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 shredded cheese
Fresh cilantro leaves as garnish – about 3/4 cup
Sour cream
Salsa fresca

 

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 blistered tough outer skin. Core and slice into 1/4″ strips. Add the sliced poblano to a grilling basket with the sliced red onion and bell pepper. 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.

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 covered on the stove top until ready to serve.

Serve on tortilla shells with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, salsa and a lime wedge.

Serves 6-8

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

Taos Carnitas-Style Grilled Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin


Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Apple-smoked blackberry-bourbon pork loin — sliced and super-juicy.

This is a recipe loosely based on a New York Times article given to me by a friend.  I have heavily modified it to complement ingredients readily available in most kitchens.

You can also smoke this on a standard charcoal grill – ensure that you control the heat so it maintains an even smoke — any higher than 225°F and you risk overcooking the loin. The glaze is stunning — a combination of sweetness, slight heat and acidity brought out by the blackberries, bourbon, chipotle, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients:

1 pork loin roast – about 2.5 – 3 pounds with fat cap
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbs. honey
6 level tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground hot Chipotle powder
2 tsp. roasted garlic granules
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tbs. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
5 tbs. premium Bourbon (a splash more than 1/4 cup)
12 oz. frozen packaged blackberries (fresh market preferred)
1/3 cup chile sauce
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 cups Apple wood chips for smoking

Directions:

Place the pork loin in an oblong shallow baking tray and set aside in the fridge.  Place the glaze ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and place in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat. Stir and simmer until sugars are dissolved and the liquid reduced – about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Pour the glaze over the pork loin and cover with plastic wrap. Place back in the fridge for at least three hours.

Preheat a smoker at 225° F. Line the drip pan with foil and oil the smoker grate with a bit of non-stick cooking spray. The loin will take roughly 1 hour per pound at the temperature shown. Place the loin on the smoking grate with the fat side up. Close and lock the door and add one cup of apple wood chips the first and second hour.
Place the probe in the thickest part of the loin after hour 1. When the internal temperature reads 140°F, remove the loin and let sit in a covered roaster pan for 1/2 hour.

Slice and serve.
Serves 4-6

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The pork loin after 2 hours. Internal temperature is 140°F. Remove and let stand for 1/2 hour, covered, before slicing.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Of humble beginnings. The glaze ingredients in a blender.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The loin glazed with a blackberry-bourbon brown sugar sauce.

BBQ Pulled Pork – using an electric smoker


You’ll need a lot of patience when preparing this recipe – smoking a pork butt is an all-day event. Before I got a dedicated outdoor electric smoker, I thought my “BBQ” was fairly good, when made in the oven or slow-cooker. This takes it to an entirely new level. It’s how true BBQ should be and you’ll immediately be impressed by the difference.

I’m quite pleased with the reliability of my smoker. It’s a Masterbuilt 30″ Sportsman Elite, purchased at Cabelas. It has an electric temperature control and internal meat probe which can be measured by simply pushing a button on a control panel at the top of the unit. If purchasing an electric smoker, ensure that you cross-check both the internal temperature and the probe reading for accuracy. Use an accurate thermometer for each so you won’t have any surprises. Both the internal thermostat and probe are within one degree on my unit.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to preparing this amazing recipe. I’ll also provide a few valuable tips I’ve learned so you can achieve success, the very first time.


INGREDIENTS:

1 bone-in pork shoulder (butt); about 1/4 – 1/2 pound per person – with leftovers.
Your choice of BBQ rub (you can try my version by clicking here.)


PREPARATION:

Determine a target time for when you want the pork to be finished. The night before, generously apply your choice of BBQ rub over the butt, ensuring that all sides are well coated. It’s easiest to do this in a wide, shallow glass baking dish.  Some people coat the pork butt with a thin layer of plain yellow French’s mustard prior to applying the rub. The theory is that it helps the rub to adhere to the meat better. The meat I got from my butcher was plenty moist on the outside so I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Once the rub is applied, wrap the butt and the glass baking tray with plastic wrap and let chill in your fridge overnight. This step is CRITICAL as it allows the salt and some of the spice to penetrate the meat.

The next morning, depending on the size of the pork butt, set up your smoker and preheat it to 225-degrees F.  Place the drip pan on the rack without water. You can line it with foil for easy clean-up.

Pork Shoulder Cooking Time (estimated):
• 2 hours per pound @ 225-degrees F.
• 1 hour rest
• 1/2 hour, pulling and serving prep

Let’s use this demonstration as an example:
Photos shown indicate a 4.25 pound bone-in pork butt with very little fat.
Using the numbers indicated above, the smoked pork should be ready to pull out of the smoker in roughly 8 to 8.5 hours if cooked at 225-degrees F. My target time was 6pm – so I knew I had to get the pork in the smoker by 8am – allowing eight solid hours to smoke; and an hour’s rest – plus some wiggle room just to be safe.

