Cook’s Recipe: Beer Braised Pork Tacos

The mood in the Thespian Hall is raucous. Another long Athasian day has ended, and the merchants and adventurers finally taking shelter from the oppressive heat are restless. Atrix dodges back and forth among the tables, refilling ales and trying to settle customers who claw at her, some of them literally. The drink will only sustain them for so long, Atrix retreats to the kitchen to find her father curiously doting over several large pots.

“Father, we’ve no food to serve. You said the bounty was great this evening, but nothing’s left the kitchen all day.” Her father holds up a hand. “Peace Atrix. The world – well, what’s left of it – isn’t going anywhere, and sometimes glory comes to those with patience.” As he speaks he extracts a long fork from one of the pots and begins shredding a gargantuan slab of meat. The juices flow off of it as the meat falls to pieces, the smell of spice and ale wafting up to Atrix’s nose. Her father smiles,”Time, a stout fire, and the finest cuts of mekillot in Balic are all we need to quell the hunger of the masses. Come, bring the platters and don’t forget the sauces! The Elven chiles were especially fresh…”

Braised pork. Just let those words wash over you. A dish that just screams comfort, but one that doesn’t have to be overly filling. Especially when you serve the pork as part of a taco. Pork is a great protein for tacos because it can hold up to all kinds of flavors, and the end result here in a harmonious trio of sweet, savory, and spicy. Tacos themselves allow for easy portion control, can feed a ton of people without too much trouble, and gives you the versatility to satisfy a variety of tastes and preferences. Of course, before you get to that point, the pork has to be cooked properly, but luckily that’s no trouble at all.

As impressive as it looks, braised pork is actually pretty easy to make. The most challenging factors are having enough time and patience. Once the pork is in the oven, you’re pretty much done with all the heavy lifting. If you put in the time during prep and allow the meat to rest before cooking, you’ll be fine. It also helps to make sure you have a pot large enough to hold the roast while it’s cooking. While I’ve provided a basic spice rub in the recipe, feel free to use your own blend, just make sure you apply it liberally to the outside of the pork.

One final note, the recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder, but you can use any cut of pork so long as it has enough fat in it. Pork tenderloins, while economical and nicely portioned for small groups, don’t have as much fat in them so you might not get exactly the same results, but I promise you it’ll still be delicious. Also, if you choose for a bone in variety, your cooking time might have to be adjusted up slightly.

Ingredients

7 lb boneless pork shoulder
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cubanelle peppers, diced
1 can of chipotles in adobo sauce
2 bottles of beer*
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

*You can use almost any beer you want, but for this recipe I tend toward a nice wheat beer that is a little bit heavier and fuller. It’ll provide more savory flavors to the pork.

Spice rub

2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp espresso
1tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cumin

Equipment

Large Dutch oven

Directions

  1. Combine the spices together to make the rub. Generously rub the outside of the entire pork shoulder in the spice rub. Allow the pork shoulder to rest for at least 30 minutes. You can leave it out as it rests, as you don’t want the meat to be cold when you cook it.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325 and heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium high heat.
  3. Place the pork shoulder into the pot and sear on all sides, forming a crust. Remove the shoulder from the heat and place the veggies in the pan. Saute the vegetables for a few minutes, then add the vinegar and the chipotles. Stir together and scrape the bottom of the pot to free up extra flavorings.
  4. Return the pork shoulder to the pot along with the beer and any excess spices from the rub. The liquid should come about half-way up the side of the pork. Bring the liquid to a soft boil, then cover and place in the oven. Cook the pork until it is tender and falls apart, about 4 1/2 hours. Each hour check the meat, if the liquid evaporates completely, add more beer to the pot.
  5. When the pork is cooked, remove the from the oven and shred either by hand or with a fork. The pork should be tender enough that it will fall apart with little effort, and most of the fat will have rendered away. Serve immediately wrapped in soft tortillas.

There are plenty of options for pork tacos but here is my suggested group of toppings:

Green chile crema
Chipotle BBQ sauce
Pickled radish
Tomato
Shredded Manchego cheese
Lettuce
Fresh lime
Soft corn tortillas