Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shredded Pork Tostadas Made Simple

I love shredded pork. I also love fresh tacos, tostadas, etc that are full of meat and flavor but don't feel heavy. I had some people over for dinner tonight and was having trouble figuring out what to make. Whenever I want to make something nice that feels like a complete meal, I end up cooking very New England-y things. While the food is delicious, it's often warm, filling, hearty food. Bakes beans, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, chili, beef stew, etc. So I was perusing my go-to cooking source - Cook's Illustrated (I subscribe to both the periodical and the online site) and there it was. The perfect recipe for this warmer, sunnier week in Seattle. Crisp Pork Tostadas or 'Tinga Tostadas' put simply, as tinga is the term for 'true Mexican shredded pork' according to Cook's Illustrated.

Wow. This was easy, impressive looking and delicious! I cooked the pork last night so that when I got home from work today, all I had to do was put the pork in the pan with a few more bits of seasoning, let it cook for 15 minutes in all and crisp the tortillas to make the tostadas. Ta da. Dinner served with a fairly clean kitchen to boot.

Crisp Pork Tostadas (from Cook's Illustrated, March 2010) Serves 4 to 6

Tinga (can be made the night before through Step 1)

Ingredients: 2 lbs boneless pork butt (or shoulder), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces, 2 medium onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine, 5 medium garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed, 2 minced, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, table salt, 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t dried oregano, 1 (14.5) oz can tomato sauce, 1 T ground chipotle powder, 2 bay leaves.

Directions: Bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, 1 t salt and 6 cups of water to simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook until pork is tender 75 to 90 minutes. Drain the pork through a strainer into a pyrex or bowl. Dump all but 1 cup of cooking liquid, reserving it to be used later in the recipe. Remove the onions, garlic and thyme and return the pork to the saucepan. Use a potato masher to smoosh the meat until it has shredded into rough pieces. Set aside. If you're making the meat the night before, put it in a airtight container and refrigerate it.

On the night of the meal, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12 inch non-stick skillet or a broad, heavy bottomed pan such as a dutch oven. Once oil is shimmering, add shredded pork, chopped onion and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, chipotle powder, the reserved pork cooking liquid and the bay leaves. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and season the tinga with salt.


Ingredients: 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, table salt

Directions: Heat vegetable oil in an 8-inch heavy bottomed pan (such as a cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Allow the oil a bit of time to get hot (a few minutes is fine), using a fork, poke the center of each tortilla a few times (to prevent puffing). Fry 1 tortilla at a time, placing it in the pil and holding a metal potato masher upright to keep the tortilla submerged and to provide even cooking. Keep the tortilla submerged for 45-60 seconds, until it is crisp and lightly browned. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste if you wish (I found this step unnecessary). Repeat with remaining tortillas.

To serve: Spoon a small amount of shredded pork onto each tostada and serve. Garnish with any variety of the following: Queso fresca or feta cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream, diced avocado, lime wedges. Of course, feel free to experiment with garnishes but I think these are the best ones (and so do the folks at Cook's Illustrated). I also reserved a bit of the diced onion when I dumped it into the pork and used it for garnish.

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