My mom was in town and taking inspiration from Cinco de Mayo, we cooked up a little Rick Bayless Mexican food last Friday night. I’m on this Mexican kick lately. I just can’t seem to get enough. Seriously. There is really an amazingly rich and complex world of Mexican food; it’s sad that most Americans just know about cheese enchiladas with rice and beans.
We made Rick Bayless‘s Tacos de Picadillo Oazaqueno and oh man, were they good. Picadillo is a standard meat filling that’s often made with ground beef or pork, but Bayless recommends an alternative method of slowly simmering chunks of pork and then shredding them, which gives the meat a wonderful texture. The shredded pork is then pan-fried with onions for a while before a roasted tomato sauce—hot with chipotles and aromatic with spices—is added. With a little sweetness from raisins and crunch from almonds, the final dish tastes almost like a deconstructed mole, sans chocolate. On a warm, soft corn tortilla, a squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro was all this needed to make a fiesta in my mouth, though a slice of avocado took it to another level. The creamy avocado balanced the spiciness of the pork perfectly. The process was mildly labor-intensive, but the results are so worth it. Plus, you can whip up a huge batch on the cheap and serve a bunch of your friends.
I’ve got so many wonderful recipes to tell you about, but I’m so busy lately, I haven’t the time to write them up! This weekend Henning and I are taking off to LA and Santa Barbara for a little mini-vacation, and hopefully when we get back I’ll have a bit more time.
Tacos de Picadillo Oazaqueno
from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch cubes
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large white onion, diced
2-3 dried, stemmed chipotle chilies or canned chipotle chilies en adobo
1 generous lb. (2 large round or 7-8 plum) ripe tomatoes
2 1/2 tbs olive or vegetable oil or lard, divided
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, preferably canela
1/4 tsp black pepper, preferably freshly ground
1/8 tsp ground cloves, preferably freshly ground
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
In a medium saucepan, cover meat with heavily salted water. Peel and roughly chop 2 cloves of garlic and add along with half of the onion. Bring to a gentle boil, skim off any grayish foam that rises during the first few minutes, partially cover and simmer over medium-low until thoroughly tender, about 1 1/2 hours. If time permits, cool the meat in the broth. Shred it between your fingers or with two forks held back to back. (There will be about 4 cups of meat; reserve broth for soup, if desired).
Prepare the Quick Cooked Tomato Chipotle Sauce: For dried chilies, roast them on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning regularly and pressing flat until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. In a small bowl, cover chilies with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water. If using canned chilies, they only need to be removed from the can.
Roast the remaining 3 cloves garlic on a griddle or skillet, turning occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes; cool and peel. Roast tomatoes on baking sheet 4 inches below heated broiler until charred, about 6 minutes. Turn and roast on the other side, 2-3 minutes. Cool, then peel, collecting all juices with the tomatoes.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse tomatoes, chilies and garlic to medium-fine puree. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil or lard in heavy, medium-size saucepan over medium-high. Add puree and stir for 5 minutes as it sears and thickens. Taste and season with salt.
Prepare the picadillo: In a large, heavy, well-seasoned or nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil or lard over medium-high. When hot, add shredded meat and remaining half of onion. Fry, stirring frequently, until crispy and golden, 12-14 minutes. Add cinnamon, peppers, cloves and raisins. Add tomato-chipotle sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until nearly all liquid has evaporated, 4-5 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds in a small baking pan until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Alternatively, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Add them to picadillo mixture. Taste mixture and season with salt if necessary.
Serve with warm tortillas, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Serves 4 as a main course.