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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with ultra-tender pork tacos

  • Detroit Free Press
  • Published Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at 8:57 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, May 5, 2012, at 2:17 p.m.

CHILI-BRAISED PORK SHOULDER TACOS

Makes: 24

Preparation time: 1 hour

Total time: 4 hours (not all active time)

Look for dried chilies in the produce section of most grocery stores or at specialty Hispanic markets. Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2011 issue.

4 large dried ancho chilies stemmed, seeded

2 large dried chilies de arbol or japones chilies, stemmed, seeded

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), about 5 pounds

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

3 large garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 bottle (12 ounces) Negro Modelo or other dark beer

24 (or more) 6-inch corn or flour tortillas

4 large radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced

Favorite salsa

Pickled onions (see cook’s note)

Chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, place the dried chilies. Add enough boiling water to cover, and set a small plate or bowl on the chilies to keep them submerged. Soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chilies, sugar, lime juice and 1/4 cup of the reserved soaking liquid in a blender. Puree chili mixture, adding more soaking liquid as needed to form a smooth paste.

Season pork shoulder generously with salt and spread chili paste over it . You can spread the paste on the pork 1 to 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Let pork come to room temperature before continuing.

In a large ovenproof pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, coriander, cumin and allspice. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add the beer; bring to a boil. Add pork to pot; cover and transfer to oven.

Braise pork, basting occasionally with pan juices, until very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (You can make this 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.)

Transfer the pork to a large platter. Let cool slightly. Pour pan juice mixture over pork; cover and keep warm. (Alternatively, shred the pork with 2 forks and pour pan juice mixture over pork.)

Meanwhile, working in batches, cook tortillas in a large heavy skillet over low heat until toasted, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a large sheet of foil; wrap to keep warm. Or you can heat them in the microwave.

Serve pork with tortillas, radishes, salsa, pickled onions and chopped cilantro.

Cook’s note: To make the pickled onions, thinly slice 1 medium red onion (about 1 cup). Place the slices in a bowl and pour 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup warm water over them. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon sugar and season with kosher or sea salt. Let stand until slightly pickled, about 30 minutes. Drain. The onions can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Nutrition: 716 calories (40 percent from fat), 32 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 49 grams carbohydrates, 54 grams protein, 223 mg sodium, 191 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

THE WICHITA EAGLE — May 2, 2012

Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is all about celebrating. It marks the day in 1862 when Mexico defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla. But it’s also an excuse for a Mexican-themed dinner fit for a crowd.

This recipe for Chili-Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos, adapted from the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, is just the ticket — and it’s authentic to boot.

These tacos are nowhere close to ones loaded with cheese, shredded lettuce and sour cream. These feature ultra-tender, semi-spicy pork topped with pickled onions, salsa and radishes.

They start out with a big, braised hunk of pork shoulder (also called pork butt or Boston butt) with a generous slathering of a chili paste. The pork is cooked, tightly covered, for several hours with onions, garlic and Mexican dark beer. The meat becomes so tender that it falls apart with the poke of a fork.

Pork shoulder is versatile and sold bone-in or boneless. An average bone-in pork shoulder weighs about 7 pounds, and boneless ones are about 5 pounds. If you use a cut with a bone, add at least another hour of braising time.

The recipe only looks daunting because of the number of ingredients. It’s the braising that takes the time.

But trust me — it goes together with just a little prep work.

You can make nearly all of the components ahead. The pork actually benefits if you coat it with the chili paste and chill it at least overnight or up to two days in advance. It’s like marinating.

The paste is made from dried ancho and de arbol chilies, rehydrated in boiling water so they soften. Ancho chilies, a dried poblano chili, are on the mild side. The paste, which also flavors the cooking and basting liquid, gets a spicy kick from the hotter de arbols.

Look for both chilies at specialty Hispanic stores.

Try not to skip the pickled onions. They take little effort, your guests will love them and they can be made a few days ahead.

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