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Behold: al Pastor

8 May

Thank you Cinco de Mayo for being the perfect excuse to tinker with tacos.

We’ve been researching al pastor since gorging on them from a charming beach cantina. There is no shortage of sad online recipes (mostly involving slow cookers) but this winner is the closest to mimicking what makes al pastor so amazing minus the enormous rotisserie.

The trick is slicing the meat thinly into pieces about 3-inches-by-3-inches, and ¼-inch thick. Thread onto two parallel skewers to hold in place, packing tightly so there are no gaps (you’ll have enough to make three rows using six skewers.) Then it goes into a 250 degree oven for two to three hours.

And then you get this: succulent, chili-coated pork with crunchy bits and roasted pineapple to sweeten the deal.

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Start two days before by whizzing up this amazing marinade of guajillo chilies, garlic, avocado leaves, achiote paste, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, kosher salt, apple cider vinegar and chicken stock.

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It makes enough to thickly coat 3 lbs of sliced pork shoulder.

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Perfect for threading onto these fantastic double-prong skewers from Lee Valley. We let these marinate for 48 hours.

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Then it’s time to set them on thick slices of pineapple and slow roast for two to three hours. The pineapple juices do their part to make this unforgettable.

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Don’t forget to flip these a few times to make sure everything gets covered in the juices while cooking.

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We scored some adorable mini flour tortillas to go with our favourite handmade mini corn tortillas from the Latin market. Bonus: they were selling queso fresco, so we grated some of that to go with chopped white onion.

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And here’s the spread, along with a molcajete brimming with guacamole and our favourite desert rose tortilla chip and refried bean dip (thank you Phoenix circa 1982).

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We are happy to report this recipe is another bulletproof keeper, just like our favourite carnitas recipe.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 dried guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 dried avocado leaves (found at Latin market but still not sure they’re necessary)
1/4 cup achiote paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (will try a smidge less)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 pineapple
12 corn tortillas, warmed (or a stockpile of mini corn and flour tortillas)

Wine Country Vineyard vs Beach Cantina

17 Aug

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A week in western Canadian wine country packed with vineyard touring, tastings and fabulous charcuterie offerings. Trust us to stumble upon a beach shack cantina and return to it within a day or two.

These al pastor tacos were perfect both times. Pork coated by a combination of dried chilies, spices and pineapple, then crisped almost like bacon with just-grilled white onion (maybe the effects from a quick trip under the broiler – look how crunchy!). Supple yet crunchy corn tortillas delivered the goods topped with lashings of thin sour cream and avocado sauce.

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We’ve often pined to try making al pastor at home, but balked at the difficulty: we are not rotisserie-type people.

But huzzzah: here’s a cheat that looks uncompromising. A thick chili coating on sliced pork threaded onto skewers, resting on a bed of pineapple to slow cook for two to three hours in the oven. We are that kind of people!

The trick is slicing the meat as thinly into pieces about 3 inches by 3-inches, and ¼-inch thick. Thread onto two parallel skewers to hold in place, packing tightly so there are no gaps. (you’ll have enough to make three rows using six skewers.) Then it goes into a 250 degree oven for two to three hours.

Sounds as uncomplicated and delicious as our favourite carnitas recipe.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 dried guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 dried avocado leaves (no idea if we can find these)
1/4 cup achiote paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 pineapple
12 corn tortillas, warmed

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Seventeen Nacho Casserole

18 Jul

Here’s a bit of nostalgia, courtesy of lovely Linda O. This looks soooo much better than my ghetto photocopy from days gone by. Many thanks!

Hop into this Tex-Mex time machine from November 1982:

Nacho Casserole

Says Linda: “I made the Nacho Casserole a bunch of times many years ago, and then just a few months ago I whipped it up for a dinner and it was as enjoyable as ever!”

The same issue also had a recipe for shortbread, not shown.

The ’80s was Tex-Mex crazy, and this page is a hilarious reminder. There was also a fajita recipe page: Zest of the West. If anyone has it, please share!Nacho Casserole recipe 2

Tortilla stack

11 Feb

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Meet our beloved vintage gold Bennington Potters of Vermont covered casserole two quart dish (sadly loop handled lid busted in childhood). Check it here!

It’s the perfect vessel for our stacked taco/enchilada-type number, layering tortillas with beef, beans, cheese and garnished with diced fresh tomato, chopped lettuce, cilantro, avocado and Greek yogurt.

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It’s a hot mess, to be sure. Very hard to take a pretty picture but rest assured, it is a winner. We’ve switched up the filling variations and have found refried beans are great but makes it very floppy.

