May 6, 2009

TacoFest 2009

Casual Cinco de Mayo Dinner
(Serves 15)

Carnitas Tacos
Nacho Tots
Mexican Slaw
Spicy Brownies
Lots of cold Mexican beer (Corona, Sol, Dos Equis)


If you search on-line there are a ton of different theories on how to make carnitas. Mine isn’t the shortest or easiest method but it’s really delicious & you can absolutely make it a day or two in advance.

10lb pork shoulder
Four tablespoons each of garlic salt, ground black pepper and ground cumin
Peanut oil
One 24oz. bottle Mojo Criollo marinade*
One cup salsa fresca (canned or jarred is great)

Put a large stock pot with high sides over medium-high heat and add half an inch of peanut oil. Remove the skin and the thick layer of fat and cut the pork off the bone and into 1-2 inch cubes. Combine salt, pepper and cumin in a shallow bowl and dredge pork lightly. Fry the cubes in batches until browned and crispy on all sides and set aside, adding more oil as needed. The pork won’t be cooked through but don’t worry – the frying is just to get a nice crust so the pork has crispy ends when it’s all over.

When all the pork is browned, drain off the remaining oil and put the pan back on the heat. Add about a cup of the Mojo marinade and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits and spices that have stuck to the bottom. Reduce the heat and add the pork and the remainder of the marinade to the pot. Add water until it just covers all the pork, cover the pot and let it come to a boil. It will take awhile for the liquid to heat up but once it’s boiling, remove the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it go for about two hours until the pork is tender and falling apart.

Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes. Drain off cooking liquid but don’t discard it – you’ll use it later. Using two forks, shred the pork, being careful to discard any fat that didn’t cook off.

I usually prepare everything up to this point and then re-heat it when I’m ready to serve. When it’s time to eat, heat the pork over medium heat adding some of the reserved cooking liquid and a cup of salsa fresca to keep it moist and flavorful. I like to warm it up in a big crockpot so it stays hot throughout the party and everyone can grab a taco when they’re ready.

Try it in a toasted corn tortilla with chopped onion & cilantro, a slice of pickled jalapeno and a squeeze of lime. Or go for Tacos al Pastor and add a thin spear of pineapple – so good.

* You can usually find Mojo Criollo in the Latin foods aisle at the grocery store. If your store doesn’t carry it you can substitute 8 oz. of orange juice, 12 oz. of 7up soda, 4 oz. of water, a chopped onion and five cloves of chopped garlic.

Nacho Tots

I could probably call these Soon-To-Be-World-Famous Nacho Tots but I can’t take any credit – we discovered these at The Vortex, a crazy burger joint/biker bar here in Atlanta. They have, arguably, the best burgers in town but I’m always too full of tots to enjoy one!

Here’s how to re-create them at home:

Cook tater tots according to the package directions and pile on a large oven-safe serving platter. Top with shredded cheese, salsa or chili, black beans, chopped onions, sliced jalapenos and olives – whatever you want. Put the platter on a baking sheet and pop it into a 300 degree oven until the cheese is melted. Top the tots with sour cream and shredded lettuce and stand back – your friends are going to attack them!

Chili Lime Slaw

This is a non-mayonnaise coleslaw – it’s a tangy and fresh side dish. Or try a little in your taco…

It’s super simple: Toss two bags of coleslaw mix (green and red sliced cabbage and shredded carrot) with the Chili Lime Vinaigrette recipe below and leave it for a few hours or overnight until the cabbage is wilted but still crunchy.

Chili Lime Vinaigrette
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves


Erin said...

Fantastic! Wonderful shin-dig last night. Best tacos in Atlanta - seriously, you cook some mean pork.

Happier Than Most said...

I wish I lived closer. Between you and the Chicken Man, I would be the best fed girl in town! Two months to Caswell! Will you make the Nacho Tots when we are there?