Food on Friday: Tacos and tots (as in kids, not small fried potatoes)


By Julia Westhoff

One of my favorite things on earth is our monthly Dinner for 10. We make it easy on ourselves by having the host cook the main dish while the rest of us bring sides, drinks, or desserts. Since there are 11 kids between 5 familes, there’s usually a tot or two running around. But last weekend when we hosted no one was able to find a babysitter, and our home temporarily turned into a lovely and loud madhouse.

Knowing that we have some picky eaters in the bunch (like the infamous Stork twins), we thought we’d keep it basic and do a taco night. But instead of ground beef, we decided to spice things up a little with carnitas (pork) and barbacoa (shredded beef). It was surprisingly easy, and we were super pleased with the results. We served the recipes below with corn tortillas, salsa, queso fresco and pickled onions. Que bueno!

Recipes are after the jump.

Carnitas (recipe adapted from foodlab.com)

Ingredients
2 medium onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1 medium orange
6 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut one onion into fine dice and combine with cilantro. Refrigerate until needed. Split remaining onion into quarters. Set aside. Season pork chunks with 1 tablespoon salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add 2 onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

2. Set large fine-meshed strainer 1 quart liquid measure or bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. You should end up with about 1/2 cup liquid and 1/2 cup fat. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface and add back to pork. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Transfer remaining liquid to medium saucepot.

3. Place casserole dish with pork 4-inches under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 6 minutes. Remove pork, stir with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Barbacoa (recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
1 (4 pound) chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 cups diced green chile pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 (5 ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:
1. Trim the roast of any excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the beef in the hot skillet, and brown it quickly on all sides.

2. Transfer the roast to a slow cooker and top it with the chopped onion. Season with chile peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast.

3. Cover, and cook on High for 6 hours, checking to make sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the cooker. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for 2 to 4 hours, or until meat is totally tender and falls apart.

4. Transfer the roast to a bowl and shred it using two forks (reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid, if desired). Serve in tacos or burritos.