Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Queso

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As we’ve shared many times, we love Mexican food specialist Rick Bayless and the recipes he creates from his experiences in the Yucatan region. That tradition and his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, are the sources for this dish.

Before discovering this recipe in his book, we’d never heard of Pork Tinga and had no idea what it would taste like. But after making it once and loving it, we’ve got a better handle on how to describe it for you.

Basically, the Tinga is like a Mexican Brunswick Stew, a delightful mixture of meat, potatoes and flavorful seasonings that really come alive when cradled in the warm embrace of a soft taco shell, topped with creamy queso crumbles and slender avocado slices. The flavor combination of the Tinga is explosive in each bite, but not with an intense heat you won’t be able to stand if you’re not into spicy foods.

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Since the Tinga is made in a slow cooker, this is a perfect recipe to spend a half hour preparing and then leaving for most of the day. When you return, your whole house will smell wonderful, and you’ll experience such a delicious Mexican meal you’ll think you’re in the Yucatan.

Pro Tip: Soft corn or flour taco-size tortillas from the store are perfectly fine for the Tinga, but we prefer Molly’s homemade tortillas for added freshness and originality.

 

Pork Tinga Tacos

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder

4 medium yellow potatoes

28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

3 or 4 chipotle chiles en adobo

1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce (from the adobo)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 medium white onion, sliced thin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Warm tortillas

1 cup crumbled queso fresco

2 large avocados

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Directions

1. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and spread them over the bottom of a slow cooker.

2. Top potatoes with the pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Seed the chipotle chiles.

4. In a large bowl, mix the undrained tomatoes, chipotles, chipotle canning sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt.

5. Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.

6. Cover and slowly cook on high for six hours. The dish can hold on the slow cooker’s “keep warm” setting for about four more hours, if needed.

7. When ready to eat, uncover the Pork Tinga mixture and spoon off any fat, if accumulated on top. Stir everything together to break the pork into smaller pieces for wrapping in tortillas.

8. Taste and season with additional salt if you think the Tinga needs it.

9. Serve with warm tortillas, crumbled queso and avocados for making soft tacos.

Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas

Tortillas

A great tortilla is the cornerstone of a great taco, burrito, enchilada or torta. There’s nothing wrong with the tortillas you purchase in a bag in the grocery store. In fact, you can even freshen those pre-made tortillas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel in your microwave. But tortillas can be even better if you make them from scratch at home.

I’ve always enjoyed a soft taco, dating back to my first cooking experiences as a teenager, when I’d make myself basic stovetop fajitas in flour tortillas at home. So when I learned several years ago that my wife-to-be Molly made homemade tortillas, I was quite excited. When I saw how inexpensive the ingredients are, well, I was even more excited.

These tortillas often cook up a little thicker than what you might buy off the store shelves. So they might even remind you a bit of pita bread, which to me just means they serve extra purpose. I believe your product is the result of the kind of tortilla flour you use and the method by which you flatten them for cooking. However you do it, I guarantee you they’ll become the basis for special taco nights in your house, as they have in ours.

For Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas you’ll need:

2 cups tortilla flour

2/3 cup water

Put the tortilla flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing in with your hands until fully incorporated. Form into a large ball until all the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 5 minutes.

Tear off and form small balls, slightly bigger than the size of a golf ball, and place them on a floured surface. You should end up with about 9 dough balls. Take each ball and roll them out with a rolling pin to about an eighth of an inch thick.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and cook each tortilla until lightly toasted on each side. Watch them carefully. You may want to use a fork or other utensil to flip the tortillas since they will be hot. And you may need to flip each tortilla a few times to get it just right. Practice makes perfect!

You can stack them on a plate or place them in a tortilla warmer until ready to use. It’s as simple as that!

Flavor-Bursting Mexican Burgers

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My wife Molly and I love burgers, and we love Mexican food. This recipe is all about putting those two together.

Several years ago, before we got married and I learned Molly made delicious homemade tortillas, I cooked up a batch of tortilla-wrapped burgers with taco-seasoned beef, using store-bought flour tortillas. Recently, while browsing a burger cookbook in our library I thought, “Why not make a better Mexican-flavored burger with Molly’s homemade tortillas?”

Last year, we learned from a Rick Bayless cookbook how to make Huevos Rancheros, which include a mega-flavorful tomatillo sauce and queso fresco, two ingredients that add the perfect kick and cool to our Mexican burgers, too.

So, it’s as simple as that: homemade tortilla, seasoned beef, tomatillo sauce and queso fresco. We were blown away by the burst of flavor in every bite. First, you get the taste of seasoned beef and the soft heartiness of the tortillas, which serve as your bun. Then you get the fresh spiciness of the tomatillo sauce. Finally, the queso cools you off to close.