Time by temperature, not by time. What? You say you need your meal ready by 6:30pm because you have six inlaws ready to sit down then?  Your hard-won creation may not be ready at that time.  BBQ is all about patience — and lots of cold beer as a backup to pacify hungry guests.

With the smoker preheated, and your target serving time established, pull the pork butt out of the fridge and let stand at room temperature for an hour.

Place the pork in the smoker on an oiled rack about 5 inches above the drip pan. Ensure the coal tray is empty and that the floor overflow pan is properly aligned with the spout at the back of the unit. Close the smoker door and lock it.

The Smoke:
Add one cup of wood chips to the chip loader every hour for the first 5 hours. After that, the pork will not take on any more smoke so it’s not necessary. I suggest Hickory or Apple, or a combination of the two.

Safety First:
Ensure you don’t get food poisoning by following these directions.
• Do not insert the temperature probe into raw meat until the exterior is partially cooked. Probe the meat AFTER hour 4. You risk pushing bacteria from the exterior to the inside of the meat where it will be undercooked for several hours – thereby spreading contamination.
• Remember the 40-140-degrees in 4 hours rule. Meat left to sit in the 40-140-degree F. danger zone for MORE than four hours risks bacterial poisoning.
• Wash your hands and utensils after handling raw meat.

The Probe:
After hour four, carefully insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat, taking care to keep it at least 2 inches away from the blade bone. The bone generates a lot of reflective heat and will throw the probe reading off. Check the probe reading once every half-hour to ensure you’re on track.
At hour four, the probe shown in the photo below read 162-degrees F, well out of the danger zone.  Remove the meat from the smoker when the internal probe temperature reads 190-degrees F.

The Stall, or Plateau:
At around 160-170-degrees, pork, as it’s cooking, will stall in temperature. The temperature will hang in this zone for up to a few hours, depending on the size of the meat. The phenomenon is due in part to the meat breaking down as it cooks, and evaporation of moisture, creating a cooling effect in the smoker box.  This is why the time-per-pound indicated allows you some wiggle room to compensate for this lost time. In the example shown, the pork butt stalled at 164-degrees for about 50 minutes before rising again. At that point it rose one degree every ten minutes. During hour eight, the temperature increased faster as the meat cooked through.

Piggy in a Blanket:
At the last hour, watch the internal meat temperature VERY carefully as it can climb unexpectedly. As indicated, pull the meat out of the smoker when the internal temperature of the meat hits 190-degrees F. Then wrap the butt in two layers of aluminum foil and then a heavy clean towel or blanket. Place the bundle in a large empty beer cooler and let sit sealed for one hour.

Pull and Serve:
After the pork has rested one hour, remove and place in a serving pan and quickly shred with two forks – discarding the bone and fat. Keep covered and warm. You may choose to add back some of the pan juices that rendered out, but ensure the fat is skimmed off before adding it back.

Serve with buns, Mike’s Carolina Vinegar Sauce or BBQ sauce, coleslaw and thinly-sliced red onion.

Serves 6-10

 

Pork Butt with BBQ Rub

Applying the BBQ rub the night before.

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

Pulled BBQ Pork

Pulled pork kept warm in a cast-iron pan.

BBQ Pulled Pork served with Coleslaw and Carolina Sauce

BBQ pulled pork served with coleslaw and Carolina sauce.

Apple-Smoked Stuffed Pork Chops


Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Here’s a great way to add a new dimension to an old favorite – stuffed pork chops that are smoked over apple wood chips and then finished off with a rich, decadent gravy.  Incredible!

Ingredients:

4 stuffed pork chops
2 cups apple juice
1 cup apple wood chips for smoking
1 peeled, cored and sliced apple
Meat tenderizer

For the Gravy:
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
10.5 oz. beef broth (enough to fill the soup can)
1 strip bacon, minced
1/2 small onion, fine chopped
Dash of Worchestershire sauce
Dash of Kitchen Bouquet seasoning
Dash of paprika; about 1/2 tsp.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Pierce the pork chops on each side (1/4″ spacing) with a pronged tenderizer or sharp knife. Work in the meat tenderizer and let stand in the fridge for two hours.

Prepare an outdoor smoker by placing 2 cups of apple juice in the water pan and preheat to 225° F.
Warm the chops to room temperature before smoking. Rub peanut oil on the grilling grate and place the four chops directly on the grate (uncovered) in the center of the smoker.

Smoke for 1 hour with one cup of apple chips. Keep the top vent almost shut.

