medium-rare, 7-10 minutes. YOU WILL FINISH COOKING THE STEAK IN THE PAN, so don’t worry if it’s a tad pink or even red. This is a good thing.

Remove the steak from the grill and set aside on a cutting board for FIVE MINUTES. This step is critical, as the juices of the steak will draw back into the meat. If you cut it immediately, it would dry out and be tough.

Restoke the charcoal, if necessary. Bring a large, well-seasoned cast-iron pan up to HIGH heat. There really is no substitute for cast-iron with this recipe. The intense heat will warp or burn the non-stick coating off all other pans. I also don’t like using the smaller fajita-style pans like restaurants use, as they are ridiculously small for a family-sized portion prepared in one easy batch. I prefer to place the pan directly on the outdoor charcoal grilling grate.

Add about two tbs. of olive oil to the pan and sear the onion and peppers until slightly blackened. Stir once and add the garlic.

Using a very sharp chef knife, quickly slice up the meat in 1/4″ strips at a bias, ensuring the cuts are perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Add to the pan and stir once. Top with chopped tomato and lightly salt. Add the cilantro leaves and drizzle with lime juice. Remove from heat immediately and serve on tortilla shells with guacamole and your choice of salsa.

Serves 4-6

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Don’t fret if you didn’t get it right the first time. This recipe is a lot of work and requires split-second timing during the cooking process. Practice makes perfect and you will ascend to grilling guru status in no time!

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost

Preparing Roasted Poblano Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the roasted poblano peppers.

Toasting Flour Tortillas over a Cast-Iron Comal | Culinary Compost

Toasting flour tortillas over a cast-iron comal.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.