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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The food of my people: TACOS!!

Slow cooked pork tacos with fresh salsa and avocado

By Mango

People here sometimes mistake me for being Mexican or Hispanic. And not just any people. Mexicans and other Hispanics think I'm one of them. My Indian peeps, however, and most others, see me for what I am. A strange Indian person. Panda and I often joke that whenever we crave the food of my people, we go to our favorite taco place down the street. This would usually be the greeting from my always friendly Hispanic neighbors:

To Mango: Hola!!
To Panda, after pensive pause: H-E-L-L-O

So yesterday, I had the urge to make a crockpot dish, which is the best thing ever during the week, because you can make a big batch of food and you're set for a couple of days, if not longer. We had a giant pork chop in the freezer, a little smaller than the diameter of a dinner plate, and about 2 inches thick (Panda guestimates that it was about 2 pounds in weight). We also had one bunch of collard greens. Pork + collard greens = two things that are amazing when slow cooked. Perfect.

I apologize in advance, because this blog post doesn't have too many pictures except for the star of the dish - pork. I didn't plan on writing a blog but it turned out so delicious, that Panda said "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, WRITE A BLOG ABOUT THIS". Okay, not that dramatic, but close. The recipe I used is adapted from a "slow cooker Mexican pulled pork" recipe that I found online. I used their spice blend, but added the collards, a couple of other spices, and tweaked the quantities. This is what I used for the pork:

1 Tbsp chili powder (the type used to make American chili. Not the chile powder typically used in Indian dishes.)
1/4 Tbsp kosher salt
1/4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tsp ground cumin
1/2 Tsp cayenne
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
1 Tsp dried, crushed oregano
1/2 Tsp freshly ground pepper
A pinch of cinnamon

Note that any cut of pork will work so long as it has some fat to it - we just used a pork chop because we had it on hand.

Mix all of the above together in a bowl. Then rub and pat down the pork chop (make sure it is fairly dry first, use a paper towel to wipe off excess moisture) with a generous amount of this spice mix. You will end up with this:

Let the pork sit for at least an hour in the fridge or at a cool temperature. You will likely have some spice rub left over. Save this. In the mean time, slice a large yellow onion, smash 3 cloves of garlic, and wash and chop the collard greens. Also set aside 5 cloves.

After about an hour in the fridge, let the pork sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. I honestly don't know if this matters much, given that it will slow cook overnight, but I did it anyway. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Bring to high heat. Sear the pork on each side for about a minute, until you can smell the spices and see a nice brown on the seared pork. Once seared evenly, remove and place in the crockpot.

Add the sliced onions, collards, garlic, and a crumbled cube of chicken bouillon to the same pan that you just seared the pork in. Saute for about 5 minutes with the remaining spice rub. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and use this to deglaze any pork and spice bits and mix it all in with the onions, collards, and garlic. Transfer all of this to the crockpot. Throw in the 5 cloves, and add enough water to just barely cover the pork. Set the crockpot on low, and let it go overnight. The next morning, you will wake up to this:


The meat will fall apart easily with just a gentle tease of the fork. We had chunks of the pork on corn tortillas, topped with a simple tomato-red onion-thai chiles-cilantro salsa for a burst of freshness, and some sliced avocado for a little creaminess. The pork was magical. Melt-in-your-mouth, smokey, and a deep, gradual surge of warm flavor that can only come from low and slow cooking. I'm definitely saving this recipe and will use it again.

Panda: You do realize that this is just going to further convince people that you're really Mexican.
Mango: Si.  Uh, I mean, yes.
Panda: ......

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