While the meat is smoking, prepare your gravy.  Combine 1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup and 1 can of beef broth in a saucepan. Whisk to incorporate.
Heat on low and stir occasionally. In a heavy fry pan, add the minced bacon and saute until slightly browned. Add the fine-chopped onion and heat until just lightly carmelized.
Add the sauteed onion and bacon to the saucepan with the drippings from the bacon. Add the worchestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Stir to ensure it doesn’t burn and keep the heat at an absolute minimum. Cover partially to keep warm.

After one hour, remove the chops from the smoker and place in a shallow baking dish (ensuring that the dish fits the maximum width of your smoker box, when closed.)
Pour the heated gravy over the top of the chops and wrap the baking dish tightly in aluminum foil. Braise in smoker for 1.5 hours covered with NO SMOKE. (Smoke will not penetrate the meat at this point, so it’s not needed.)
After 1.5 hours, turn the chops over and add the sliced apple to the top. Cover again with foil and heat for an additional 1.5 hours with no smoke.  Remove and serve. The chops should be fall-off-the-bone tender.
Keep the heat in your smoker at 225 °F for the duration of the cooking process.

Serve with your choice of potatoes or wide buttered egg noodles.

Serves 4
Total Cooking Time: 4 hours + prep

Note: The preparation method shown is for a 30″ Masterbuilt Smoker with internal probe. Every smoker is different, so make sure you experiment to find the method that works best for you. For this recipe I didn’t use the probe due to the long braise time. In my opinion, one hour of smoke is all that’s needed. You’ll quickly overpower your food if you add more.

Smoked pork chops eady for a slow braise with homemade gravy.

Ready for a slow braise with homemade gravy.

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

Pork Loin Roast with Red Wine Sauce


I threw this together over the weekend and was impressed by how rich and decadent the wine sauce gravy turned out. Out of all of the pork loin recipes I’ve tried, this is one of my favorites. In order to achieve a proper roux, you need to be patient. The result is perfection.

If you prefer fresh mushrooms, by all means, use them. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

One 2-pound pork loin roast
3 tbs. olive oil
4 tbs. butter
4 tbs. flour
1 small onion, diced
1 tbs. chicken base
1 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet®
1 cup hot water
1 small can mushrooms (stems and pieces), 4 oz., with liquid reserved
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp granulated garlic, to taste
1 tbs. dry parsley
1 tbs. dry chives
1/2 tsp. ground dry thyme
2 dry bay leaves
1 rib celery, with leafy greens, diced
4 whole carrots, peeled and sliced into 2″ planks

Serve with mashed potatoes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275-degrees F.

Heat a large, heavy 5-qt cast-iron dutch oven over medium heat with the olive oil. Brown the roast on all sides and then set aside. Reduce the heat slightly, and deglaze the bottom of the pot with the red wine. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the butter and the flour with the diced onion and stir constantly to form a dark roux; time varies but it may take over a half hour. Do not scorch the roux or it will taste bitter.

Add the water, Kitchen Bouquet, chicken base, fresh celery and canned mushrooms with their juices. Stir to incorporate, then add the dry spices. Bring to a boil, stir and shut off the heat. Add the pork roast back to the pan with juices.

Cover and bake in the oven for at least three hours; add the carrots during the last hour of cooking so they don’t get too soft.

Serve with your choice of potato or wide egg noodles.

Serves 4-6

Mike’s Easy Pulled Pork Rub


Mike's Easy Pulled Pork Rub | Culinary Compost

This is a much less labor-intensive rub recipe than my Southwest Pulled Pork.

Ingredients:

2 tbs. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tbs. ground Ancho chili powder
2 tbs. ground mild NM Chimayo chili powder
1 tbs. ground dry yellow mustard
1 tbs. ground coriander
2 tbs. packed brown sugar
Cayenne or chipotle pepper to taste

Makes a little more than 1/2 cup. You can store this sealed for up to a year in your spice cabinet.

Directions:

Mix the dry rub ingredients well in a mixing bowl and add liberally to a pork shoulder roast. Make sure the entire roast is evenly coated.

Brown the roast in a cast-iron Dutch oven with a little olive oil over medium-high heat until all sides of the meat are seared. Reduce heat and add two cups water. Ensure that the remaining rub is dissolved. Cover and bake in a 275°F oven for about three hours until the meat is ready to pull apart. Remove and shred with two forks in a separate covered dish.

Add 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce and a dash of lime juice. Toss until evenly coated. Heat covered until warm – do not overcook it or it will turn to mush.

Serve on buns with coleslaw on top.

Serves 6.

Note:
You can also smoke the roast over indirect heat on your outdoor grill. Keep the fire low and add soaked mesquite wood chips. Cooking time varies, but I’ve found that 1.5 hours is ideal.
Then finish it off in the oven as described above, but cooking time will be reduced. Enjoy!