|A Basketful of Tomatillos|
Summer cooking should be as easy as this every day of the week. These tacos are great fun to make. Sitting around the table with a stack of corn tortillas, filling as many as you like with a delicious stuffing of pork and two salsas is summer at its simplest. The salsas, which you put together in a matter of minutes, take full advantage of summer’s ripe tomatoes and freshly harvested onions. It’s also a great way to discover the tomatillo—if you haven’t already. In Mexico, they’re called “tomate verde” and they are the backbone of salsa verde and any number of both fresh and cooked green sauces throughout Latin America. This dish has its roots in Mexico but let’s be honest, tacos are as American as apple pie at this point. And that only makes life easier since you can readily find everything you need at your supermarket.
Here on the East End of Long Island, we’ve seen an influx of Latin Americans. It’s actually said that without their arrival, our population would have declined in the past few years. They are wonderful people whose hard work is evident everywhere here –from stone work to gardens, from farms to farm stands. Since they put a high value on education, their children are thriving in our schools, pulling the native-born along with them and raising reading and math scores. I marveled at the Valedictorian of our local High School graduating class last year. She’d arrived in this country as a child speaking no English whatsoever. In a few short years, she was at the head of the class.
Along with their terrific work ethic, they’ve also been responsible for the abundance of Latin American foods in our local markets. When I went to buy the corn tortillas this dish calls for, there were no less than four brands to choose from, in at least three sizes and in both flour and corn flavors. The choice you should make for this dish is the 4 ½ inch size corn tortilla. It’s perfect for a couple of quick bites. You may be surprised to know that tacos are a healthy food, especially if you make them on the small side, which is how they’re served here. You are not making a Burrito just using soft, warm tortillas that you can readily heat in a cast iron skillet, then cloak in a slightly damp dish towel or napkin and have at the ready. Then you put a little pork on them, follow that with a dash of green salsa, ripe tomato and sweet onion, fold them up and there you have it. A deliciously fun thing to have for dinner. Here are the recipes:
Recipe for Sizzling Pork Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa and Salsa Crudo adapted from the New York Times:
1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, not too lean, in thin 1/2-inch strips or cubes
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons ground guajillo, ancho or other medium-hot red chile
1 teaspoon toasted, coarsely ground cumin
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 dozen small corn tortillas, ideally 4 1/2 inches, for serving*
Tomatillo salsa, for serving
Salsa cruda, for serving
Radishes, trimmed, for serving.
Cilantro sprigs, for serving.
Lime wedges for serving.
1. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, chile powder and cumin, and mix well, massaging the seasoning into the meat with fingers. Let the meat marinate for at least an hour, or refrigerate overnight.
2. Heat the oil in a wide cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the oil looks wavy, add the meat and let it sizzle, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep meat warm.
3. Heat the tortillas on an ungreased hot griddle or cast iron pan. Turn them once or twice until hot and slightly puffed. As they come off the griddle, stack them on a cloth napkin to steam, with another napkin on top.
4. To assemble the tacos, stack 2 hot tortillas on a plate. Spoon on a little sizzled pork, then top with a spoonful of tomatillo salsa and another of salsa cruda. Garnish with radishes and cilantro sprigs. Serve and eat immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
* 2 dozen tortillas are a gracious plenty. We ate three a piece.
To make the Tomatillo Salsa:
12 tomatillos, husked and quartered, about 2 cups
2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 or 2 serrano chiles, split lengthwise and chopped*
1/2 teaspoon salt.
*Serrano chiles are 5 times hotter than Jalapenos. If you like things less spicy, substitute seeded, chopped Jalapenos.
Puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup ice water. The salsa is best the day it is made but will keep a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Makes 2 cups.
To make the Salsa Cruda:
1 cup finely diced sweet white onion
1 cup finely diced firm tomatoes, drained
1 serrano chile, minced (to lessen heat, remove the seeds first)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro.
Stir together all ingredients 5 or 10 minutes before serving. (If made too far in advance, the salsa will not stay crisp.) Yields 2 cups.