Because I’m a red-blooded American, I have no choice but to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. And because I’m a red-blooded American, I love tacos. So I figured this was a great opportunity to combine those two elements, and make pulled-pork tacos. With a delighted resolve to break out the smoker, I chose the recipe for “East L.A. Pork Tacos” from Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice cookbook.
The recipe starts with a “Borracho Marinade”, which of course should be followed with a hearty chorus of “Citizens of Borracho!” or “Now can you give a man some fightin’ room” (assuming you’ve seen The Great Race as many times as we have). This marinade is made up of:
2 cups of orange juice
2/3 cup of tequila
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon achiote paste
1 teaspoon cumin
Several dashes of hot sauce (the recipe stipulates “fiery habanero hot sauce”)
For the record, I didn’t have any achiote paste, nor did I have any hot sauce, so I just tossed in a teaspoon of adobo instead. Then I combined all that in the food processor, then poured it over the pork (the recipe calls for 6 shoulder pork chops, 12-14 oz each, but I went with two 4-pound Boston butts) in a plastic bag and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.
In my experience with the standard Mr. Brown’s Pulled Pork (or whatever it’s called), I’ve learned the rule of thumb to give 1 1/2 hours for every pound of pork you’re smoking. That meant I needed my smoker warmed up (to somewhere between 200 and 220 degrees F) and ready for these bad boys to do the whole “slow and low” thing for six hours. What a welcome change from the previous smoked items I’ve made, where I’ve been looking at a nine-pound butt that needs to be ready for a lunchtime crowd. Suddenly I was combining my love of tacos with my love of sleeping in — this was becoming the best meal ever!
When the meat was done, it looked like something that would dress the sets of a caveman movie or something. It seems like meatstuffs that get roasted on sticks over fires in the movies always end up with this dark color and sheen. Frankly, they looked fake to me.
They tasted, however, amazing. The marinade gave the edges a nice citrusy zing, and the meat in the center was moist and lightly imbued with the bright flavors of the citrus and garlic and spices. It was just fantastic. And more than that, it was deliciously aromatic while smoking, so I can only hope our neighbors were really jealous.
The recipe then suggested you serve the shredded pork in tacos with all the standard taco fixings, along with a “Sauce Ole”.
The Sauce Ole is made as follows:
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted green chiles (preferably New Mexican, Anaheim, or poblano, fresh or frozen)
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little, but so the vegetables are still crisp-tender. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavor to develop.
And just because I was feeling all kinds of gung-ho, I did roast and peel the poblano peppers fresh.
The other sides/fixings I made to go with this were some frijoles, some red rice, and some guacamole. And when it all came together, this dinner was insanely good. The Sauce Ole is out of this world, and paired with the pork, it tasted like something you’d get at a restaurant. I have rarely been as proud of a meal as I was of this one. And after laboring over it for two days, I ate it, of course, in about 35 seconds. I can’t wait to have this again!