Original Recipe: America’s Test Kitchen “The Best Mexican Recipes,” page 92
Growing up in a large American household who didn’t travel much, I knew very little of Mexico. I had seen movies and read a few books, but I didn’t really know any Mexicans. I assumed Mexicans lived on a steady diet of hard-shelled tacos with ground beef inside with sides of canned refried Pinto beans and white rice. We rarely ate out, so I also lacked exposure to Mexican food outside of my Mom’s cooking. Then I went on a Mormon mission where I learned Spanish and finally felt comfortable conversing with Mexicans.
My first trip to Mexico was June 2011 – where I joined A Child’s Hope Foundation’s trip to help build an orphanage. It was an amazing experience.
I loved the kids and grew close to them even though we were only there a week. It was there – around the corner from the orphanage, in a small taco stand – that I first tried tacos al pastor. The whole experience was incredible. You walk up and immediately feel the heat coming from this vertical spit that’s layered with pork meat, and topped with a pineapple – whose juices drizzle down to flavor the meat as it cooks.
Then the taco stand master asks how many you want before whipping out his machete-type blade and with a seemingly effortless swing slices meat and pineapple in one swoop that land perfectly onto the prepared corn tortilla in his hand. And the FLAVOR! Oh the flavor! The heat of the chiles, the sweetness of the pineapple, the fresh tang of the chopped onions with which the taco man has generously topped your meat. He points to the counter near the wall where options for extra toppings and salsas are waiting to make the taco perfection. May I make a recommendation: cilantro and lime. That’s it. You don’t need anything else.
Is your mouth watering yet? You need this in your life. The year after my Mexico trip I met and married a Mexican (well, he’s half Mexican, but it still counts). He knew I loved to cook and challenged me to make tacos al pastor – his all-time favorite taco. We tried several recipes, but all came up short. It’s incredibly difficult to recreate the complexity of flavors that come from meat roasted for hours on an open-air spit.
I have had pretty good luck with recipes from America’s Test Kitchen, so when they came out with “The Best Mexican Recipes,” my husband was more than happy to condone yet another cookbook purchase. And I’ll tell you what – my mom’s hard-shelled, ground beef tacos didn’t make it into the “taco” section. Luckily for me (and my husband), tacos al pastor DID!
I was wary when trying this recipe – sure that it was futile to think that I could duplicate the creations incredible taco stands of native Mexicans. But there is a reason this recipe earned 5 stars.
Okay, here’s the recipe: