I have no idea what's going on.
Suddenly, I am finding myself making Mexican food multiple times a week and craving tacos over pasta. I would say this is a cry for help, but truly, I want it to last forever.
I could likely count the number of Mexican recipes that I have shared here over the years on one hand, but suddenly, I have fallen deeply in love with everything from enchiladas to tacos.
I have always loved queso and I could get down with some guacamole but, as I rule, I have avoided Mexican food. Every once in a while I would be tempted by the patio seating and faded, plastic pineapple lights and give the cuisine another try, only to be left sick and useless for the rest of the day. At some point during the past two years I started experimenting and realized that my issues were not with the queso or the corn chips, but the cilantro. Yep, I'm allergic to cilantro. Or at least I get nauseas and headachy every time I eat it. Not cute at all.
After nailing down the reason behind my aversions, the world of cilantro-less Mexican food opened up to me and it turned into a full blown obsession about five weeks ago. I do not know why or how, but I cannot stop it.
So, being that tacos have been constantly floating around in this crazy food brain of mine, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the leftover pork chops we had from Mother's Day. You may have watched the experimentation go down on instagram stories a couple weeks back as I threw this and that into the pan hoping for success.
Well, after tasting this incredibly crispy, sweet and tangy pork, I knew I had to repeat my experiment and share the full details here. This is absolutely the best way I have ever found to re-purpose leftovers. It's so good in fact, that I am now putting grilled pork chops on the menu just so that we can have the leftovers the next day.
Here is what we have going on.
Quick pickled onions. Sliced avocado. Limes - sliced. Broiled sweet corn. Queso fresco - get it crumbly. Salsa verde - yes, you can buy it in a jar. Fresh corn tortillas - fried and puffy. Leftover pork chops that have been fried to a crisp and cooked in a delicious combination of honey and salsa verde.
The pork becomes tender after a night or two in the fridge, and it becomes almost candy-like after it has been cooked to a crisp and tossed around in the honey, lime, and salsa verde. Mr. Pedantic likes to eat it straight from the serving dish as if it were a bowl of potato chips. The crispiness is so addicting.
The other secret to these tacos lies in the shells. I've never been a fan of corn tortillas, but throw those rubbery discs into a pan of hot oil and it's an entirely different story. It takes a bit of practice to get the perfect shape, but after two or three tries you'll be churning out taco shells with your eyes closed. I would have step-by-step pictures of this process, but I opted to keep my hands. 350 degree oil and one-handed photography aren't exactly besties.
This entire meal can come together in about a half hour, not counting the pickling of the onions, which you can totally do a day in advance.
Serve with a glass of your favorite limeade or even a cup of this horchata and life is so, so good.
Monday night dinner just became really exciting.
Crispy Pork Tacos with Salsa Verde
makes eight tacos
for the quick pickled onions (recipe adapted from Jessica Merchant)
- 1 red onion, sliced very thin
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small jar, combine vinegars, sugar, and kosher salt. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved, then add the onions. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook's Note: You can store the pickled onions in the refrigerator for up to two days.
for the broiled corn
- 2 ears yellow corn
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- chili powder
- salt and pepper
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle with vegetable oil. Roll the ears of corn in the oil to coat, then season liberally with chili powder, salt, and pepper.
Place under your oven’s broiler for 15 minutes, or until the corn just begins to char. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle, then use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs. Set aside while you prepare the other components.
for the crispy pork
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 grilled pork chops*, cooled and cut into small cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch of sea salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup salsa verde (I buy this ready-made at Trader Joe's)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Cook's Note: You can use boneless or bone-in pork chops in this recipe - either works very well. I try to purchase chops about 1/2-inch in thickness.
In a large, nonstick frying pan, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add pork and garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the pork is very crisp and evenly browned - about 10-12 minutes.
Drizzle in the honey and salsa verde and cook for about 2 minutes longer, until the salsa has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice.
Cook's Note: If you are an experienced multi-tasker, you can fry your taco shells while the pork is cooking. However, if managing two hot pans makes you nervous (I totally get it), just set the pork aside while you do the frying and then pop it into the microwave for a few minutes before serving. Alternatively, you can fry your shells first and then place them in your oven set to 200 degrees to keep them crisp while you prepare the pork.
shells and assembly
- 8 corn tortillas
- 2-3 cups vegetable oil
- sea salt
- quick pickled onions
- broiled corn
- 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
- 1/2 cup salsa verde
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- 2 limes, quartered
Fill a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven with about 1-inch of vegetable oil and place over medium high heat. Attach a thermometer and bring the oil up to 350 degrees F.
Prepare a frying station by lining a baking sheet with paper towels and place a cooling rack on top. Once the oil comes to temperature, grab one end of a tortilla with a pair of heat-safe tongs and have a metal fork on hand. Dip 1/3 of the tortilla into the hot oil and hold it flat down into the oil with the fork. Use your tongs to fold the opposite half of the tortilla towards you, forming the taco shape. Once the submerged half is crisp and stiff, carefully flip the shell, submerging the other half into the oil, and holding that end down with your fork to preserve the gap in the shell. The entire process should only take 30-40 seconds.
Once the shell is hard and crisp, transfer it to your prepared cooling station and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining shells.
To assemble, layer the taco shells with pork, avocado, corn, salsa verde, and top with queso fresco and pickled onions. Squeeze fresh lime juice over each taco just before devouring. Enjoy!!