Monday, May 2, 2011

Pulled Pork Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

Cinco de Mayo is on the agenda this week. This holiday is mainly celebrated in the U.S. as a Mexican heritage day. It is significant because it commerates the day Mexican armies defeated the French in Puebla, Mexico.

For many this holiday is a feast day. It's the perfect time to eat some authentic Mexican food and have a margarita. I've been trying the Mexican restaurants around Montreal and recently discovered one with a small market to buy Mexican groceries. This place is Chipotle and Jalapeno on Rue Amherst.

I picked up some annatto paste, also known as achiote, and now it's time to let it work some tasty kitchen magic. This spice comes from the achiote tree. It has a peppery nutmeg flavor and naturally colors meats with a eye-catching shade of reddish-orange.

This slow cooker recipe combines citrus juices and annatto to create a flavorful taco filling. I've used soft flour tacos and garnished them with cilantro, panela cheese and pickled red onions.

3 pound bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed
½ of the block (1.75 ounces) of annatto/achiote paste
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Flour or corn tortillas, to serve
Fresh cilantro, to serve
Panela, or another fresh, crumbly Mexican cheese or feta

Add the pork shoulder to the slow cooker. Use a fork to break apart the annatto paste and combine it with the citrus juices. Pour the mixture over the pork and turn to coat. Sprinkle over the oregano.

Cook on low for 6 hours or until the pork pulls away from the bone easily. Remove the bones and shred the meat with a fork for serving. Pour some of the juice over the pork to keep it moist. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside warm tortillas, fresh cilantro, pickled red onions and a crumbly Mexican cheese or feta.

Pickled Red Onions
2 small red onions, sliced wafer thin
1 jalapeno, deseeded and quartered lengthwise
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 4 limes
1 teaspoon sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the burner, add the sliced onions and allow them to steep for 10 minutes.

In a small jar, add the quartered jalapeno and orange and lime juices. After the onions have lost firmness, drain the water away. Sprinkle the salt over the onions and use a fork to mix evenly. Add the onions to the jar, close the lid and shake the jar gently to combine well. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

Serves 6-8

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