Slow Cooked Pork Tacos
My oven has died. It was a bitter-sweet day. Bitter, because it ruined a perfectly good roast beef dinner but sweet because that was the kick-start I needed for the kitchen renovation. Yes! A broken oven has resulted in a whole new kitchen. With d-day looming I was able to squeeze in one last supper before the kitchen was
demolished removed by the lucky winner of our eBay auction. Yes, we really did sell our old kitchen on an internet auction site but that is a whole other story.
It was the thermostat that broke on the oven so for the last three months I haven’t been able to cook anything that requires an accurate or high temperature. That means I’ve been starved of my usual winter favourites of Yorkshire Puddings and roast pork with crispy crackling. I have, however, been able to do slow cooking. Cooking that requires a low temperature and you aren’t in a hurry to eat.
My oven has been good to me for the last five years. We were pretty pleased when we moved in; of the previous three houses we have lived it, it was probably the best of the lot. Our house was an ex-rental property, and I think the oven had been more for show than use. I have certainly given it a good work out though. To bid it a fond farewell I wanted to cook one of my favourites: slow roast pork belly. Ordinarily if I was going to slow cook pork belly, I would follow this recipe and aim for the most perfect, crispy crackling, but the oven just wasn’t up to it. My second favourite way to cook pork is to slow cook it for a pulled pork taco type dish. Because you are serving the pork in Tacos with lots of delicious accompaniments you don’t miss the crispy crackling too much.
I have a favourite bar in the city that does the best pulled pork Tacos, so this is my attempt to recreate that dish. To get the most authentic flavour, you really have to make your own Tacos. The shop bought ones are ok but nothing compared to ones you make yourself. I made this simple recipe from The $120 Food Challenge. According to Sandra, you can make these Taco’s for less than it costs to buy them and they taste so much better. That’s a win-win situation if ever I heard one.
I adapted my marinade recipe from a Ben O’Donoghue recipe featured in the December 2007 edition of Delicious magazine. He barbeques the pork, but at this time of year I prefer to slow cook in the oven (it warms up my house, as well as providing a great dinner). His recipe also contains a lot of jalapeno chillies. I just can’t handle the heat so I use just one red chilli. If you can handle something a bit hotter than me, feel free to add up to 6 chillies and leave the seeds in if you are that way inclined. I increase the garlic content to compensate for the reduced chillies, I also throw in some smoked paprika (my current, favourite spice). The measurements for this marinade do not have to be exact; however, I have put the measurements for the lime juice in ml rather than quantity of limes as I find limes vary so much when it comes to how juicy they are. For this recipe I was lucky enough to be using juice from my Kaffir limes which were actually juicier than expected.
I have been vague with the number of people this serves as it depends how hungry you are and how large the piece of pork belly is. Regardless of how big the pork is I always use the same amount of marinade as you can cook it up and serve it as a sauce with the pork.
Slow Cooked Pork (serves 2-6)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed, roughly chopped
zest from a quarter of the orange
1 orange, peeled, quartered and any tough pith and seeds removed
zest of half a lime
30ml lime juice
1 can good quality, whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of sweet, smoked paprika
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
750g-1.5kg pork belly
To make the marinade, put the garlic; chilli; orange segments and zest; lime zest and juice into a food processor. Add the whole tomatoes from the tin reserving the excess tomato juice for later. Add the rest of the herbs, spices and the white wine vinegar and blitz until it forms a loose paste. It won’t be smooth because of the whole tomatoes and oranges but you need to make sure you puree it for long enough that the garlic and chilli are well incorporated.
To prepare the pork belly, remove the skin. I know this goes against everything I believe in, but you just don’t need crackling for this dish. Lightly score the pork flesh at 2 cm intervals on each side. Make sure you don’t cut all the way through the meat, 1-2ml depth will allow the marinade to flavour the meat inside and out.
Put the pork and marinade in a non-reactive dish or zip lock bag and marinade. Ideally, place in the fridge over night, but if you are pressed for time a few hours will suffice. The longer you marinade the pork, the tastier and more tender it will be. That was motivation enough to get me out of bed on a public holiday as I wasn’t organised enough to do it the day before.
When you are ready to cook your pork, pre-heat the oven to around 150-160 degrees Celsius. The temperature is not critical, it just needs to be low. Neither is the cooking time, basically the longer you cook the pork for the more tender it will be (within reason, obviously it does reach a burnt, tough point). You could probably get away with cooking a small piece for 2 hours. Larger pieces will require 3 hours. I cooked my 750g piece for 3 hours.
Place your pork in a roasting tray or dish about the same size as your pork. You want it to fit snugly otherwise your marinade will burn. Put a tablespoon or two of the marinade ontop of your pork and put half a centimeter or so of water in the bottom of the tray. Reserve most of your marinade for basting and to make into a sauce.
I wouldn’t normally recommend using your marinade for a sauce as the obvious problems with raw meat and food poisoning. However, as long as you cook the sauce thoroughly, at high temperature, you should kill all of the nasties. I have made this recipe many times and have never given anyone food poisoning!
Check the pork occasionally as it cooks to check the marinade is not burning, baste with extra marinade as required. You may need to top up the water in the tray occasionally if it dries out. Having the water in the bottom of the tray stops the pork from drying out but make sure you don’t put too much water in the tray otherwise the pork will boil rather than roast.
To make the sauce place the remaining marinade in a small pan and add the remainder of the tomato juice from the can of tomatoes. Bring to the boil, and simmer for at least 5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
To serve, shred the meat with two forks and load up your Tacos with meat, tomato sauce, guacamole and sour cream. Serve with your favourite Mexican accompaniments like re-fried beans or simple, boiled corn.