Tacos al Pastor (at home!)

I was able to find a recipe from Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, and when you get a great recipe like this one, don’t mess with it!  I’ve tried to make tacos mimicking the tacos al pastor from Mexico before, but without that upright spit to grill it all on, it is very difficult to achieve. We found this to be the closest thing I could do at home.

Serve it with Mexican Pickled Vegetables, Pickled Red Onions and it is a real hit.

INGREDIENTS

  • A 3 1/2ounce packageachiote paste
  • 3canned chipotle chile en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons of the canning sauce
  • 1/4cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion and pineapple
  • 1 1/2pounds thin-sliced pork shoulder (1/4-inch-thick slices are ideal—the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
  • 1medium red onion, sliced 1/4- inch thick
  • Salt
  • 1/4of a medium pineapple, sliced 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 20 warm corn tortillas
  • About 1 1/2cups raw tomatillo salsa
tacos al pastor 1.JPG

If you have a great butcher, have him slice the meat super fine – you’ll be thankful!

INSTRUCTIONS

In a blender, combine the achiote paste, chiles, canning sauce, oil and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth. Use 1/3 of the marinade to smear over both sides of each piece of meat (refrigerate the rest of the marinade to use on other meat or fish). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

tacos al pastor 3

Marinate for at least an hour, but I did this overnight.  The flavour gets right through the meat.

Light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with gray ash but still very hot; bank the coals to one side and set the grill grate in place. Or, heat one side of a gas grill to high. Brush both sides of the onions slices with oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay in a single layer on the hot side of the grill. When richly browned, usually just about a minute, flip and brown the other side; move to the cool side of the grill to finish softening to grilled-onion sweetness. Oil and grill the pineapple in the same way. Finally, in batches, grill the meat: it’ll take about a minute per side as well. As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and set over the grill to keep the meat warm. Chop the onion and pineapple into small pieces as well, add them to the skillet and toss everything together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Serve with the tortillas and salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.

Pickled Mexican Vegetables

Pickled Veg

I don’t know if any dinner featuring the tastes of Mexico would be complete without this dish … in Mexico it is often found sitting on tables just waiting for you to nibble.

This keeps for weeks in your fridge and is a great accompaniment to sandwiches or burgers and always perfect for tacos.

Like many pickled recipes, this is just a guide.  Use whatever vegetables are fresh and ready at hand.  Today’s version included garden fresh cauliflower, zucchini, green & yellow beans, carrots and sweet Walla Walla onions.  Prepare vegetables in bite size portions, i.e., cauliflower florets, wedges of zucchini, carrots sliced on diagonal … you get the idea.  I like to prepare everything ahead of time, and have them ready on the cutting board so I can see the colours and shapes together to make sure it is a pretty picture.  (yep, I’m that weirdo)  If you like a bit of spicy kick, slice up a jalapeño or two as well.

Start by heating up some good olive oil, (a generous portion – more than you would normally use to sauce) sauté onions until soft.  Add garlic, carrot, and any veg you think might take a while to soften.  You are only looking for crisp tender as your finished product, not soft and overcooked veg.

Add:

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tbsp dried mexican oregano

4 bay leaves

Simmer just until heated through and remove from heat.  Store in glass jar (or non reactive container) in the fridge for weeks!

 

 

 

 

Chicken Flautas with Tomatillo Sauce

You never know where you will find a mouth watering bite in Mexico City.  These chicken flautas, crispy and crunchy on the outside with tender tasty chicken inside, were served out of a spotlessly clean corner of a car wash!!

Flautas 4

Keep it simple, just the way it should be.  Using cooked, shredded chicken put a small amount on a tortilla and roll it up.  Secure with a toothpick – don’t skip this step otherwise the moment you put it into the hot oil it will want to unravel.

Flautas 1

Cook in heated oil (350 degrees) turning gently, just until the tortilla is browned & crispy.  Do not overcrowd the pan or the temperature will drop.   As they are finished, set aside in a warm oven until you are finished.

Flautas 2

Garnish with slivered lettuce, and serve with mexican crema, alongside a dish of tomatillo sauce.

(I made my tomatillo sauce by heating the tomatillo sauce and adding enough chicken broth to make a light consistency)  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

…….an easy cheat on the crema is to add a bit of lime juice to sour cream….

Barbacoa por la desayuna .. .. ?? Si! si! More on Mexico City!

Barbacoa por la desayuna?? Si … Si!!

Our flight to Mexico City was a bit bumpier than usual, but nothing too bad. Arriving at Hotel Puebla around midnight we settled in to a familiar neighbourhood – Roma Norte.

In the morning we were up and on the streets before Mexico City (DF) really came alive. In Grant’s usual fashion we were walking to breakfast about 5 blocks away …. Really I am not sure how many increments of those 5 blocks we walked … maybe 45 minutes? We found El Hidalguense Barbacoa … .this place is only open on the weekends, Friday through Sunday, and usually sells out by noon to 2 ish.

Barbacoa La Higuedense - this lamb pit roasted all night resting on maguey leaves - mouth waveringly tender and delicious.

Barbacoa La Higuedense – this lamb pit roasted all night resting on maguey leaves – mouth waveringly tender and delicious.

The only thing on the menu is barbecued lamb and its accompaniments. Many of them ….
The lamb is butchered and put into a pit to roast and steam on top of maguey leaves (the plant that produces mescal or tequila). The entire lamb is put into this, along with seasonings. There is no testing for seasoning through the cooking process, once it is sealed up with the ingredients and covered with yet more maguey leaves the pit is sealed and the lamb allowed to barbecue roast overnight. In the early hours of the morning the lamb is removed from the pit, juices are poured off to create the soup, and the lamb pieces (included the stomach) removed to another maguey leaf lined wooden crate to keep warm. This is then sold in the restaurant along with all the accompaniments, or sold by the kg to go. This place is busy! With good reason too, the lamb was delicious, and those blue corn tortillas so perfect for serving.

el Hidalguense lamb barbacoa (incorrectly spelled on previous photo!)

el Hidalguense lamb barbacoa (incorrectly spelled on previous photo!)

