Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taco Rehab

I've heard an addiction defined as something that interferes with your day-to-day life. When you have to go out of your way for that extra-hot double tall cappuccino, even if it means being late for the meeting, then you've crossed the line from casual user into addict.

I fessed up to my pumpkin habit last fall, and now I'm ready to admit to my taco addiction. I'm blaming Taqueria Mercado for fueling my illness. It started on Cinco de Mayo, innocently, with a few tacos at the new downtown location. They were simple, flavorful, and I was hooked immediately.

My addiction reared its ugly head later that week when I emailed my Dad around lunchtime, suggesting we hit TM sometime, knowing full well he'd probably be up for it that same day. He was. I dropped everything and drove downtown to get a second hit of tacos.

But the addict's cravings are never really fulfilled, just pacified before they return in force. I found myself browsing cooking blogs and websites for pork taco recipes. I settled on a slow cooker recipe from Food52. The ingredient list is short and the photos are enticing.

And if I'm going to go ahead and make my own pork tacos, why not go all in and make the pickled red onions while I'm at it? I found a pretty straightforward recipe at

The red onions are sliced and blanched then added to an acidic mixture of fresh lime and orange juice, salt, sugar, and jalapeno slices. Done. Onto the pork. On the bottom of the slow cooker I added more orange juice and zest from two oranges. I cut the pork shoulder into chunks as the cat circled the kitchen like a shark, drunk from the smell of raw animal fat.

Next, the pork shoulder got a packet of this seasoning:

It is really, really orange. Pork chunks were browned on the stovetop with a little olive oil and then they got in the slow cooker too. Last, some garlic and chipotle peppers with accompanying adobe sauce went on top. I set the slow cooker on low and spent the rest of the day trying not to think about pork tacos.

Walking into my apartment building after work, I got a little thrill when I realized the good food smell in the hall was coming from MY apartment. I secretly hoped my neighbors were jealous.

When it was at long last taco time, I loaded up double layers of corn tortillas (Alex picked those up for me in exchange for tacos - a fair trade) with the pork, pickled onions and chopped cilantro with a wedge of lime on the side. It looked like a dream. And the taste? Well... it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for.

In hindsight, choosing a very orange-y pork recipe for the orange-marinated red onions may have been orange overkill. In fact, the pork on its own had almost a candy sweetness. That was followed quickly by heat from the chipotles. A LOT of heat. Either too much adobo sauce snuck into the cooker alongside the chipotles, or three chipotles is just too many for my tastebuds. Both recipes are fine on their own, but the combination and the intensity of the flavors didn't quite work.

They weren't the perfectly seasoned tacos I'd imagined in my day dreams. It's only a minor setback, though. Next time I'll try something a little more simple with a little less citrus. What kind of addict would I be if I let this setback derail my hunt for the next taco high?