Today, I have a Tex-Mex-inspired (Texas via Paris) dish for you – Pulled Pork Al Pastor. My vegan and vegetarian friends, you may look away now, but wait – you – don’t leave me! If what’s on your mind is fork-tender meat that’s flavourful and braised to perfection without a trace of dryness, then you’ve come to the right place! I have just the recipe for you. I adapted this from a curious little cookbook called “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” by expat culinary creative Ellise Pierce. She also has a blog with the same name.
If you want home-cooked pulled pork that sings like a fierce operetta, warble these 4 key secrets out loud: 1) use an earthenware or enamelled Dutch oven like Le Creuset or Staub; 2) use a cut piece of parchment paper to seal the meat in the Dutch oven – this locks in the moisture; 3) do not let the pot boil – long and slow does it; 4) pineapple is an essential component in tenderizing the meat, so don’t even think about leaving that out.
Stay true to the recipe and you will be rewarded with pulled pork that’s as cowboy as Texas…or Mexico…or Paris?! You’re going to love this – I did! Note that this is perfect for tacos as well. Pull out your corn tortillas, and serve the pork with the usual suspects: lime wedges, chopped onions, chopped jalapeños, and cilantro leaves. Liven it up with roasted tomato or tomatillo salsa and you’ve got yourself a fiesta!
Interesting enough, cooking al pastor (Spanish for ‘of the shepherd’) has its roots in Middle Eastern shawarma, an influence brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. Typically, al pastor in Mexico is a chile-marinated meat that’s spit-roasted in a vertical rotisserie called a trompo. In Texas, where their cooking is heavily influenced by Mexico (hence the Tex-Mex moniker), al pastor is a mainstay. But because the regular home kitchen doesn’t usually have such a contraption, a Dutch oven is quite suitable for churning out equally delicious pulled pork.
- 2 to 3 pounds (1 - 1.5 kilos) boneless pork butt (pork shoulder picnic can be substituted)
- vegetable or olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
- 1 medium onion, sliced into half-moons
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- peel of 1 navel orange
- ⅓ cup (75 ml) orange-flavoured liqueur, such as Cointreau
- ¾ cup (180 ml) adobo salsa*
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- ½ of a fresh pineapple, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) chunks
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 to 5 limes, sliced into wedges
- 1 medium onion, finely minced
- handful of cilantro, finely chopped
- Season the pork with salt and pepper 1 hour before cooking.
- Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C) and position a rack in the lowest level.
- Meanwhile, on the stove top over medium heat, drizzle with oil a Dutch oven big enough to hold the meat. When the pot is hot, brown your meat on all sides, then take it out and let rest on a plate.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the half-moon onion slices and garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the orange peel and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add the Cointreau liqueur and using a wooden spoon, scrape off the browned bits at the bottom of the pot.
- Whisk the adobo salsa with 1 cup of water and pour this mixture into the pot.
- Stir in the pineapple chunks, cumin, and oregano. Adjust seasoning at this point with some salt.
- Turn the heat off and add the pork back to the pot. The liquid should come up to about ⅓ on the side of the meat.
- Cut a piece of round parchment paper to fit down the pot and press this right onto the piece of pork. This will help keep the moisture in and thrown the juices back to the meat.
- Cover the pot and slide it onto the lowest rack. Cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, checking every now and then that it is simmering, not boiling. Flip the meat to the other side at about halfway point and place parchment paper back on top. It is ready when the meat falls away with a gentle tug of a spoon. Let this cool in the pot for a couple of hours to keep the juices locked in, before you shred the meat off. Do not throw out the cooking liquid, as you should store unused and unshredded meat in the braising liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Serve with lime wedges, onions, and cilantro on the side.