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Paying tribute to Mexico

As we celebrate Cinco de Mayo today, I must devote a post to Mexican food, even though this blog largely centers around Norwegian food.   Not only is Mexican food one of my all time favorite foods, but I have a close connection to this country and its cuisine.  During my time in culinary school I also had an opportunity to assist the amazing Diana Kennedy, who, despite being a native of the United Kingdom, is largely considered the authority on Mexican food and cooking (she has lived in Mexico since 1957).  In one of her books she comments, “Mexican food is earthy food, festive food, happy food, celebration food.  It is in short, peasant food raised to the level of high and sophisticated art.”  How true that is!

chiledisplay

My first encounter with Mexico was through  my very first roommate in college,  Andrea, who is Mexican- Norwegian. Yes, that’s correct! Faith had it so that we would meet and live together, despite our vastly different backgrounds.  A true friendship was created, and we are still close friends to this day.   I spent my first Christmas ever away from Norway in Oregon, where her parents lived at the time,  and they would observe Norwegian traditions like prepare lefser and lutefisk.   Andrea’s Mexican father would douse the lutefisk with about half a gallon of hot sauce, commenting “It’s the only way you can eat this stuff!”   Not a fan myself, I silently agreed with him but was simultaneously impressed he would even go near this gelatinous dish.

One summer,  Andrea and her family graciously invited me to Andrea’s father Raul’s homeland of Mexico, where we would spend three weeks divided between Raul’s tiny hometown, Tlaquiltenango,  Mexico City and  Acapulco. I truly had the best time of my life there, experiencing the authentic culture of this extraordinary country, and of course… enjoying the most amazing food.  The smell of fresh, home made corn tortillas that greeted me in Andrea’s grandmother’s kitchen every day has forever imprinted in my mind. The meat for dinner were literally being butchered in the back yard,  and later transformed into the most wonderfully aromatic stew that would fill the entire house.  Eating at Mexican restaurants in the U.S. following this trip never quite became the same, and it was during this summer I truly fell in love with Mexico; its food, its beautiful people,  stunning scenery and incredible history.

Andrea and I in Acapulco back when:

sunnyandandreacapulco

Later on in life, faith struck again, as I met the love of my life; my husband Mark, who so happened to be Mexican-American. Born and raised in Texas, and a chef by trade, he was the only one who could replicate the tastes I so vividly recalled from my summer with Andrea’s family.  After we married, we ran a catering company together up until last year,  and we would also participated in local farmer’s market where we would sell Mark’s fabulous tacos.  This must be the most brilliant food ever invented – so simple but so flavorful – a food that truly exhibits the love and care of who prepared it.   Today I want to share our recipe for pulled pork tacos – a best seller at all the markets we did.   I have a hard time limiting the post to one recipe because let’s face it:  Is there another country in the world who can match Mexico’s culinary diversity? I have a hard time thinking of any.  Rest assured I’m not referring to the Americanized burritos, chimichangas and quesadillas!

This food is not about fancy tricks and new twists,  it’s about simplicity and being able to taste the authentic flavors of Mexico.   We top our pork tacos with green sauce (salsa verde), chopped onion and cilantro and a nice slice of avocado. That’s all this dish needs! Start the dish a couple of days before you will serve and eat it – the meat needs time to marinate and cook slowly in order to extract as much flavor as possible.  The time it requires will more than worth it in the end!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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PULLED PORK TACOS w/SALSA VERDE

1 x 8 lb pork butt shoulder

*Taco Seasoning (you can buy this in the store but see below for a recipe to make your own)

1/2 cup brown sugar

3-4 tbsp smoked paprika

kosher salt

To prepare pork:

If the pork as a very thick fat side score it.  Rub the pork generously with kosher salt, Taco Seasoning, smoked paprika and brown sugar.  Place in a bowl in refrigerator and let sit overnight or at least 5-6 hours.

Place in slow cooker with about 1 cup water and cook for about 12-15 hours.  Once done, let cool slightly in the juice and the pull the meat.

*Taco Seasoning Recipe

2 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp ancho chili powder

3 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a jar, shake well and reserve until using.

Salsa Verde:

3 lbs tomatillos

2 onions, cut into 2 inch thick slices

3-4 jalapenos

1 bunch cilantro

Juice of 2-3 limes

salt to taste

pinch of sugar

First, place the tomatillos in a bowl of water – this makes it easier to remove the husks.

tomatilloswashed

Next,  place the tomatillos on a sheet tray in one single layer and roast them in the oven at 400F or alternatively place them in the broiler, for about 30 minutes or so until they are charred and soft:

tomatilloscharredAlternatively, you can boil the tomatillos –  place them in a large pot of water and cook for about the same time (3o minutes). This produces a bit of a different flavor – my husband seemed to prefer them boiled at one point but you can experiment with both methods!

Simultaneously,  place the onions and jalapenos on a sheet tray, coat with a bit of oil and sprinkle with salt and roast in oven for 30 minutes until charred.

In a blender, place the tomatillos, onions and jalapenos (be careful if they are piping hot, don’t fill it all the way to the top), and puree for a few seconds.  Add in a handful of cilantro, season with salt and a dash of sugar and lime juice and puree again until fairly smooth.  Do this in batches until everything is done.  Cool and quart up the sauce.

Other ingredients:

1 vidalia Onion, diced finely

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1-2 Haas avocados

1 pack corn tortillas (I like the Guerrero brand – if you don’t want to make your own)

Mix the onion and cilantro together and place in a container.

To assemble tacos:   Heat up tortillas on the gas grill and char them lightly on both sides, place in a towel to keep them warm.  Place a handful of pulled pork in taco, top with salsa verde, then onion-cilantro mix and an avocado slice on top and sprinkle with a bit of salt.  Serve with a slice of lime and watch people gobble these up!!

Later this summer I will share my recipe for skirt steak tacos with home made pico de gallo made from heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s markets!  Follow me on Facebook!

porktacos

6 thoughts on “Paying tribute to Mexico

  1. Janet Rörschåch says:

    Lovely and incredibly envious that you worked along side Diana Kennedy. She is my go-to source for all cooking/technique Mexican. Thanks to her I make a solid mole.

    • Sunny says:

      Yes, she was terrifying actually – a very strong woman with her ways of doing things and she kept me on my toes but of course I would do nothing but obey!!🙂 Her knowledge is surpassed by no one, so the day I spent with her I will value for the rest of my life!🙂

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