When people ask me what I miss most about California the answer is easy – real, authentic Mexican food (of course after family and friends- but only just). Oh the things I would do for an El Farolito burrito…? 1 2/3 lbs of succulent meat, seasoned to perfection, with fresh salsa, real black beans, all wrapped up like a present in a tortilla the size of your torso!
Trying to find good Mexican food in London to satisfy my constant cravings is like trying to hit a moving dartboard a mile away while being blindfolded. The British pronunciation of typical dishes and ingredients did nothing to curb my skepticism. Here fajitas are pronounced “Fang-gee-tas” or jalapenos “jall-lah-pee-nos”. Fortunately, Whole Foods is establishing a presence in London and stocks most of the crucial spices and ingredients for this dish. AND, after an extensive quest, I’ve found a handful of fantastic Mexican restaurants. If you find yourself in London, I would recommend La Bodega Negra in Soho, Boho Mexica near Spitafields, or any of the Wahaca restaurants. Maybe I am good at darts after all.
With friends visiting this week, it provided the perfect opportunity to address my Mexican yearnings. I find entertaining is the best excuse to whip out the Latin flare! Tacos are relatively easy to serve and allow your guests to take part in making their own. Prepping the meal can easily be done ahead of time, an essential factor if like me, you want to have people over after work. I don’t leave corporate land until 6pm so recipes either have to take about 30 minutes or be easy to split in segments.
This meal is split into two posts – part 1 will focus on the meat and veg and part 2 will focus on the toppings, which are how I split the prep, myself. Pork Al Pastor is one of my favorite taco meats. The combination of the savory and spicy chilies with the sweet and juicy pineapple makes this a mouthwatering combination. The preparation in the slow cooker is also a winner as I can turn it on in the morning when I leave for work and come home to a perfectly cooked meal and amazing smelling flat!
Slow Cooked Pork Al Pastor – Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Bon Appetit Recipe
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 4-6 hours Good for: Dinner Party
1 large white onion, halved
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped into bite size pieces[i]
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup guajillo chile powder[ii]
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 chilies from canned chipotle chilies in adobo plus 2 extra tsps. of the adobo sauce[iii]
1 2 1/2-to 3-pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
½ Cup chopped fresh coriander (aka cilantro)
Fresh Pineapple Salsa
Coarsely chop half of your onion and combine with half of the pineapple in a blender. Add orange juice, vinegar, guerilla Chile powder, garlic, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chilles & adobo. Blend until smooth.
Place the pork cubes at the bottom of the slow cooker and cover with all of the sauce. Slow cook on high for 4-5 hours. In the last hour of cooking, add the remaining pineapple chunks.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a large pot on the stovetop instead. I highly recommend you add one to your birthday/Christmas/wedding gift list immediately! It is my secret weapon for prepping easy meals and fall off the bone tender meat. Bring the pork to a slow boil then reduce to a simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.
While the meat finishes cooking, finely chop the remaining half of the onion and mix with the coriander for topping the tacos.
Serve with warm tortillas and any desired toppings.
A Few Ingredient Tips and Tricks:
[i] If pineapple is out of season, a large can of pineapple chunks will do. Blend all of the juice and half of the chunks for the sauce and reserve the other half of chunks for the last bit of simmering of the pork.
[ii] This was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to find anywhere in London. You can substitute this for 3 large dried gujillo chilies which I bought at Whole Foods. To prepare, WEAR GLOVES, cut off the top and remove seeds. Cut into half inch strips and throw into blender.
[iii] This recipe uses about a third of the contents of a can. You can freeze the rest of it in a ZipLock for a later date.