I had bought meat to make tacos al pastor for dinner, but Jan said wanted something lighter—code word “salad.” A few weeks ago, I made a chicken taco salad that was a raging success, a dish sure to become a regular family meal. However, it doesn’t always have to be exactly the same, I thought about trying that as an al pastor taco salad.
I had only a bit of several different greens in my vegetables keeper. A bit of Romaine, some arugula, green and red cabbages, and the cilantro I had bought for the tacos. I picked up some jicama, to add some extra crunch, and I decided that I would use the celery and green bell pepper raw—instead of cooking them with the meat.
When I make tacos I usually mix up a salsa fresca, but for my last taco salad I made a semi-cooked salsa as the dressing. I realized that I could use the heat of the pan to slightly cook some of the salsa’s ingredients to capture the flavor bonanza of the fond left over from frying the meat.
I still planned to add roasted Poblano chiles to meat, because Jan has trained me not to serve just meat—even when you are adding it to cold vegetables. Serving the al pastor on the side would allow each diner to set their own level of meat consumption. Of course, I would have to replicate the fresh tortilla strips I made last time—they were unbelievably good.
After Dinner Note: This was even better than the chicken salad, Jan even had a second bowl.
Karl’s al Pastor Taco Salad with Hot-Pan Salsa
2 Poblano chile
1 lb. al Pastor pork
1 Tbs. corn oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
Karl’s Hot-Pan Salsa
1 beef steak tomato, chopped
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. lime juice
½ tsp. agave syrup
3 Tbs. finely chopped red onion
3 Tbs. minced cilantro stems
1 clove garlic, micro-plane grated
½ Jalapeño, minced, separate uses
Karl’s Spicy Tortilla Strips
4-6 corn tortillas
2 Tbs. corn oil
1 tsp. ancho chili power
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
Kosher salt, to taste
2 cups Romaine, coarsely chopped
1-2 cups Arugula
1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
½ cup green cabbage, shredded
½ cup red cabbage, shredded
1 medium bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, sliced
1. Rinse the peppers cut them in half and deseed.
Tip: Many cooks roast their peppers whole and then struggle to deseed the slippery, hot chilies. Removing the seeds before broiling is much simpler. Cutting the peppers in half also makes it quicker to roast them, because you do not need to keep turning them.
2. Cut the tomato in half at the pole and deseed.
Tip: Scrape the seeds into a sieve placed over a bowl to save the flavorful jelly.
3. Lay the vegetables, cut side down, on a Pam-ed baking sheet.
4. Broil the chilies and tomato 4 inches from the heat element.
5. Remove the tomato after 5 minutes.
6. Continue roasting the chilies until they are well charred, about another five minutes.
7. When the tomato is cool, remove the skin and dice the tomato finely.
Tip: Place the tomatoes in the bowl with the jelly.
8. Stir the Mexican oregano, pepper, lime juice, and agave syrup into the tomatoes and set them aside.
9. Remove the chilies from the oven and put them in a plastic bag until they are cool enough to handle.
Tip: The plastic bag continues to steam the chilies and makes it easier to remove the tough skins.
10. Skin the chilies and dice them. Reserve the chilies until later.
Tip: If you have not already, dice the yellow onion.
11. Form the meat into a single large patty.
Tip: The al pastor meat from Chavez Market has lumps of solid fat mixed in with the meat. If you are watching your fat intake you may wish to fish them out and discard them.
12. Put the corn oil in a large skillet over a medium high heat and brown one side of the meat patty until it is well browned, about 6-8 minutes.
Tip: This is an America’s Test Kitchen technique that allows you to get the flavor benefit of the Maillard reaction without turning all of your pork into dry, hard, little rocks.
13. Flip the patty over and brown the other side, about another 5-6 minutes.
Tip: The meat patty will not usually hold together, so you may need to flip it in pieces.
14. Transfer the meat to a plate.
Tip: When it has cooled off, break the patty into pieces.
15. Remove the pan from the heat and discard any excess grease from the pan.
Tip: What constitutes “excess fat” is a personal choice. There are some who would never remove any of this flavorful grease. I am forced to limit my use of oils, because my wife gets ill if she eats too much fat—I personally think she took participant observation of the Chinese medical system way too far, when she had her gall bladder removed while we lived there.
16. Add the diced yellow onion to the pan and sauté until soft, about five minutes.
17. Return the meat to the pan and add the diced Poblanos to the onions.
18. Mix well and cook for two more minutes.
19. Transfer the meat to a serving bowl and let to cool completely.
20. Add the onions, Jalapeño chili, cilantro stems, and garlic to the hot pan.
Tip: You are not trying to fry these ingredients, you are only trying to lightly cook them with the pan’s residual heat.
21. Use the moisture released by the vegetables to deglaze the pan.
22. Sauté the vegetables in the cooling pan, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes.
24. After the vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, pour the liquid from the tomato bowl into the pan to finish deglazing and cooling the pan.
Tip: It is OK if a few pieces of the tomato go into the pan, but you want to add most of the tomatoes after the pan is almost completely cool.
24. Stir in the tomato mixture and set the pan aside until it has cooled completely.
25. Brush each tortilla lightly with oil on both sides.
26. Sprinkle the chili powder, Mexican oregano, and salt on one side of the tortilla.
Note: Yes, I added oregano this time, I cannot help myself.
27. Stack the tortillas and slice them into half inch strips.
Tip: You may choose to cut the long center strips in half.
28. Fluff the tortilla strips and put them on a small baking tray.
29. Bake the corn strips for 6-10 minutes in a 450º F oven.
Tip: Toss frequently, so that they cook evenly and remove any strips that are starting to get over done.
Note: Do not skimp on the baking time, I did and some of the chips came out a bit chewy, rather than crisp.
30. Remove the tortilla strips to plate to cool.
Tip: The strips may seem a bit floppy right from the oven, but they will get crisper after they have cooled.
31. Chop the salad greens and put them in a salad bowl.
32. Pour the salsa over the salad, toss to coat.
Tip: You want the salsa and pork to be completely cooled before putting them on top of the salad greens.
33. Put the salad into individual bowls or onto plates and top with the al pastor and tortilla strips.
34. Add slices of fresh avocado and serve.
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