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!

 

 

 

 

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cookie Crust

Summer fruit is here, and we have the best of it right out our door.  Fresh cherries, peaches and blueberries all ready at the same time inspired this dessert for Sunday dinner ……  Don’t you just love Sunday Family Dinners??  We sure do.

Fresh Fruit Tart with Lemon Cookie Crust

The best of the seasonal cherries, peaches and blueberries retain their fresh bright flavour in this dessert – no cooked fruit here!

COOKIE CRUST

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. For crust, in a medium bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon peel, the baking powder, vanilla, and salt; beat until combined. Add egg; beat until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour (or knead gently until combined).

lemon cookie tart

Press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom.

tart shell

If you don’t have a tart pan with removable base, use your springform pan.  It worked just fine …. at least until I get myself some tart pans with removable bottoms!

Line crust with a double thickness of foil. Bake crust for 6 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 6 to 7 minutes more or until crust is lightly browned. Cool crust on a wire rack.

CREAMY VANILLA CUSTARD

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk

Whisk all ingredients together in sauce pan, and stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in:

1 tsp vanilla

Cover surface of the custard with a layer of plastic wrap and allow to cool completely.

GLAZE

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup juice (something that works well with whatever fruit you are using)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, stir together cornstarch and sugar.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often to prevent clumps.  Allow to boil long enough for the liquid to lose the cloudy look of cornstarch.  Set aside to cool slightly.

ASSEMBLY

Leave cookie crust in tart pan, and spread the custard in an even layer.  Make sure the custard is cool at this point, you don’t want your fruit to get cooked!  The beauty of this dessert is that it really showcases the mouthwatering flavour of fruit that is in season, and you don’t want to lose that.

Arrange fruit over custard layer.

Brush glaze over fruit, just enough to set the fruit and keep the vibrant colours.

Cool completely before serving.

Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood

 

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….

Red Wine Vinaigrette

 

Making your own salad dressings is so easy that it never makes sense to buy them!  Forget the packaged dressings and give it a try.  I made enough of this for our Family Reunion this year and it was a hit.  Remember to taste as you go ….. I ended up eating a lot of lettuce before I got the balance right – hard to do with such a large quantity.

P1110070

  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Blend well, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is emulsified.

Variations:  This is my basic “house” vinaigrette …. and you can switch it up any way you like, during the summer I like to add in fresh herbs.

 

Dukkha rubbed chicken satay with zucchini ribbons.

Dukkha is an amazing blend of spices and nuts that is very useful to have on hand.  Moist  chicken with crispy bits and tender zucchini, try this chicken marinated in tahini and rubbed with dukkha seasoning.  I guarantee it won’t be the only time you try it!

Dukkah chicken 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp liquid honey

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 lb of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 small zucchini, cut into long thin ribbons (use a vegetable peeler)

1 small onion, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup Dukkah

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, honey, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Blend well, and add the chicken pieces.

Dukkah chicken 1

(This can be done ahead of time, and marinated for up to 24 hours)

When ready to assemble, remove chicken from marinade, (discard excess) and dredge in Dukkah.

Create an assembly line of zucchini ribbons, onion and chicken …..

Dukkah chicken 2

Alternately thread chicken, zucchini and onion onto skewers.  This can be done ahead and kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

dukkah chicken 3

 

Place skewers on greased grill over medium heat, close lid and grill – turning until browned.

Transfer to a serving platter, scatter more Dukkah over top and serve with lemon wedges.

If you live in a larger city, I’m sure you can pick up Dukkah seasoning in any Middle Eastern grocery store.  If not, check out my recipe for Dukkah, I like to keep it in my pantry.