If you’ve been following my blog even just for a little while, you’ll know that we were in Mexico over the Christmas/ New Year break and that we consumed a lot of delicious food whilst we were there. One dish we did not get to was tacos al pastor – I know, I know, what is WRONG with us? – so when I saw that this month, Jen had challenged us to explore “World Cuisines” for Kitchen Bootcamp, I was determined to make something resembling this to make up for what we had missed out on.
Al pastor (literally: “Shepherd style”) is a typical Mexican dish. Derived from the shawarma, it most likely originated with Lebanese immigrants to Mexico and is similar to the döner kebab. Whilst the döner is generally lamb, “al pastor” in Mexico is made from pork, marinated (for up to 2 days) and then slow-cooked over a flame on a vertical rotisserie (like you see in the döner kebab shops). The pork is topped with pineapple and onion so that the juice from both will drip down as the pork cooks. The pineapple juice contains an enzyme which helps break down the meat protein, resulting in a wonderfully tender and flavourful meat. Served on small corn tortillas with cilantro, onions and some pineapple, it comes with the ubiquitous lime wedges and hot salsa.
Well since I don’t own a vertical grill, I hunted around online to see if I couldn’t replicate the flavours of this dish in a slow cooker (next best thing). I settled on a cross between No Recipes’ Tacos al Pastor and Canadian Living’s Mexican Pulled Pork – my recipe is inspired by both. It’s most definitely NOT authentic in the sense that it’s not prepared according to the traditional method, but the flavours were definitely there – a little sweet – and so was the tender texture you would expect from this dish.
Best of all? SO EASY? It took me about 15 minutes to prepare this and then it cooked away for 7-8 hours on low in the slow cooker. What could be better – right?
3 1/2 lb pork shoulder butt roast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp Penzey’s Black and Red Spice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp smoked paprika
generous handful fresh oregano
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) tomatoes
3/4 cup fresh or canned pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup pineapple juice
Salsa/ hot sauce of your choice
Queso fresco or fresh feta, crumbled
Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker.
In a large bowl, combine jalapeño, garlic, onions, spices, oregano, tomatoes, pineapple and pineapple juice.
Use an immersion blender to bend to a chunky sauce-like consistency.
Pour over pork (you’ll use about 3/4 of the amount of sauce you use), making sure you coat the pork on all sides. Set the remainder of the sauce aside – you might need it later.
Cook on “Low” setting for 6-8 hours. The pork will fall apart when it’s done.
Remove pork from the slow cooker and shred the meat gently with two forks, spooning some of the cooking sauce over it.
At this point, you can refrigerate the meat. When you are ready to eat it, reheat slowly in a saucepan, adding some of the reserved sauce.
Serve on corn tortillas with condiments of your choice.
Result? Tender as can be pork with a kick (if you want, it can be as spicy as you like once you add the hot sauce. A taste of vacation with very little prep – pretty much the ideal dish, right?
** Don’t forget to check out next month’s “Forever Nigella” event – I’m hosting a street party in honour of the Royal Wedding and would love for you to join me. All the details here.