Tacos al Pastor (or Shepard's Style Tacos) are one of my favourite tacos EVER and I don't say that lightly. In the north of Mexico they are called 'Tacos de Trompo', because they are cooked in a vertical spit called 'trompo' (spinning top) similar if not identical to the one Kebabs are cooked on, with a piece of fresh pineapple and a big onion on top. The cooking method and the gadget were brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico in the late 1910 and early 1920's.
When this gadget got to the hands of the inventive Mexican cooks of the 1920s, they decided that pork was more appropriate than lamb and came up with a marinading sauce for the pork that includes guajillo, ancho and chipotle peppers, spices and the secret weapon: pineapple, which serves two purposes, it adds flavour and it helps tenderising the meat.
The 'Trompo' is built with different cuts of marinaded pork, then 'painted' with the marinade sauce again, and grilled for up to 12 hours. Trompos are usually prepared in the morning and be ready for evening tacos. When you order your tacos, they cut the outer layer of the meat with a big, sharp knife and 're-paint' the meat with more marinading sauce.
The meat ends up a deep red colour, it's tender and crispy and super delicious. The home made version I'm sharing here with you, it's just as flavoursome as the one you'd get in taquerias in Mexico, minus the massive spit and the hours of grilling. I use boneless tenderloin but pork chops are just as good, I also sliced them as you would the meat for fajitas. You could marinate and cook whole stakes and then chop them when they've been cook, but I prefer to prep the meat and cook it already sliced. I used my home made Salsa Roja, but you can use a shop bought one from our range if you like.
If one kilo of meat feels like too much, you could freeze the meat with the marinade. Then thaw it out in the fridge over night before cooking it. This is a truly tasty recipe, you won't regret cooking it!
We're going to start with the marinade sauce. Heat a small pan, no butter or oil in it (completely dry) and place the tomato on it. Turn it constantly in order to roast its skin. This should take about 10 minutes. When it's done, take it out of the pan, peel the skin off, cut it in half and spoon the seeds out. Set it aside.
While the tomato roasts, clean dried chilies by taking the stem and all the seeds out. Once they're clean, put them in a pot full of water and bring them to the boil. Let them simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until they soften. When ready, drain them and set aside.
To finish off the marinade sauce, put the chipotle chilies, garlic, onion, vinegar, orange juice, pineapple, cloves, cumin, oregano, salt, the now hydrated chilies and the roasted tomato in the blender or food processor and blitz them until you have a fairly smooth and thick sauce.
Put the meat in a big bowl, pour the marinade sauce over it, cover it with clean film and let it marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible in the fridge.
While the meat marinades, start grilling the pineapple chunks to serve with the tacos. Heat a dry non-stick pan in medium to high heat. Drop the pineapple into the pan and let it cook, shaking the pan regularly to prevent sticking. When the juices of the pineapple have dried, use a spatula or spoon to turn the pineapple chunks to cook the other side. It takes about 5 minutes. Don't over crowd the pan, it's better to grill them in small batches. You can of course use the actual grill, but I find the pan method works best for me as I find it easier to control the process. I like slightly brown pineapple chunks, but it's totally your choice.
When ready, put them in a bowl and bring it to the table together with the chopped coriander, chopped onion, salsa and lime wedges all in bowls so it can be easily accessed at the table.
To cook the meat, heat a griddle pan in medium to high heat, when the griddle is hot, pour a third of the oil into it and coat the entire griddle with it. Followed swiftly by a third of the meat. I don't rinse the marinade off, but I actually use it to cook the meat with. It coats the meat beautifully as it browns and caramelises. Let the meat cook on that side for 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to dry, then turn it to cook the other side. Repeat this step until all the meat has been cooked, making sure to scrape the griddle between batches as these bits of burnt marinade sauce taste lovely, throw them in with the cooked meat.
Heat your tortillas while the meat is cooking and when it's all done, bring it in a bowl to the center of the table and call the troops in for dinner!
Assembling these Tacos al Pastor is easy. Take a warm corn tortilla, spoon some of the meat, followed by some chopped onion, a sprinkle of coriander, some grilled pineapple chunks and top it all up with a generous amount of salsa roja and a squeeze of lime juice. Believe you me, this is an incredibly tasteful taco, loads of beautiful flavours and plenty of texture to go with. The meat freezes well in an air tight container. Hope you enjoy it!