Babes, What’s for Dinner: Tacos Al Pastor

Being in Hollywood has so many great perks – one of which is easy access to amazing, and often very affordable, food.  One can stumble outside and have their pick of a bounty of food and cultures.  Within walking distance of the apartment, we have access to Peruvian, Pescatarian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hungarian, Greek, Southern Italian, Northern Italian and Mexican.

Nothing beats Tacos al Pastor any time of day.  These delicious parcels of goodness originated in Puebla, Puebla as the result of the natives adapting the shawarma that was introduced to them by Lebanese immigrants.  Mexicans swapped out lamb for pork and added their own herbs and spices.  To say that we’re big fans of both versions would be a big understatement.

If we could, this would have a permanent home in our home:


Alas, we barely have room for Dorothy.

There are many recipes on the internets and this is a culmination of a few tasty trials:

  • 1 4-lb  pork butt roast
  • 5 dried guajillo chili peppers
  • 5 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 5 dried anaheim chili peppers
  • ½ tsp whole cumin
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs annatto seeds
  • ½ tbs dried mexican oregano
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar (the regular stuff can be used – I just don’t like the smell of it)
  • 1 chipotle chili pepper (in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tbs adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle chili peppers)
  • 1 fresh pineapple cut into 1/2″ slices (3 slices for the marinade and the rest for the cooking with the meat)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbs canola oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 4± tsp kosher salt
Mandatory Garnish:
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
Optional Guacamole Garnish (just mash it all together):
  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 tbs white onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato, chopped
  • kosher salt, pepper and lime juice to taste

Before starting the marinade, put the pork in the freezer to make it easier to slice (about half an hour).  Oftentimes, I just have the butcher do it for me.

Dissect the peppers by removing their stems and seeds.  Then cut them into pieces with kitchen shears and gently toast in a frying pan over medium heat.   Flip often as to not burn them which will impart an unwelcome bitterness to the marinade.  Then toast the cumin, cloves, annatto seeds and cinnamon stick.  Let cool then finely grind the peppers and spices in a blender.

Except for the salt, oil and onion, blend in the remaining ingredients until a watery paste forms.

Brown the onions with the oil then add to the blender and pulverize.

Cut the pork into lengthwise slices about 1/3″ thick and spread out onto a large baking dish and salt accordingly.

Then slather the marinade between each layer until every nook and cranny is covered.  Cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight.  When I don’t plan ahead and am super craving tacos on the day of, we just use our vacuum sealer to marinate the meat.  It takes about 12 minutes to get the same results as a tortuous overnight wait.

When it’s time to cook, spread the meat out in one layer in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish or on a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the set-to-high broiler.  There should be some open space between the pieces; it’s better to do multiple batches than to crowd the meat.  When I made the marinade, I warned Husfriend to not eat the pineapple slices in the fridge as they were going to be used for the tacos al pastor.  Turns out I forgot to remind myself so when it came time to cook the meat, we didn’t have the pineapple.  Normally, the pineapple slices go on top of the meat in the oven.

Assuming you didn’t accidentally eat the pineapple too, broil the meat and pineapple for 10-15 minutes until well browned and crisp; there should be some caramelized juices in the bottom of the dish.  For the “taco-shop” treatment, dice the meat and toss in a pan over medium-high heat with the pan drippings.  This’ll give the edges a little crisp and infuse even more flavor.

¡Buen provecho!

Pinning and Pining

Our bathroom is a whopping 28 ft².  Inside this teeny-tiny space is a bathtub, pedestal sink, toilet and hamper.  The bathtub is your standard hard-to-clean 100-year-old model.  One could say that we have a double sink, except that it’s actually double faucets.  :/  It’s a basin faucet with separate spigots for hot and cold water.  If Necessity were the mother of Invention, I can’t figure out why she would have given birth to this.  Necessity must have liked to customize her own warm water for every splash.

We have an old school tankless toilet that one might find in an actual old school.  I like that it never clogs.  I don’t like how the valve leaks though.  We’re waiting to hear back from the handyman who came by on Saturday to survey the damage but then never returned…

Despite its small size, this bathroom must have been a real beaut in its heyday.  There are white subway tiles on the walls, penny tiles on the floor and a white carrera marble threshold.

In spite of its small size, we have managed to make it work.  Storage, however, is a big issue.  There is a teeny-tiny medicine cabinet for the presumably teeny-tiny medicines people took back in the day.  We inherited an étagère made of MDF from the former tenant that worked well before the days of leak.  Apparently, MDF and water aren’t friends.

With a little boost from the Pinterest Challenge, I set out to find a more water-friendly solution.

