Tag Archives: pork

Nick James’ Pork Taco Recipe

Here is the recipe Nick James gave me from our recent Taco Tuesday tasting.  These tacos were amazing and between these and the chicken tacos, I think that these win.

Pork Tacos

Add the following in the pan :

  1. 1 can mango nectar
  2. splash of vinegar
  3. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  4. 1/4 onion, chopped
  5. Add 1/2 pound or so of pork shoulder
  6. 2 – 3 tsp chili powder
  7. 2 – 3 tsp red pepper flakes
  8. 1 tbsp brown mustard
  9. 1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or 3 – 4 tbsp chipotle sauce)
  10. 2 – 3 tsp hot sauce of choice
  11. 2 – 4 jalapeno slices with splash of juice

Simmer 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and pull meat from bone (if applicable).  Return to sauce.  Simmer 10 – 15 minutes or more.

EAT!!!!!!!!!!!

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REVIEW – El Habanero

Noyen stands in the fairly full parking lot of El Habanero as we make our entrance

Noyen stands in the fairly full parking lot of El Habanero as we make our entrance

El Habanero

3500 S 8146 W

3 stars out of 5

There is so much good Mexican food around Salt Lake that we cannot be everywhere at once.  This is where you come in.  I recently received word from a fellow taco enthousiast named Collette that we needed to try a restaurant which serves great Cochinita Pibil.  As I am a fan of Cochinita Pibil (click here if you didn’t read the bit I wrote about it), I had to try it out.  So Noyen and I jumped in the car.  And we headed west.  We continued heading west.  And then we headed west a bit more. We saw many amazing things, but I will leave that to Noyen.

We snapped this photo to illustrate how far west we went.  8164.  WEST!!!  I think in the phonebook its probably listed as DEEP MAGNA.  I didnt know it was possible to go that far west without crossing state lines.

We snapped this photo to illustrate how far west we went. 8164. WEST!!! I think in the phonebook it's probably listed as DEEP MAGNA. I didn't know it was possible to go that far west without crossing state lines.

Finally as we thought we were going to start ascending the mountains which make up the western rim of of the Salt Lake Valley, we arrived at El Habanero to find a packed parking lot.  This apparently is a very popular Mexican joint.  So popular that we noticed it had been applauded by Hollywood celebrities.  But we will get to that in due time.

As we were told that the Cochinita Pibil was the thing to try here, we asked the waitress if this is what she would recommend and she acquiesced that it was their best item on the menu.  Noyen and I both ordered that and checked the place out.  The interior is bright and colorful.  The walls have been refinished so that they almost look like adobe.  The interior might even be higher quality than The Mayan or Denver’s original Casa Bonita.  OK, so it’s not up to that high calibre, but we did enjoy and appreciate it.

My Cochinita Pibil.  I used more tortillas than the 3 depicted here.

My Cochinita Pibil. I used more tortillas than the 3 depicted here.

The horchata was delicious, although it was probably from a simple mix.  The chips were delicious and hot and the salsa was pretty good.  Finally we both got our Cochinita Pibil and dove right in.  The meat was extremely tender and melted in your mouth.  This is usually the case with pibil, but to get this result does require some acidic citrus.  The citrus flavor was much stronger than other pibils that I am used to.  So much so that it was hard to eat with a fork on its own.  I had to eat it in tortillas and beans to help balance it out.  The taste was great, but the citrus was just too strong.  The rice and beans were standard fare.  I would say they compare to a typical restaurant like Chubby’s or La Hacienda.

So while my Pibil was good, it was not as good as others I have had before.  I would say that the pibil at Red Iguana is far and away more enjoyable.  I even think that the Rico’s Cochinita Pibil that you can find in your local supermarket might be a better option but I haven’t had one of those in a long time.  I’ll have to snag one again soon to compare.  So on the whole, the food at El Habanero was average.  Middle of the road.  However, what we didn’t expect to see were signed photos of celebrities who love El Habanero which included :

  • Danny Glover
  • SheDaisy
  • Local girl’s swimming team
  • A creepy looking Santa (watch for it)
A photo and signing expressing Mr. Danny Glovers enthousiasm for El Habanero

A photo and signing expressing Mr. Danny Glover's enthousiasm for El Habanero

I would like to try El Habanero again, but I should try something besides the Pibil.  Do you have any thoughts or comments on this restaurant?  Something I should try next time?

In parting, I leave you with a few scenes from the career of Mr. Glover.  First is the unforgettable moment of Danny sharing his first taco with the Predator.  Thansk to taco enthousiast Collette for this one :

Tacos.  Friend.  Intergalactic borders are melted.

Tacos. Friends. Intergalactic borders are melted.

And here is a wonderful re-enactment of the scene in Lethal Weapon where Mr. Glover hands his hilarious aussie sidekick a taco.  Big thanks to OVENMIT for providing this photo.