You can pick this burger up, but we’ll warn you that it is very messy. You can also eat it with knife and fork as an open-faced sandwich. Here’s how you make it, piece by piece, to serve four people. It will probably take you 60 to 90 minutes in the kitchen to prepare, but we guarantee you it will be worth it. Just crumble your desired amount of queso fresco, assemble the parts at the end of the process and enjoy!

 

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Tortillas

2 cups tortilla flour

2/3 cup water

Directions: Put the tortilla flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing in with your hands until fully incorporated. Form into a large ball until all the flour is absorbed. If the dough ball is too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour in and mix in. Tear off and form small balls (slightly bigger than the size of a golf ball; you should end up with about 9) and sit them on a floured surface. Take each ball and flatten between a lightly-floured burger press. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat and cook each tortilla until lightly toasted on each side. (Watch carefully. Tip: You may want to use a fork or other utensil to flip the tortilla over since it will be hot.) You may need to flip the tortilla a few times to get it just right. Practice makes perfect! Stack on a plate until ready to use.

 

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Seasoned Beef

1 pound fresh ground beef

1 T chili powder

¼ t garlic powder

¼ t onion powder

¼ t crushed red pepper flakes

¼ t dried oregano

½ t paprika

1 ½ t ground cumin

1 t salt

1 t black pepper

Directions: Mix your spices together thoroughly in a small bowl. Tear apart your ground beef in a medium bowl. Pour your spices over your beef and then blend together thoroughly with your hands. Divide evenly into four parts, and roll each into a ball. Smash with your hands or a burger press and form into patties. You can cook on a stovetop, but we like to cook on foil on a pan in the oven. Heat to 375 and cook until done, about 20 minutes. We’ve found that cooking burgers in the oven produces done, tender, juicy meat, while the excess grease pours off.

 

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Tomatillo Sauce

5 tomatillos

2 small garlic cloves

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 jalapeno

½ cup chopped cilantro

½ teaspoon salt

Directions: Use a food processor, if you have one, or chop your garlic, jalapeno, cilantro and tomatillos. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add chopped ingredients and cook on medium-high for 7 minutes until sauce thickens. Add chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. Taste and season with salt.

 

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Bonus Side Dish: Fiesta Fried Potatoes

4 or 5 small to medium potatoes

1 small garlic clove

1 tablespoon butter (for browning)

½ lime for fresh juice

pinch fresh cilantro

pinch salt to taste

Directions: Dice your potatoes and preheat them by cooking them in a microwave-safe bowl for 5 or so minutes. Add potatoes to a saucepan with butter, garlic, cilantro and salt. Stir from time to time, but don’t overstir to allow to brown. Cut lime and squeeze over potatoes to coat with juice. When potatoes are soft inside and slightly brown outside, they’re done. Serve up beside your Mexican burger!

Fresh and Flavorful Huevos Rancheros

I love having breakfast for dinner. It’s a nice change of pace to mix in from time to time, and I enjoy breakfast foods more when I don’t have to prepare and eat them quickly before heading out the door.

To literally spice up the breakfast-for-dinner fun even more, we recently tried Rick Bayless’ recipe for Huevos Rancheros, or Rancher’s Eggs, as described in his “Mexican Everyday” cookbook.

The dish offers an authentic Mexican take on the “simple” breakfast, but it’s filling enough to feed a heavy appetite such as that of a hard-working farmer or rancher, as the name suggests.

Fresh ingredients create a rush of flavor in the sauce for these Huevos Rancheros, but for those who don’t enjoy much “heat” in food, it’s not too spicy.

Here’s how it’s done. (And we’ve cut down the recipe’s yield for two people.)

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Ingredients

4 corn tortillas

4 eggs

1 jalapeno (or chile of your choice)

5 tomatillos

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 small garlic cloves

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

½ teaspoon salt

queso fresco

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Instructions

1. Chop garlic, chile, tomatillos and cilantro.

2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan.

3. Add chopped ingredients to pan and cook on medium-high heat for 7 minutes until sauce thickens.

4. Add chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

5. Stir in heavy cream. Taste and season with salt.

6. Cook four sunny-side-up eggs. Leave yolks exposed if prettier presentation is desired.

7. Heat four corn tortillas. (For fresher tortillas, wrap them in about six damp paper towels. Insert into a large plastic zip-closing bag. Fold over, but do not seal. Microwave on defrost setting for 4 minutes. This is Rick Bayless’ trick for freshening your store-bought tortillas, and we very much approve after trying it!)

8. Place 2 tortillas on each plate. Top each tortilla with an egg. Spoon sauce over everything. Sprinkle with cilantro and queso fresco. (We bought a block of queso fresco and grated it ourselves.)

