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Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Sometimes, the worst restaurants have the best dishes. Case in point: my local Tex-Mex joint, which I will not name, but could be a bad Tex-Mex restaurant anywhere. You know the place: nasty, cloying margaritas; stale chips with bland salsa; indistinguishable entrees served with gobs of sour cream, chewy rice, and beans smothered in cheddar-jack cheese. The perfect formula to attract hordes of barely legal kids who—let’s face it—aren’t there for the quality of the food. Did I mention that every frozen drink comes with a large rubber souvenir lizard?

So why is it that Brian and I eat here at least once a month, despite having a cityful of choices? You see, this restaurant, which does so many things wrong, does one thing right. That would be their tacos al pastor—flavorful and succulent shreds of pork in a corn tortilla with just a little red onion and cilantro. Never mind that they’re not really authentic tacos al pastor, which are typically filled with meat cut from a spit, much like Greek gyros. They just taste really good, and that keeps us coming back for more. We tried to recreate the tacos on our own last weekend, and came up with this recipe, a fair imitation:



1 or more tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lbs. pork stew meat, cut from the shoulder
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 onion, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1½ cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pressure cooker. Brown the pork in batches, adding more oil as necessary. Remove meat to a bowl. Add garlic, cumin, and chile powder to pot, stirring for a few seconds. Add thyme, bay leaves, onion, reserved pork, broth, 1½ teaspoons salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook at high pressure for twenty minutes, relieving pressure with the natural release method. The meat should be falling-apart tender. With a slotted spoon, remove meat to a bowl and shred a bit with a fork. If it seems dry, mix in a little of the cooking liquid. Taste, adding salt if necessary.

Taco assembly:

Warm corn tortillas
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro

Fold about a quarter cup of pork in each tortilla. Sprinkle meat with red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Yum!


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