By Ryan McKay
As I have been slowly building you up toward a great dish that transports well outside as the temperatures start to climb with the arrival of the budding greens, I bring you one of my versions of pork tacos. All the necessary ingredients are here for you as you can rewind the last few recipes I’ve offered to learn how to make homemade tortillas and chimichurri sauce to both carry and top the tasty, shredded pork.
Neither carnitas (prepared the same, save crisping them up in the oven or on the stovetop) nor tacos al pastor (no rotisserie here), this interpretation is something more akin to what one would find after a surf in southern California at most tacos stands. Simply cooked with onions and root beer, this slow-cooked method delivers on the all-important taste and at a bargain. Served inside a warm homemade tortilla and topped with the vibrant chimichurri, this comfort food will please many and with little effort.
A few after the fire critiques: I have used many braising liquids for tacos over the years including beer, Mexican coke, and fruity carbonated soft drinks, so have fun with it. Sautéing the pork isn’t necessary, but I find it provides a deeper flavor and I suggest a high-smoke-point oil like grapeseed. Also, if the bone is still in the pork butt, place it in the slow cooker while it cooks. Don’t throw away that flavor! Lastly, I find reducing the braising liquid and removing some of the fat help to make it a lighter, cleaner taste, but this can be skipped.
6-8 lbs. pork shoulder
Medium onion (sliced)
10 or 12 ounces root beer
Tbsp. grapeseed oil
Fine Mesh Sieve
- Turn your slow cooker to low and cover.
- Trim the pork butt of unwanted fat and connective tissue, then slice into 2” by 2” cubes.
- Season the pork aggressively with salt and pepper, then reserve until ready.
- Place the sauté pan over high heat with a Tbsp. of oil.
- Place the onions and root beer into the slow cooker.
- Brown the cubes on all sides, making sure not to crowd the pan until they are all done. Then place into the slow cooker.
- Cook for 6-8 hours or until the pork shreds when pulled with a fork. Remove the pork to a cutting board and shred with two forks.
- Add the braising liquid into the sauté pan via the fine mesh sieve and reduce until only a cup remains, usually 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
- Let the liquid rest for 5 minutes, then separate the fat from the braising liquid either by skimming off with a spoon or using a turkey baster or a fat separator container.
- Place the slow cooker on warm, add the shredded pork and braising liquid, mix to combine, and cover. Can be served at your leisure, indulge!
Ryan McKay is a 12-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.