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Matthew’s Take: Before trying this recipe, we had never before cooked with tomatillos or cilantro. Along with all of the other ingredients, those two items added so much flavor to this dish. And I highly recommend freshly grating queso fresco to sprinkle on top. Yolk-exposed sunny-side-up eggs are not my forte, so that was perhaps my greatest challenge with putting together this plate. It takes some practice to get the eggs done enough for our taste, while still acing presentation. This isn’t your fastest breakfast-for-dinner meal, but it might be your most flavorful.

Molly’s Take: Wow! From the grocery trip where I packed my cart with fresh ingredients to the final delicious product enjoyed over eggs and warm corn tortillas, this recipe experience was banging! The sauce poured over the fresh, sunny-side-up eggs contributed a powerful flavor and every bite was delightful. We did not have a food processor to finely blend the chopped ingredients, but as you can see, chopping them as we did worked out just fine. You really can’t beat the freshness and wholesomeness of this dish. It just makes you feel at home and warm and taken care of. Treat yourself sometime with these Huevos Rancheros. You won’t regret it.

Yucatecan Shrimp Tacos

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One of my favorite things on TV when it comes to food is Rick Bayless’ fabulous PBS show “Mexico – One Plate at a Time.” Not only does Bayless have a bottomless energy and enthusiasm for traditional, authentic Mexican food, he also provides fascinating historical and educational commentary about Mexico’s culture and traditions, while creating mouthwatering dishes that cause me to enviously stare at the screen. He is so fantastic at describing the tastes and smells of his cooking that you can almost taste and smell it yourself. Enough said, the guy’s a genius.

A few years ago, my family bought me one of his cookbooks – “Fiesta at Rick’s” – and I tried a few of the recipes, but found many of them a little too difficult for my busy lifestyle and limited access to authentic Mexican ingredients. This past Christmas, I received “Mexican Everyday”, which, to compare the two, is a fiesta without the fuss. Matthew and I couldn’t wait to try our first recipe from it, “Seafood Salad Tacos with Tomato, Radish and Habanero.” We made a few changes: we didn’t have habanero in our grocery store, so we substituted half of a jalapeno; we changed a few of the amounts to suit our tastes; and whereas the recipe allows for preparing it with any type of fish, we decided to focus on shrimp, since we love shrimp tacos. As an added coincidental plus, I had just been watching Bayless on TV talk about Yucatecan cuisine, and the introduction to this recipe is all about the market in downtown Yucatan! Cool stuff. I can’t wait to try more recipes from this awesome book, and share our takes on them (a bit simplified for us and for you) here on FoodieScore.

Ingredients

1 pound of small shrimp (about 40) (We always buy the small bag of frozen raw shrimp at Walmart; inexpensive and easy to cook, because they are already de-veined and peeled.)

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 radishes

1 jalapeno chile

1 large tomato

1/4 cup cilantro

1 tsp. salt

12 corn tortillas (Walmart has a variety of brands that smell incredibly fresh and homemade.)

Directions

  1. Put the shrimp in a non-stick pan and add the butter. Saute until pink. Remove and place in a small bowl to cool.
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  2. Prepare the salad ingredients/vinagreta:img_1388
    • Pour the 2 tbsp. of lime juice into a medium-sized bowl. (You can use a bottle of lime juice, or squeeze a little fresh.)
    • Finely chop the onion.
    • Thinly slice the radishes.
    • Cut off the stem and finely chop about 1/2 of the jalapeno pepper.
    • Core and chop the tomato.
    • Finely chop the cilantro.
    • Add all ingredients to the bowl, along with the cooked, cooled shrimp.img_1391
  3. Stir with a large wooden spoon and season with about 1 tsp. of salt.
  4. Warm the tortillas. (Bayless has a strategy for this, which we also saw in action on his TV show. Dampen a stack of about 6 paper towels. Wrap the tortillas inside. Place inside a large plastic Ziploc-type bag, but do not close. Fold the top over and microwave on defrost for 4 minutes. This will make your corn tortillas softer and fresher.)img_1393
  5. Assemble! After our first try, we suggest using two tortillas for each taco for added strength to the integrity of the taco.

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Matthew’s Take: In a world that moves too quickly and stressfully, food preparation and consumption have turned into rat race processes of the dining out or heat-and-eat variety. This dish bucks that unsettling trend. There’s nothing already-processed or drive-through like about these Yucatecan tacos. You freshly prepare your ingredients. You slow down to savor the extraordinary flavor that gives your tastebuds pause. And you save this recipe to make again. Rick Bayless is the modern master of authentic Mexican cooking in America. I’m lucky my wife discovered him so I can now enjoy his tried-and-true recipes, too.

Molly’s Take: These tacos were cool, refreshing and bursting with crisp, fresh flavor. I suggest if you don’t like spicy things at all, maybe leave out the jalapeno, because it definitely added a kick. All in all, a very simple, delicious recipe that I’d suggest for any summer or winter night.