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Tacos al Pastor

Tacos al Pastor

Serves: makes about 12 to 14 tacos

Tacos al Pastor


3 pounds pork shoulder or butt, sirloin cutlets or butterfly chops, cut into 1/2-inch slices

3 cups achiote adobo marinade (recipe follows)

Half of a pineapple, peeled, cut into ½-inch slices

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

Kosher or coarse sea salt, to taste

12 to 14 corn tortillas (use flour tortillas if turning these tacos into “gringas”)

Shredded queso asadero, Mexican Oaxaca or Chihuahua, or mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or any melty cheese of your choice (optional, to be turned into “gringas”)

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro, to garnish

1 cup roughly chopped white onion, to garnish

2 limes, cut into quarters, to garnish

Salsa of your choice

To Prepare

Marinate the meat in the adobo marinade for at least 3 hours, or up to 48 hours, in the refrigerator. Reserve 3/4 cup of marinade to brush on the pineapple before grilling/cooking and to finish off meat.

When ready to make tacos, remove the meat from the refrigerator. Brush some of the reserved marinade on the pineapple slices. Reserve the remaining marinade.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a tablespoon of oil. Place as many pineapple slices as will fit on the skillet and sear for about 3 minutes per side, until juicy and lightly charred on both sides. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut the pineapple into thin slices about 1 to 2-inches long and 1/4-inch wide, removing the core. Place in a bowl and cover.

Drizzle another tablespoon of oil onto the skillet. Lightly sprinkle the meat with salt to taste. Sear as many slices of meat as will fit in the pan, without over crowding, for about 2 minutes per side until browned on both sides. Cook in batches if necessary. Place the meat on a chopping board. Cut it crosswise into thin slices about 1/4-inch thick and 1-inch wide.

Once done with all the meat, reduce the heat to medium, place the meat back in the skillet and pour the rest of the unused marinade on top. Stir and cook for another minute. Cover and set on the table.

On a pre-heated cast iron skillet or comal set over medium heat, heat the corn tortillas 1 to 2 minutes per side until thoroughly cooked, lightly browned and crisp on the outside. Place them in a tortilla warmer and bring to the table along with the meat, pineapple, chopped cilantro, chopped onion, lime wedges, and salsa of your choice. Let everyone assemble their own tacos.

Note: If you want to offer some “gringas,” heat flour tortillas on the comal and, once hot, add the melty cheese, fold, and let it melt as if it were a quesadilla. Once melted, re-open the tortilla, add a generous tablespoon or two of the sliced meat, fold again and serve.


Achiote Adobo Marinade
Adobo de Achiote

Serves: makes about 2 cups


2 guajillo chiles

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup roughly chopped white onion

2 tablespoons achiote paste

1 cup bitter orange juice (or substitute with 1/3 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup lime juice and 1/3 cup white distilled vinegar)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground true or ceylon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste

To Prepare

Stem and seed the guajillo chiles. Toast them on a pre-heated comal or skillet, set over medium heat, for about 1 to 2 minutes per side until they are toasted, but not burnt. Place the chiles in a saucepan, add enough water to cover them, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until the chiles are plumped up and rehydrated.

In a blender, place the chiles along with 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid and the rest of the ingredients. Puree until smooth. Use as a marinade.


Tacos de pescado adobado con salsa de piña
Serves 6

2 oz or 3 ancho chiles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup white onion, coarsely-chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of mild and firm fish fillets like snapper, striped bass, rock fish, snook or tilapia
4 pineapple slices
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, chopped, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher or coarse sea salt, to taste
Corn tortillas

To make the Adobo Sauce:
Cover the chiles with boiling hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Pace the chiles along with 1/2 cup of soaking liquid, onion, garlic, oregano, vinegar, sugar and salt in the blender. Purée until smooth.

In a saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil. Once hot, pour the sauce into the oil; cover the saucepan, leaving it slightly open, and let the sauce season and thicken for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring here and there. Remove from the heat.

To make the Fish:
Baste the fish fillets with the adobo sauce; you may refrigerate them and let them marinate for up to 24 hours.

In a large skillet coated with oil and set over medium-high heat, cook the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

To make the Salsa:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or a nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Cook the pineapple slices for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from the heat, once cool enough to handle cut into bite-size chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and toss with the cilantro, chile, lime juice, oil and salt to taste.

To assemble Tacos:
Place the warm tortillas, the pineapple salsa and the fish on the table, then assemble the tacos!

Camarones al tequila
Serves 3 to 4

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Tequila Reposado
1/4 cup Mexican cream, Latin style cream, crème fraiche or heavy cream
1 tablespoon chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, or to taste
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, optional, seeded and minced
10 chives, sliced

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large and heavy sauté pan set over medium-high heat, let the butter melt. Once it starts to sizzle, add the garlic; stir and cook for 10 to 15 seconds, until it becomes fragrant.

Incorporate the shrimp, making sure that the pan is not overcrowded, and let them brown on one side and then the other, for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don’t let them overcook; they should be browned on the outside but barely cooked through.

Add the tequila, and slightly tilt the pan over the flame to ignite it. Let it cook until the flames disappear. Stir in the cream and the chipotle sauce (and the seeded minced chile if using).

Serve immediately, with the chives sprinkled on top.

February 4, 2012

Barbacoa is one of those iconic Mexican foods.