It seemed that chrome was the way to go.  Pottery Barn had a really nice one found via Pinterest but at $549, that was never gonna happen.  Scouring of the interwebs yielded a pretty comparable one for $88.  But, it was still too much.

Target had a similar one on clearance for $15.  However, it only had two shelves and we needed that third for more storage.  I hemmed and hawed and finally, eureka!

Given the large amount of clearance between the bottom shelf and the top of the toilet, I was able to transfer the shorter bottom legs to the top and added another shelf.  Voila!  I’m pretty proud of my $529 savings.  :)

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Caprese Steak atop Spinach Salad

It’s always been my dream to go to French cooking school.

So, Husfriend got me the next best thing as a wedding gift – French Canadian cooking school…online.  :)

This was one of the lessons that I tweaked and the result was phenomenal.  It made us feel very fancy.

What you will need:

  • 4 thick 6 oz steaks, trimmed of any excess fat or gristle
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons gorgonzola
  • 16 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup dry good-enough-to-drink white wine
  • 2 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 oz spinach (about 4 handfuls)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Before cooking, let the steaks sit out of the fridge for about an hour to come to room temperature.

To cook the dish, preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat. We used our beloved cast iron braiser.  While the pan is heating, liberally season the steaks on all sides with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan, followed by the steaks. After about a minute and a half, turn the steaks over.

Continue to cook, turning the steaks every couple of minutes until done. Each time you turn the steaks, make sure you place them in the same spot so you don’t burn the glorious little flavor bits, the sucs, on the bottom of the pan – very important.  Continue flipping the steaks for about 5 to 10 minutes. The time will depend on the thickness of your steaks and how you like them cooked.  I have found that undercooking them ultimately yields the perfect doneness since they’ll be tented (and will continue to cook a little) while the sauce is being made.

When the steaks are done, transfer to a plate and tent and vent with a few slits.

If you’ve burnt your sucs, I’m not sure how’d you proceed from here.  Burnts sucs will yield a bitter sauce and starting sucless will yield less flavor.  :(

Assuming the sucs are nice and golden, add the tomatoes and let cook for about 30 seconds then deglaze with the wine.  Let the wine reduce, until it is a bit syrupy.

Then add the garlic and stir to combine. Once the tomatoes have softened and just start to break down, season with a bit of salt and pepper. At this point, turn off the heat and bring the tomatoes and sauce together in the center. Dollop on the mascarpone and sprinkle on the gorgonzola.  The residual heat from the pan will soften and slightly melt the cheeses. Finish the sauce by sprinkling the parsley and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top.

While the cheese is melting, toss your salad with the balsamic, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice over the sauce. Place a bit of the salad onto a plate and top with one of the steaks. Spoon a few tablespoons of the sauce over each steak and serve.

Buon appetito!

Babes, What’s for Dinner: Caribbean Jerk Tri-Tip with Brown Rice and Peas

Husfriend is a well-traveled man who has been to many places on this planet.

I, on the other hand, not so much.  Aside from having been born in a land-locked country far, far away, I pretty much have only been to Tijuana, Mexico where I was detained by the US Border Patrol on my first visit.  I’m lucky like that.  I didn’t have it as bad as the poor girl who was made to spread eagle in her Quinceañera dress though.  :/

Of all his travels, Husfriend especially enjoyed the Caribbean.  Despite his pasty whiteness, it was as though he had returned to the motherland.  He loved the vibe and food.

For him, this recipe is as close as it comes to the original.  We’ve made it often.  This was the first time it was done with cow.  We usually have it with chicken.

The marinade is super simple and comprised of many things that we often already have around in the kitchen.

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 medium scallions
  • Scotch bonnet (or habanero) chili peppers, to taste – 1 pepper is spicy, 2 is über spicy
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Pulse everything in a food processor or blender until you get a watery paste.  This will yield approximately 3 cups of marinade.

Place in container with the meat for as-long-as-possible marination.  We did a 2-lb tri-tip for two nights in the fridge.

When it’s time to eat, start with making the rice and peas first.

  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 cups water
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • kosher salt, to taste

Sweat the onions and garlic in the oil.  Then stir in the rice until it absorbs the oil, about 5 minutes.  Add the liquids and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Fluff in the remaining ingredients and salt to taste.

The steak can be grilled or cooked in a broiler.  We opted for the broiler this time.  Cook your steak until the desired doneness. Take your tri-tip out when it reaches 145° for a medium-rare steak, or 160° for a medium steak.  Be sure to rest (the meat) before slicing.

Enjoy, mon!