I was doing a bit of taco research (I can’t think of better research to have to do!) after Scott from Angus & Oink asked if I could put together a couple of recipes to celebrate the launch of his new smokey chipotle chilli sauce, Phat Taco. We’d had a quick brainstorming session and he’d mentioned al pastor, which immediately appealed to me.
Al pastor, also known as tacos al pastor, is a dish that was developed in Central Mexico consisting of spit-grilled meat (shawarma), a cooking style that would have been brought there by Lebanese immigrants. Although similar to the lamb-based Turkish döner kebab and the Greek gyros, tacos al pastor is more commonly made using pork.
The pork is traditionally marinated in a combination of chillies, spices and pineapple and in some areas achiote (a Mexican spice paste) is also used.
In this recipe I’ve put together a simple marinade to echo the flavours of the traditional al pastor, and used pork shoulder steaks which, instead of cooking on a rotisserie, I grill slowly over a medium heat to allow the internal fat to render down and mingle with the marinade. This gives a wonderful combination of crispy, juicy, spiced pork. I’ve not added any chilli heat to the marinade, but rather added that to the salsa. It’s more child friendly for us, but go ahead and add chilli to your taste.
You’ll need your BBQ set up for 2 zone cooking i.e. an area to grill directly over the coals and a cooler, fuel free zone. So bank your lit fuel up on one side of your fuel grate. Alternatively you could cook the pork under the grill of a regular oven set to a medium heat setting (but seriously though, just light the BBQ).
Makes enough for 4 hungry people :)
4 Pork shoulder steaks, approx 650g
12 small corn or flour tortillas
For the marinade…
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tbsp oregano
Juice and zest of a fat lime
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Freshly ground nutmeg, a good grating
1/4 of a small pineapple, blitzed in a food processor or chopped to a pulp
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the grilled pineapple salsa…
The remaining 3/4 of a small pineapple, cored and sliced into strips
Half a medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Half a large red onion, finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh mint
A small bunch of fresh coriander
Juice of a fat lime
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Add the pork steaks and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and set aside in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.
Remove the pork from the fridge an hour before cooking and set up your BBQ as described above.
Grill the pineapple slices over direct heat until nicely charred and lightly coloured. Remove and chop into a small dice. Add the pineapple to the remaining salsa ingredients, mix well and refrigerate until needed. This can be done a few hours in advance if required.
Next, grill the pork steaks over direct heat for 1-2 minutes per side before moving them over to the cooler side of the BBQ. Continue to cook at about 160˚c, with the lid on the BBQ, for another 15 minutes.
Remove the meat from the grill and set aside to rest. Quickly grill the tortillas, 10 seconds per side or so, to warm them through.
Serve the tacos piled full of salsa and juicy, crispy pork and douse in your favourite chilli sauce, in my case it has to be Phat Taco from Angus & Oink. Face filling fabulousness!!
If you plan to cook this dish for a lot of people, I’d highly recommend using a rotisserie if you have one. Marinade a pile of pork shoulder steaks and thread onto the rotisserie. Cook at 180˚c, checking regularly to ensure the exterior isn’t taking on too much colour, and take the meat to an internal temperature of 63˚c.