Juicy, tender meat that falls off the bone, infused with a rustic, smoky flavor and a jungle like fragrance. It uses a cooking technique that began in ancient times, long before the Spanish arrived, and it lives on to this day across Mexico in places that specialize in making it. Of course, there are accessible homestyle versions too.

Abroad, so many people have heard of barbacoa and want to have a taste of the real thing. The people I’ve talked to that have tried it are dying to repeat the experience. In Mexico it has never ever gone out of fashion, and it is especially rooted in the central part of the country, where I grew up.

True, that barbacoa sounds much like barbeque. Though it is from a type of barbacoa that Americans got the idea to cook barbeque, it’s not the Mexican kind, but the Native American found here in the US, which used to be outdoors and above the ground. In Mexico we call ours barbacoa too (thanks to the Spanish!), but the Mexican way is completely different: the meat is wrapped tightly in banana leaves, cooked for many (so very many!) hours in an underground pit with an initial heating base of burning wood, walls of brick and smoldering rocks that are sealed with a kind of clay, and finally steamed and cooked overnight.

If you haven’t tried it, this is your chance to make it! And no, you don’t need an underground pit, there are ways to go about it and you can cook it away while you are tucked away in your bed…

Continue reading Lamb Barbacoa in Adobo

February 13, 2011

Shortly after posting one of my first Basic Ingredients posts, on Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Cath Kelly from Australia commented: “I’ve been desperately looking for a recipe to make Chipotles in Adobo. We smoke our own Jalapeños which turn out beautiful, and this is the next step in my cooking process. Please hurry up and cook them up for us!”

Australia… An exotic place for someone to wonder how to make this addicting and versatile Mexican chile pickle. What’s more, as much as Chipotles in Adobo are a basic staple in Mexican cooking, most Mexicans buy them ready-made in cans in stores and of extraordinary quality.

Think mustard, do you buy it or make your own?

Then again, time has proved there are more people into making things from scratch than what I thought: The most visited Post on my site, by far, is the one to make Pickled Jalapeños. Another chile pickle devoured by Mexicans from morning ’til night, from north to south, also usually bought ready-made in cans.

Well, Cath, it has taken me a while. I am sorry. It has not been because I didn’t have your request in mind. On the contrary, I’ve been testing and tweaking my recipe here and there, for over a year (!) so that when you make it, it can be better than what you get in the stores.

Continue reading You Asked for It: Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce

June 12, 2010
chipotle shrimp

Shrimp tend to be perceived as a treat. That fancy item on a menu.

Think about what happens at a shrimp station on a Sunday buffet. It gets crowded. Even if you didn’t feel like eating shrimp, if there’s a shrimp station, chances are you will eat them. Your mom, your dad, your husband or friends will look at your shrimp-less plate and push some shrimp onto your plate.

Growing up in Mexico City, family Sunday lunches with the dozens and dozens members of our immediate family included giant shrimp from the Mercado de la Viga.  There was so much anticipation as to when they would majestically appear on that huge platter carried by my grandmother. Before they got to the table, people started sneaking away some. So my grandmother decided to set a pre-lunch agreement on the number of shrimp per head, to avoid childish grown up wording snaps like “YOU always get the extra shrimp” or sudden door slams.

So when I was asked to develop a Mexican menu for the 2010 RAMMYS Awards I just had to include shrimp. I paired them with some signature Mexican ingredients: smoky and hot Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, tangy and salty Mexican Cream and the iconic Tequila Reposado.

Continue reading Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp

February 1, 2010
Chipotle Guacamole

I am not one to prepare for disasters.

People can tell me a thousand times that severe thunderstorms are approaching, that a dry spell is forcasted or that a shortage of something essential like water (or coffee) will happen, and no, I will not be among the first to run for shelter nor stock up on provisions. I don’t know if it is my continuous belief that despite humps and downs eventually things turn out OK or if I am lacking an alarm button…I just don’t panic.

When I took it as a serious matter to go to the grocery store in the middle of my work day, at a rather inconvenient time, it wasn’t because there is a strong snowstorm coming (though my boys did give me an absurdly long grocery list to prepare for it), it was because we ran out of Mexican avocados.

Continue reading Chipotle Guacamole for any Party (or Disaster)

December 18, 2009
pollo pibil

Last December, Daniel and I went to Yucatán. I was swept off my feet by the grandiose nature and history of the old Haciendas, but mostly by the uniqueness of the cuisine. It stands out from the rest of the country; with its aromatic, pungent, citrus flavors, charred and toasted ingredients and elements not found anywhere else.

Since at the Institute we established topics for the 2009 program in January and I left Yucatán as a December closing session, by the time class came around I was desperate to share these flavors. What a tortuous self imposed wait!

Of course Pollo Pibil had to be included, as it is one of the most loved dishes of the area. The rest of the menu was built around: Dzotobi-chay tamales, Mexican avocado soup, strained beans, a yellow rice, and old fashioned flan for dessert.

Continue reading Pollo Pibil

Continue reading
Pollo Pibil


May 5, 2009

Chipotles in adobo sauce are one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. They are ready to be spooned on top or inside of almost anything: quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, grilled meats… Yet, they are also a wonderful cooking ingredient to use for making a wide range of dishes, from soups to moles, from salsas to stews and even mashed potatoes.  Chipotles have truly unique layers of flavor that come together in a most wonderful way: smoky, sweet, deep, rich and pleasantly spicy.

Continue reading Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

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