Braised Tacos Al Pastor
Al pastor tacos consist of an amazing blend of marinated, tender and aromatic pork with pineapple. The meat is similar to shawarma since it is typically slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It is delicious but unfortunately it is difficult to replicate at home. I have changed the cooking method so that instead of spit-roasting the meat, it is braised in the oven in a flavorful sauce. You get the tender braised meat without the hassle and the need for extra equipment.
For the al pastor pork:
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2” slices
Kosher salt, to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 dried guajillo chilies
2 dried ancho chilies
½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons ground annatto (achiote)*
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup chicken stock
1½ cups diced pineapple
3 ½”-thick slices pineapple, cored
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced white onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
36 small white corn tortillas
Avocado-tomatillo salsa verde (optional), for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
For the al pastor pork:
Season the pork on all sides with kosher salt. Heat a 3½-quart (or larger) Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the pieces of pork, working in batches and brown on all sides. Set aside.
Add the chilies, onion, garlic, annatto, oregano, cumin, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, pineapple juice, orange juice and vinegar to a blender. Blend until the mixture is puréed.
Preheat the oven to 325º.
Add the chicken stock to the pot to deglaze the bottom. Add pork back to the Dutch oven, pour the mixture over the top and add the pineapple. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Move the Dutch oven to the oven and cook until the mixture is fork tender, about 2½ hours, rotating the meat halfway through cooking.
Remove the meat, from the braising liquid and let cool. Use two forks to shred the meat then return to the braising liquid.
Preheat a grill or griddle pan to medium heat. Brush the pineapple with oil and grill on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Remove, finely dice and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Season the mixture with salt and set aside.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and put two mini tortillas on top of each other, then warm the tortillas on both sides. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Use tongs to place about ¼ cup of meat on each tortillas. Top with a spoonful of pineapple, onion cilantro mixture and avocado-tomatillo salsa verde (optional).
*Note: the annatto or achiote (the two names are interchangeable) is what gives the al pastor pork its signature bright red color. It can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores.