April 30, 2010 12:00 PM
Chilorio for Cinco de Mayo!

Memories from growing up in Mexico City revolve around one celebration or another and mostly center on the foods that just had to be there.  If there was no holiday, anniversary, birthday or special occasion for a formal celebration, then we celebrated the food itself.  Just say the magic words and a get together would spring right up.

Nana made tamales? Fiesta!

Mami made mole? Well, what are you waiting for?

Papi brought real quesadillas potosinas? It is Sunday brunch everyone...

However, as much as I can remember, we didn't celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As kids we reviewed it in passing at school, unless you lived in the state of Puebla.  The place, where on a Cinco de Mayo in 1862, a small Mexican militia won an unexpected victory against the large French army.  It was a short-lived victory, as the French won right back. 

But fast-forward almost a couple centuries later: the French and Spaniards are gone, Mexicans proudly celebrate Independence Day every September 16th, and for a reason no Mexican can explain, Cinco de Mayo has become the most celebrated, joyous and colorful holiday for Mexicans living abroad.  It even surpasses the noise we make for Independence Day.

But of course! Any cause is worthy of celebration, especially if it has become the most grandiose occasion to rejoice on Mexicanness throughout the world.  Thus, at home, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo every year, since we moved to the US more than a dozen years ago.

My food of choice tends to be Chilorio, originally a cowboy dish from the state of Sinaloa, in the North of Mexico.  Chilorio has transcended international boundaries and retained its bold personality.  It is so tasty and popular, that it is even sold in cans inside and outside of Mexico.  But the canned version can't compare to the home made one, which is very simple to prepare.

Made by cooking meat in orange juice until tender and then finished off in a non-spicy Ancho chile sauce, it screams out Fiesta in every single bite.  Not only because of the richness of its colors and flavors, but because of how fun it is to assemble.

Just serve it at the table with a side of warm flour tortillas and your guests can roll their own burritas or burras, however skinny or chubby them want them to be.  You can also serve refried beans and avocado slices or guacamole that can be eaten inside or on the side of the burritas.  At home we tend to go for eating the beans and guacamole on the side, but it's up to you!

Say the word Chilorio and I can hear my monsters start to shout out: "Mami made Chilorio, come on over!"

And I say: Roll 'em up boys...

Serves 8

3 pounds boneless pork(butt, shoulder or loin with some fat on!) cut into 2" chunks, or substitute with chicken
1 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
5 dried ancho chiles(about 55 grams), tops and seeds removed
1 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid(see below)
1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
2/3 cup cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons corn oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Flour tortillas, warmed, optional

Place rinsed meat chunks in an extended heavy pot. Barely cover with the orange juice and water, add a teaspoon of salt and set over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, bring the heat down to medium and let is simmer for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off and the meat is thoroughly cooked and has rendered most of its fat.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the chiles, make a slit down their sides and remove their seeds and veins. Place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling hot water, and let them sit and rehydrate for about 15 minutes. Place the chiles and 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid in the blender along with the onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, cumin, black pepper, vinegar, and puree until smooth.

Once the meat is ready, place it in a bowl along with any remaining cooking broth. Once it is cool enough to handle, shred it with your hands or with two forks.

In the same pot, heat oil over medium heat. Pour in the chile sauce and let it season and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Toss in the shredded meat along with any of its remaining cooking broth. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and let it cook, stirring often, until the meat has absorbed most of the chile sauce, which will have thickened, seasoned and changed to a darker color. It will take about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.

Serve with warmed flour tortillas on the side. If you wish, spoon chilorio on tortillas and roll them into burritas or burras. They are wonderful with refried beans and avocado or guacamole on the side as well.