These colder than usual winter months (at least here in Texas) are the perfect time to make...tacos. Actually (at least here in Texas), anytime is the perfect time to make tacos. We tend to eat tacos when it is 20° or 120° outside. And yes, it really can get that hot. It's no wonder that Austin, Texas has a taco stand (mobile or stationary) on seemingly every corner. Most coffee shops either make their own tacos or will have them imported from somewhere close by. I can count four taco joints off the top of my head that are less than 5 minutes from where I am sitting as I type. Toss in the coffee shops close by and that number jumps to seven. Tacos can be found 24 hours a day, too. Tacos are, quite literally, everywhere.
Of course, it's more fun and often more tasty to make them yourself. Here at Casa de Punk Chef we make tacos from just about everything. Leftover chicken? No problemo. Leftover enchiladas? Wrap 'em up, amigo. Black beans are a staple here, too. The Kid's favorite meal is a plate of black bean, cheese, and sliced avocado tacos. He will eat them three meals a day, if you let him (and he has, too). In fact, I ate the leftover half of his taco this morning.
My all time favorite filling is Chile Roasted Pork. I also like to use venison with the same method. For today's post you are going to get the best of both worlds. I have (had) a small venison roast and a small hog roast on hand. So I roasted them together and made one massive plate of meat filling for tacos.
This recipe is really simple. You only have to roast chiles and meat together. Yes, there are other flavorings besides chiles. Putting together the chile rub is most of the work. Clean up afterward is the rest of the work. In between, during the cooking time, your are free to summon your inner Dionysus.
This is a dish that draws more from interior Mexico rather than from the Texas/Mexico border. The seasonings used in many interior dishes are a little more complex than what you may have come to know as Tex-Mex or Border Food. Often there is cinnamon, allspice, clove; spices that are, in American cuisine, more often associated with baked goods and desserts. I love how these spices play in savory dishes, especially with the mild to wild heat of chiles.
The first thing we need to do is make the chile rub. This is not a dry rub. The chiles you will be using are dried, though. Just about any dried chile will work but I like to use a mix of guajillo and ancho chiles. Pasilla chiles are good, too, but they carry a little more heat. So if heat is a concern to you when chiles are involved you may want to research which dried chiles are hot and which are not. Because the chiles are dried we need to get them into a workable state by re-hydrating them in hot water. Remove the stems from the chiles, put them in a bowl, and pour hot (boiling) water over them. Allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes. You should be able to get other things ready for the recipe while the chiles soak. If you are really efficient and have all your prep done then drink a few beers. Stir the chiles every once in a while so that they all get soft.
When the chiles are soft put them into a blender with the onion, garlic, and spices (see recipe below) but reserve some of the soaking water.
Blend all the rub ingredients together, add water only as necessary to keep the ingredients moving through the blades. Don't use too much water as you don't want the rub to be thin. It should be fairly thick. When the sauce is well blended you need to push it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and leathery bits of skin. This part takes a while and your wrist and arm will get sore. Just keep working at it. Have a friend help and work as a tag team. You will probably have to do this in a few batches. But don't skip this step because it really helps the texture of the finished sauce.
Discard the remaining seeds and bits of skin.
Now heat a deep pot over medium-high heat and add a little oil, bacon fat, or rich lard to the pan. Let the oil get really hot (to the smoking point) and add all of the chile sauce to the pan. Stir like you have never stirred before. This shit is going to splatter all over the fucking place. The less you stir the more it will splatter. Keep stirring until the sauce begins to darken in color and thicken slightly. It shouldn't take too long, maybe 3-5 minutes. Keep stirring. It may splatter your hands and arms and burn a little. You will be okay. It's only heat. Keep a damp towel handy so that you can wipe up messes with your free hand. Don't wear nice clothes when you do this step. You will ruin them.
Congratulations! The hard part is over (excepting clean up). You made it. I am proud of you. It's almost time to have some (more) beers. First take this wonderful sauce and season it with a little salt. Now spread it all over the meat you are using.
Oh man, this is going to be so good. Add a little beer or water to the pan (if you are using just one cut of meat then you can probably use the pan you made the sauce in), about 6-8 ounces. Cover the pan and put it in a preheated oven at 325°.
Go have some beers. You've earned it.
Check the meat every so often. If it looks dry add a little liquid to it. Otherwise, leave it alone. When it is done the meat will be fork tender, meaning that if you push a fork into it and pull it will come apart in shreds. Allow the meat to cool so that you can pull it apart without burning your hands.
While the meat is cooling, put the sauce into a smaller pan. Bring it to a boil and reduce it so that it becomes fairly thick but still pourable. Season it to taste with salt.
Shred the meat.
There is nothing quite like a pile of slow roasted, shredded meat. Mix the meat and the reduced sauce together. Add a little more salt if needed. My favorite garnishes with this dish are sliced radishes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. I pile the garnishes on the same plate with the meat.
Heat up some of your favorite tortillas and go at it. For the record, I like corn tortillas. They have more flavor.
Shawna is so badass she drinks a Coke and a Mountain Dew at the same time.
And that, dear readers, is a Punk Chef Taco Party.
Chile Roasted Pork
4 medium Pasilla Chiles or 2 medium Ancho chiles (about 1 oz.)
4 medium Guajillo Chiles (about 1 oz.)
2 bay leaves, minced
2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
½ small White Onion, roughly chopped , plus rings for garnish
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 tsp. dried herbs (marjoram, oregano, Mexican oregano, or a mix)
¼ tsp. Allspice, ground
¼ tsp. Cloves, ground
1 ½ Tbsp Oil or rendered fat
Salt to taste
3 # Pork Butt
3-4 Thinly sliced radishes for garnish
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°
For the chile paste:
Place the chiles in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let stand 30 minutes or so to rehydrate, stirring occasionally so that they soak evenly. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the liquid, then transfer the chiles to a food processor or blender.
Finely mince the bay leaves and add them to the blender along with the vinegar, onion, garlic, herbs, allspice, and cloves. Process to a smooth puree, gradually adding the reserved chile liquid (add only enough to keep the chiles moving through the blades). Press the puree through a mesh strainer into a small bowl.
In a large pot (6 quarts) or Dutch oven, heat the oil or fat over medium-high heat. When it is hot enough to make a drop of the puree really sizzle, add it all at once (don’t wear nice clothes while making this; it gets messy). Stir constantly as the puree darkens and thickens, 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and season with salt.
For the meat:
Cut the pork butt into thick slabs. Lay the meat into the pot with the chile paste, turning it to coat evenly with the paste. Pour ½ cup water (or beer, if you happen to be drinking some) around the meat. Cover tightly and place in the oven.
Baste the meat every 30 minutes or so with the accumulated liquid and fat around it. After about 3 - 4 hours the meat should be fork tender and falling apart easily. If all of the liquid evaporates before the meat is done just add a little more so that you can continue to baste. When the meat is done allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.
Lift the meat from the Dutch oven and put it on a large serving platter. Using two forks or tongs shred the meat. Taste the pan juices and season with salt if necessary. Spoon some of the juices over the meat and scatter the onion rings, radishes, and cilantro over the meat. Serve with warm tortillas.