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.

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

 

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.

 

Crunchy Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli Slaw

Huge thanks to SmittenKitchen for this delicious, crunchy and addictive slaw.  We loved it!  I’ve tried a few recipes out, but this one hits all the notes and it will be on repeat all summer long.

Makes about six cups of slaw

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (or if you are like me, and always have some pickled red onions in the fridge, use those ….. so pretty!)

Using a jar, combine all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously to combine.  Set in fridge while you prep the salad.

Peel the broccoli stems and either use a mandolin on a fine setting, or dice quite small.  Separate the broccoli florets into bite size pieces, slicing the larger bits.

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cranberries, and red onion.  Pour dressing over, and stir to mix well, sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Enjoy!  This works exceptionally well as a side to any grilled meat – tonight we served it with smoked baby back ribs.

Smoked beans in electric smoker

Hey, your smoker is going with either your pork or chicken anyway, why not put that extra rack to use?  This recipe came from one of the ladies at my office, Karen Benn, and she adapted it to her smoker.  It is such a hit that the beans were gone before either the pork or chicken …. I know that seems weird, but it’s true!  For vegetarians, leave out the bacon and you have an amazing bean dish even without that bacon ….

beans

Pull out a large fry pan and saute until carmelized:

2 cups chopped white onions

1 pack bacon (partially frozen so you can easily slice it thinly)

Take your time with this step,the richer the color you get on your onions the more flavour your beans will take on.

In a large disposable foil tin, stir in 4 cans of beans.  This is really your own preference, feel free to use any combination of kidney, canelli, black or baked beans.

In a separate bowl stir together:

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dry mustard

Combine beans, carmelized onion and bacon mixture and the seasoning blend.  Stir well, tightly cover with foil (using a sharp knife poke holes in the lid) and smoke in your electric smoker at 275 for about 3 hours.  Yes, they will be runny when they come out, but allow to sit for a few minutes and you won’t believe how quickly they disappear.

 

smoked beans

Smoked Chicken in electric smoker

Pulled pork is incredible, and all the rage everywhere …. I understand that, and love it.  However, a few of my faithful friends and family that love me cooking for them, and I love cooking for them …. aren’t into pork.  So, my response is always to do a smoked chicken at the same time.  Usually all the pork eaters gobble down the pulled pork as their main meal, and then they just can’t keep their fingers from snacking and grabbing at bits of the smoked chicken.  Not only is it incredibly moist and delicous, that remaining carcass makes delicious soup stock!  I think the secret is in the brine.  Always an extra step, but if you are cooking for the love of it, you won’t mind this step at all.

This recipe works well for a 4-6 lb chicken.  I always recommend cutting the chicken in half, it allows for better brining and smoking.  Get your butcher to do it if you like!

Chicken brine

Brine:

2 cups chicken broth (homemade if possible)

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup local honey

2 tbsp raw sugar

2 tsp black peppercorns

4 long sprigs fresh rosemary

4 cloves garlic, smashed lightly to open up the aroma

2 dried chipotle chiles

2-3 bay leaves

Start by bringing 4 cups water to a boil in a pot, stir in the salt first, and dissolve that.  Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  If that doesn’t cool it down enough, add enough ice cubes to completely cool the liquid.  You do not want to put a cold chicken in warm liquid.  Make sure your chicken is completely covered with liquid (adding more cold water if necessary) and put in the fridge for 12 hours.

Remove from brine, rinse well and pat dry.

Mix together:

  • 1½ tbsp of garlic powder
  • 1½ tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt

 

Feel free to play around with these spices and herbs, come up with your own blend!

Give the chicken a generous massage with this rub – treat it well ….. I usually like to wear disposable gloves for this – I find it helps the rub to adhere to the meat better than my hands …

Chicken ready for trhe smoker

At this point, put the chicken on your smoker rack, in the fridge (I put it on a cookie sheet so any remaining drips don’t end up in my fridge)  Allowing the chicken to completely dry out in the fridge, while soaking up these spices makes for a crispier skin.  Honestly, if you are doing this in an electric smoker you may find that the skin still doesn’t get crispy but you can always finish it up on the bbq or the broiler if you desire.

Place in electric smoker, which has been preheated to 250, and smoke for 3 hours.  *Usually I’ve had my pork in there for 4 hours already …*  Check the temperature – you ultimately want to end at 165 degrees, and do not go beyond that.  Usually this takes about 4 hours at 250.  When you reach that temperature, remove from smoker and tightly wrap in foil, allowing to rest for an hour.  At that point it will usually shread easily from the bones.  Make sure to reserve those bones for soup stock!

Serve with the usual pulled meat accompaniements …. creamy coleslaw, extra barbecue sauce and really fresh buns.

Pulled Chicken

 

 

 

Asian Marinade for Chicken or Pork

Asian Marinade for Chicken or Pork

 

I love the balance of flavours in this marinade, it just has the right amount of sweet, heat, sour and salt …. and caramelizes perfectly on the grill.  I find it works really well on pork chops or chicken thighs but I’m sure it would be great on just about anything.

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp Sriracha sauce

1 tbsp chile garlic paste

2 tsp sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

zest & juice of 1 orange

juice of 1/2 lime

Make enough marinade for 8 pork chops or 12 chicken thighs.

Garnish:  lime, roughly chopped cilantro and green onions.

Place all marinade ingredients in food processor and give it a good whiz.  Pour half of it in a ziplock bag with meat and reserve the rest.  Give the meat a massage and allow to marinade for 30 minutes at the least and up to 8 hours.

Put reserved marinade in a small sauce pan and cook over moderate heat until reduced and thickened.

Heat grill, and grill meat, brushing with the reduced marinade.