Lately I'm really enjoying experimenting with pork shoulder (also known as pork butt—isn't that weird?). It's full of flavor, easy to cook, and cheap. Last night I used the slow cooker to make shredded pork for tacos.
This recipe calls for using a blender to mix up a paste for the sauce, which was a huge pain in the butt (or shoulder?). First of all, not all the pieces of pepper and onion got pureed. I had to keep opening up the blender and poking the stuff down closer to the blades. I don't think I could have used the food processor, though, because it was such a small quantity of stuff. Well, whatever you use, be sure to put a piece of plastic wrap under the lid so you don't have to wash it!
Ancho and pasilla chiles (which are large, dried peppers) are not terribly hot, but do be sure to get rid of all the seeds, where the heat resides. I also removed the seeds from the chipotles, for fear of blowing the kids' heads off. As it turned out, the flavor was not hot at all. In fact, the overwhelming flavor and scent came from the lone cinnamon stick! I might leave it out next time, or maybe not leave it in quite so long. Andy found the sweetness almost cloying, although I didn't mind it. And the leftovers I just sampled were even a little sweeter after a day in the fridge.
I served the meat with rice, soft flour tortillas, taco shells, shredded cheese, chopped tomato, and sour cream. You could offer salsa, guacamole or chopped avocado, shredded lettuce, whatever you want.
Oh, and finally, the instructions include an oven method, but I used the slow cooker because I knew I would be too busy yesterday afternoon to be in the kitchen. It worked great.
3 whole ancho chiles
3 whole pasilla chiles
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2–3 chipotles in adobo sauce
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
3¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 lb. boneless pork shoulder (untrimmed), cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Put the ancho and pasilla chiles and the garlic in a bowl. Microwave on high until soft and pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. I don't think I did the pasillas quite long enough; there were still some very dry, papery sections. Stem and seed the chiles; peel the garlic. Transfer the chiles and garlic to a blender.
Add the chipotles, onion, 2 Tbsp oil, honey, vinegar, salt, and oregano to the blender; puree until smooth. Mine never got entirely smooth, but it didn't end up mattering. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chile sauce and fry, stirring, until thick and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Mine was threatening to burn after about 4–5 minutes, so I moved on. Pour in the broth and reduce until slightly thickened. I had no idea how long to do this, and I think I let it go too long—you want to have enough liquid to almost submerge the meat at the beginning (you'll end up with more liquid than you need at the end anyhow). I know now that it doesn't have to get thick, so just reduce it a bit.
Place the pork in a slow cooker and season all over with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then pour in the sauce. Cover and cook on high until the meat is tender, about 5 hours. (Or cook the meat in a large Dutch oven, covered, for 1 hour 45 minutes at 350°; uncover and cook 30 more minutes.)
Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Transfer the pork to a bowl and shred it with two forks. I also poured just a little bit of the remaining liquid over the meat to moisten and flavor it.