Our appetites are not used to such a meat fest early in the morning though so we were not really able to do it justice in the form of eating a lot of it, but what we did eat we thought was fantastic. The broth of that soup was unbelievable.

We set out to walk it off and we found a new market – Roma Norte Mercado Organico. This place takes the usual Mexican Mercado to another whole level. What a beautiful building! Such tiny little spots sell a variety of amazing food and beverages. In this market we finally found the sea salt from Cuyutlan that we had walked blocks in search of on our last trip here … Wilson wanted that blog called “Salt of the Earth” ….

Just 1 shot of the magnificent interior of the newest market, in Roma Norte - Mexico City.  Amazing food.

Just 1 shot of the magnificent interior of the newest market, in Roma Norte – Mexico City. Amazing food.

Grant had read about the Mercado, and about the amazing Portuguese tart sold there … naturally we had to try it – yes breakfast dessert following barbecue … I’m still dreaming of the delicious crispy flakiness of the pastry combined with the luscious cream filling.

Exterior of Carlos Slim Gallery (dedicated to his wife), like a shimmering mirror.

Exterior of Carlos Slim Gallery (dedicated to his wife), like a shimmering mirror.

Next was a taxi to a swanky neighbourhood – Polanco. Definitely easy to tell just how swanky by the size of the Saks 5th Ave store ….. Our destination was an art museum built by an individual that was once the wealthiest man in the world – the owner of Telcel, Carlos Slim. Hard to even describe this building, looking like a mirror of unusual proportions … inside is an even harder to describe art gallery – totally round interior in white with wooden floors.

Interior - the entire upper floor filled with the most incredible sculptors work.

Interior – the entire upper floor filled with the most incredible sculptors work.


The first painting to greet us was a Van Gogh! In order to ascend the building, you walk up a sloped ramp along the outside perimeter. Not only are the walls sloping towards you (stay away from the outside edge or you’ll bonk your head) the floors have a slight slope as well. Totally disconcerting, and yes – a little vertiginous. The art housed in the gallery is just beyond belief – Salvador Dali, Monet, Renoir, and Rodin and on and on and on.

Renoir landscapes

Renoir landscapes

One of the many Salvador Dali pieces “Alice in Wonderland”

Italian sculptor - B. Lombardi created this phenomenal lady with a veil

Italian sculptor – B. Lombardi created this phenomenal lady with a veil


It is just wonderful that all this artwork is free to view, and not only that – not behind any type of glass or protective barrier aside from a few of the sculptures that are just to delicate to risk. Alongside all this prestigious artwork is an entire floor dedicated to Sophia Loren – her clothing worn in movies, as well as clothing worn on a daily basis. Again – none of this behind any type of barrier. The Oscar however was in a glass case.

One of the many Sophia Loren outfits from her movies.

One of the many Sophia Loren outfits from her movies.

Lunch was street tacos – pretty much guaranteed to be fabulous in Mexico – and for the grand prize of less than $5.00 we enjoyed shrimp, pork, and chicken tacos with some nice cold water. Served up in a jiffy you – feeling somewhat like you were at Subway – you chose your own toppings for the owner/chef to heap on.

Tacos la Hola - another favourite taco joint on the streets of Mexico city.

Tacos la Hola – another favourite taco joint on the streets of Mexico city.


Salsas and lime available for your own final seasoning and the whole thing was mouth watering, finger licking good. On our way back to Hotel Puebla we stopped at La Ceverceria for a drink – Grant got a cerveca and I got a gin – you should have seen Grant’s eyes pop at the amount of gin he watched the bartender free hand pour in – I was hardly able to get much soda water in there!

Siesta time for a bit – so nice to stretch out after walking a number of 5 block increments.

Dinner was at Yuban – we had been there with Hayley and the girls shortly after they opened a year ago. The place was a lot busier, and with a new team of staff members they are executing Oaxacan cuisine even better than previously.

Yuban Restaurant - absolutely fabulous Oaxacan cuisine.

Yuban Restaurant – absolutely fabulous Oaxacan cuisine.

Venison @ Yuban

Venison @ Yuban


My only concern was the price of a glass of wine – 150 pesos, which is hugely pricey when a top end meal is 236 pesos. Did I splurge anyway? You bet – twice. I’m worth it. We aren’t sure if they thought I was a famous blogger or not with all the photos I was taking but we sure were treated well, including a complimentary house cocktail at the end of the meal – without question the best mescal cocktail I have ever had.

Pretty darn impossible to not love a mescal cocktail that tastes as good as it looks!

Pretty darn impossible to not love a mescal cocktail that tastes as good as it looks!

Smoky mescal combined with refreshing cucumber is a great combo. The new house manager – a young guy, also offered to take us on a 4 hour drive to the smaller village in Oaxaca were they source all their ingredients to make their cuisine. I would have jumped at the chance but Grant remembers those roads better than I ……….. In the end, he also gave me his email and said that if I was ever coming back to be sure to let him know so that he was able to take good care of us … hmm – I’m quite sure he has never heard of http://www.chattykathychatsandcooks.com but you just never know.

After a good night’s sleep we had a quick 5 block walk (translate about 30 minutes) to Monica Patina’s deli – we’ve been there before with the family and you will all know right away how good it was.

Back to the hotel to catch a taxi to the airport and an Interjet flight to Zihuatenajo. Sunshine here we come.