Here!  I made you this taco!  Lets make 7 more tacos.  One for each movie!

"" ..riggs, im getting too old for these grande chorizo breakfast burritos!"

Cochinita Pibil

Sweet delicious Cochinita Pibil surrounded by his best friends Red Onions and sleeping on a banana leaf blanket.

Sweet delicious Cochinita Pibil surrounded by his best friends Red Onions and sleeping on a banana leaf blanket.

So recently we talked a bit about Tacos al Pastor.  Now let’s travel to the Yucatan peninsula to explore a dish whose roots come from Mayan tradition : Cochinita Pibil (pronounced ko-cheen-EE-ta pee-BEEL) .  This dish (also called Puerco Pibil) is a dish with pork.  It is slow roasted and it results in extremely tender and delicious meat.  The word cochinita itself is the diminuitive which signifies “little pig” or “baby pig”.  However, I don’t believe that a baby pig is necessary.  If all you have in your own backyard is a pig which has already reached its midlife ennui, then by all means use that pig instead.  The meat is marinated in an extremely acidic citrus juice such as Seville oranges.  Lemons and limes can also be used so that the meat becomes tenderized.

The color comes from the delicious achiote oil which comes from the seed of the annatto which grows in the tropical regions of the Americas.  When it comes time for roasting, it is usually wrapped in a banana leaf.  Traditionally it was buried and fire roasted.  Hence the Mayan word pibil which means buried.  I originally thought it meant delicious, but it turns out I do not have a grasp of Mayan.  Only a grasp of how tasty it is.

Seed pod of the annatto.

Seed pod of the annatto

The dish is usually served with Red Onions (as pictured above).  Some like to eat it plain and others on tortillas.  However you prefer, it’s a delicious treat whose delicious pork melts in your mouth.  Like tacos al pastor, this is something that varies from cocina to cocina so it should be tried everywhere.

Recently while dining with Noyen he mentioned to me that on Robert Rodriguez’ films he provides special features of him making some great mexican dish in his own kitchen.  I looked this up, and lo and behold Youtube had exactly the clip we needed.  Right there.  Waiting for me the whole time.  It turns out that on the DVD for “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” he includes a “ten minute cooking school” lesson of Cochinita Pibil.

In this clip, he also references the great scene in the film where Johnny Depp’s character explains his obsession with “Puerco Pibil”.  During the scene he explains that he tries this dish wherever the wind takes him as he does his business around Mexico.  If the dish is too good, he kills the cook to maintain balance.  Here’s that clip too, because I love it :

Over the next little bit we will explore SLC restaurants (and even grocery store products in your local Smith’s!!!) making Cochinita Pibil and see what we think.  If you have a restaurant making Pibil that we should try or you want to talk about, make it known.

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor

Anytime I try a new taco stand, I always try the Tacos al Pastor.  To me, they are a good indicator of the overall quality of the tacos there.  There are some restaurants in Mexico which are dedicated entirely to this style of taco and in Mexico City it is practically an institution.  However, nearly every time I order one of these someone asks  me what a Pastor taco is and why it is called that instead of “pork taco”.

Let’s dive right in and learn more.

First of all, “al Pastor” means “sheperd style” and many sources cite that its origins come from Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Mexico during the 1960’s and with them came the Shawarma.  Today, tacos al pastor are made from pork  shaved from a spit much like a Shawarma sandwich, a Gyro or a Doner Kebap.

Shaving off some pork into delicious tacos

Shaving off some pork into delicious tacos

After marinating the meat, it is cooked on a rotisserie with a pineapple on top.  The pineapple provides a very sweet flavor which can be nice alongside some strong cilantro or salsa. The marinades are the real unknown factor as you go from stand to stand.  Different regions in Mexico have different recipes for their pastor marinades and these recipes also vary at each restaurant or stand.  These recipe secrets are highly guarded and they also make each taco pastor unique and a reason to come back to that establishment.
These tacos are also often called “tacos de trompo” named after the trompo which is the cylinder that the meat rotates on while slicing it off.  Also, when you see a gringa offered on a menu, this is similar to a pastor, but instead it is served on a wheat tortilla with cheese.  I ordered a gringa once in Puebla on accident and it was one of the greatest things I have ever tasted.

So there we have just one example of a mezcla of different cultures (Middle East meets Mexico) which results in a very delicious treat.  We’ll come back and talk more about tacos al pastor and I will let you in on a little secret : where to mind my absolute favorite tacos al pastor in Salt Lake City.  Stay Tuned.

Taco enthousiast Ethan shows how to properly care for properly care for tacos al pastor while dining at the yet-to-be-disclosed establishment which makes the best pastor in town.

Taco enthousiast Ethan shows how to properly care for tacos al pastor while dining at the yet-to-be-disclosed establishment which makes the best pastor in town.