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Fun pie-like slices served with a Mexican caesar salad topped with a dusting of parmesan:caesar

For a meatless version of this stacked marvel, we have our beloved portobello and asiago number. Martha Stewart also has a meatless version with 2 cups of black beans simmered in a 1 1/2 cups of beer, with sauteed onions jalapenos and corn, layered with scallions and cheddar.

By building the cake in a spring form pan, you can blast it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

GuadalaHarry’s

25 Jan

Brace yourselves…

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And this treasure to wash it all down with:11836858_10152881018981566_8651046290023923223_n

GUADALAHARRY’S ENCHILADA TORTE
From a 1977 menu under Mexican Specials: “three layers of corn tortillas filled with beef, melted cheese, lettuce and enchilada sauce.”

Here’s a super beautiful image to inspire you.

Using our fave Tres Marias corn tortillas, you could easily bake six stacks at once on a baking sheet.

From online recipe: “I buy ( 9 or 10″) aluminum foil pans to make these. Each person gets their own pan.”

For one serving:
4 oz. ground beef
Diced fresh tomatoes
Oregano, white and black pepper, salt and garlic powder
3 corn tortillas, blanched in hot oil
8 oz. heated enchilada sauce
1 1/2 oz. blended shredded cheese, 2 parts Cheddar and 1 part Monterey Jack

For Garnish:
shredded lettuce
sliced black olives
diced tomatoes

Cook ground beef; stir in tomatoes. Season with oregano, white and black pepper, salt and garlic powder.

Center the foil pan with one of the tortillas. Top with 1/3 of the ground beef, enchilada sauce and cheese; repeat step with the other tortilla, cheese, sauce and beef.

Place third tortilla over rest of the ingredients, covering torte completely with enchilada sauce. Sprinkle cheese over top for color. Bake in 450º oven until hot and cheese melts. Garnish with lettuce, olives, onions and tomatoes.

GUADALAHARRY’S GUACAMOLE
Ottawa Citizen, 1987
Recipe provided by Neil Prakash, general manager of GuadalaHarry’s

2 large, ripe avocadoes, peeled

1 small clove of garlic, peeled

1 or 2 small fresh green chilies

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 fresh lime

1 tablespoon sour cream

2 or 3 tablespoons of water

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the avocadoes. Mash the garlic, chilies, pepper and salt until it forms a paste. Mix into the mashed avocadoes and add the lime juice, sour cream and enough water to create the desired consistency. Chill and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 4 servings.

The eyes have it!

27 Oct

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We are as obsessed with oven-baked tacos and Rick Bayless’ sauce as we are with Halloween!

It was only a matter of time before our October menu merged with taco night!

We snapped up two sizes of silly candy eyes and are happy to have found a use for them.

Cheerful and cheesy Tex Mex or Mexican doesn’t typically land on our silly Halloween menu radar. But it’s hard to ignore Mexican hot chocolate laden with cinnamon, vanilla and chilies, or pepita, lime and cumin pesto, or even spooky mole sauce.

Carnitas

4 Mar

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Wow — amazing recipe for a bright-tasting feast on a bleak winter night. Are you digging the torilla cacti, courtesy of my cookie cutters from a 1986 Arizona trip?

Made this for a dinner party, but while wolfing down leftovers the next afternoon, a revelation: Calgary-20130303-00569[1]

We should have served these open-faced, warm from the oven, rather than passing around separate bowls of tortillas, meat and crumbled cheese. Line a baking sheet with tortillas, and pile cheese and shredded meat on top. Warm in oven so they’re melty. Arrange two on each diner’s plate and serve. Guests can then pile on toppings: red onion ceviche, guac, sour cream, squeezes of lime, cilantro, hot sauce, etc. The tacos fold better and the melted cheese keeps ’em together.

Result: Three less bowls to clutter and pass around the table, and the melted cheese help the tacos stay warmer!

CARNITAS TACOS
from Roberto Santibañez’s Tacos, Tortas and Tamales
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dried Mexican or regular oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5 scant teaspoons kosher salt
5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
3 dried bay leaves
1 cup Coca-Cola

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Blend the garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt, and 1/2 cup of water in a food processor until smooth. You want this to look really loose and slushy, so if your onion is too dry, add a splash more water.

Combine the pork and bay leaves in a 6-quart Dutch oven or deep baking dish — make sure there are no more than two layers of meat. Pour the blended mixture and the soda over pork and toss well.

Cover the pot and cook in the oven until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. The bubbling coke burns and blackens the sides of your pot — so avoid using your Le Creuset if you are prone to tears. We used our black ceremic slow cooker insert and it was fine, but still a bitch to clean.

Uncover the pot and return it to the oven. Continue cooking, tossing well and scraping the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes, until the pork is slightly crispy on the outside and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Coarsely shred the pork.
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