Pork tacos and a lesson in the ways of BBQ.
I am now positive that my favorite barbeque is pork shoulder rubbed with Achiote and spices. It's a preparation from the Yucatan known as Pibil. I originally started with a recipe from Rick Bayless' One Plate at a Time, but I have done it (and written about it) so many times that now it comes together on it's own. I assure you there are few things finer that a picnic of pork tacos. With fair weather finally forcasted, I decided to make pork tacos over the weekend.
Now you can try following Rick's recipe get some Achiote (annatto) seeds, try grinding them (Like grinding pebbles, very gritty, typically you make a flavored oil with the seeds) OR you can do what everyone else does in Mexico and pick up some paste. I combined garlic, salt, marjoram, thyme and Canela (Cinnamon)with the achiote and added enough olive to make a paste.
I rubbed this mixture on the pork shoulder.
I also started some sliced red onion to pickle in lime juice orange juice sugar ans salt. Overnight in the fridge for both of them.
[We interrupt this post to answer the MAC BBQ Hotline]
J*$h: (name obscured to protect privacy) Hey, what are you doing?
MAC: Just started marinating some pork for bbq pork tacos, wanna come over?
J*$h: I can't, got company coming, Pork tacos, that's sounds good, do you have a recipe?
MAC: Sure I'll send you Rick's.
[NEXT DAY VIA Email]
Hey you only sent me an ingredient list, how about some pointers?
1. Such as a basic rub I can use?
2. how long on the grill (est.)
3. will I need to add coals/wood as it progresses?
4. what internal temp?
Sorry about that. I don't think you will have enough time to do a shoulder roast on the grill today, it takes six hours. Get some pork shoulder steaks and rub them with whatever ingredients you have that closely match rick's recipe. For Achiote seeds use paprika (and maybe a little turmeric if you got it), for the Mexican oregano use dried marjoram, black pepper, cinnamon,salt, garlic, olive oil, mix that together and squeeze in a lime and rub that on the steaks. let em sit for a while, at least while you get the fire ready.
2. You wanna cook these things as long as you can, after an hour they will be safe to eat but chewy. The longer the pork cooks the more they will tenderize, just like working a crock pot. BTW the pork should be in a pan or something so can baste them from time to time.
3. For the fire you want a small fire off to one side. You want the fire to run at 250-350F. Once you get it going you need to check it like every 20 mins. Add briquettes if the fire is going out, add wood for flavor as needed. It doesn't need to smoke like an old Chrysler tho.
Dave at weber_cam has a good dicussion about lighting an indirect fire on a kettle
4. As for internal temp, I'm going for 200F on my roast, but that is going to take forever. You pork steaks need to get to at least 160F but they wont shred until the temp hits maybe 190. You're gonna chop this stuff up for tacos anyway so pull it off when you're ready to eat. Good luck let me know what happens
[MEANWHILE Back at the Ranch]
I got some banana leaves. I Pass them over a hot grill to soften them. They darken slightly. I line a pan with the leaves, nestle the roast then cover with more leaves. Enter the smoker.
I slow cooked the pork for about six hours, I got the internal temp to about 195F. I was busy doing garden work so I shut the vents and let it sit for another couple of hours
Time to pull the pork.
I roasted some habaneros, garlic, blended it with lime juice and salt for a hot sauce.
The pickled onions are done.
It's a beautiful day to eat tacos.
[MEANWHILE J*$H writes another note on the MAC BBQ Hotline]
I Made the tacos - everything went fine, but mostly done in the oven. We had to meet friends at Morton, so we threw it in there for a head start (4.4 lbs bone-in shoulder) at 250. Got back 3 hours later, and it was just about done. Not realizing that, I had started the coals, so I threw it on for 40 minutes or so, just to do it. Not sure if the taste changed much. Rub was lime juice, chili, cumin, ancho chili, lots of garlic and kosher salt. A very positive experience I must say, delicious all around. Also made a corn relish I saw bobby flay make - corn, charred jalapenos, cilantro, red onion and lime juice. Good, too. And of course, autentico tortillas.
[Hotline disconnects, MAC is troubled but then enlightend]
A very positive experience? How can that be? I gave J*$h somewhat explicit instructions on how to BBQ and he ignored them. Maybe the lesson today isn't for J*$h but for me (and any other would be BBQ expert). It reminds me that BBQ isn't taught at culinary school. Sure they have catering classes for feeding 700 but it ain't pulling sugar at Cordon Bleu. As far as I know Careme didn't codify the technique for smoking ribs in the backyard. In fact I can only think of one rule when it comes to BBQ: Don't burn yourself (that's also a culinary school rule too). I heard about a new BBQ book whose tagline is "Everything you Know about BBQ is Wrong." While flogging foodies with funny phases may sell books, It goes against what I pontificate on this blog: If it works then it's right. I don't give two squirts about how you cooked the meat because BBQ is much more than just process. It's also about bringing being people together to eat. Make it good, make it yours. However if you are still having trouble, give me a call I'd be glad to help.
PS If you enjoy reading rants about BBQ (I don't), read my post Pig Pick