Sunday, September 13, 2015

13. Braised Pork Tacos in Green Chile-Tomatillo Sauce with Pepper Jack Cheese, Pickled Onions, and Cilantro


I've reached recipe number 13!  It is going to be a lucky number or an unlucky number???

I'm going to go with lucky!  I have a good feeling about it.  The main ingredient is in the oven right now, and it smells amazing!

What is the main ingredient, you ask?  (Actually, you're probably NOT asking this if you read the title and looked at the photo - ha ha.)  Well . . . I haven't done a pork taco yet.  I decided to remedy that on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

I picked up a pork tenderloin roast from our local grocery store today.  It was a little bigger than I wanted.  I was looking for around 2 pounds, and the one I bought was 4.25.  I cut it in half and put the rest in the freezer for another time.

Hmm . . . what to do with pork tenderloin?  I've had an impression of this cut of pork in my head for a while.  It's not a great impression.  I always think of it as rather dry.  I did a little bit of online reading about different options for pork tenderloin, and I found that you can actually braise it!  That's my favorite way to cook short ribs, lamb shanks, pork shoulder, etc.  I figured I would give it a try!

I decided to go with a green sauce - Hatch green chiles and tomatillos.  I used some beer because, well . . . beer tends to make things better.

Since this recipe requires a bit of advance preparation, I decided to keep everything else rather simple.  It was hard to do.  I wanted to add another sauce.  Another garnish.  Something?

No.  I told myself to let well enough alone.  For once!

Here's the recipe:

Braised Pork Tacos in Green Chile-Tomatillo Sauce with Pepper Jack Cheese, Pickled Onions and Cilantro

Serves . . . 6?? (It makes quite a bit!)


For the pork:

One 2 lb. piece of boneless pork loin, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cups chopped white onion, about 1 1/2 large
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup coarsely chopped tomatillos, about 3 medium
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
2 or 3 dried bay leaves
1 lb. Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. salt
1 bottle beer (not dark, I used a pilsner)

For the pickled onions:

1 small to medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

12-24 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up (I would recommend doubling them up for this recipe.)

4 to 8 oz. grated pepper jack cheese, depending on how much cheese you like!

Cilantro leaves, for garnish


1.  Start the pork:  Preheat the oven to 290 degrees.  Heat 2 tbsp. of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy, oven-safe pot, such as a Dutch oven.  Add the pork and brown on all sides. about 10 minutes total.

Remove the pork and set aside.  Add the onion to the pan, lower the heat to medium low, and cook the onion until it is soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, tomatillos, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves and continue to cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the chiles, chicken stock, beer, and salt and bring to a simmer.  Add the pork, cover, and place in the oven.

2.  Make the onions:  Toss all of the ingredients for the pickled onions together in a small bowl.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Keep an eye on the pork:  Turn it every 30 minutes or so and check on the tenderness.  The pork should cook for at least two hours, but you can let it go longer if desired.  Mine seemed tough after an hour, but was more tender around the two hour mark.  I think if I had let it go longer, it might have tenderized further.

4.  When the pork is done, remove the pan from the oven.  Place the pork on a plate, cover it, and let it rest for about 15 minutes or so. 

5.  Place the pan with the green chile sauce on a burner over medium heat and reduce while the pork rests.  If you wish, you can use a hand blender to blend the sauce a bit.

6.  While the sauce is reducing, prepare the tortillas to your liking.  There are a few different ways you can do this.  When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.

After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil and place them in a 250 degree oven until I'm ready to assemble the tacos.  They always stay hot and soft!  If there are leftovers, I heat fresh tortillas for the next meal.  

7.  Shred the pork:  Use two forks and pull the pork into small to medium pieces.  Mine looked like this:

Return to the pork to the pan with the sauce and allow to heat through.  Here's mine:

8.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  If you have thin corn tortillas, as I did, use two for each taco.  (As there in some sauce in the filling, I would definitely recommend two tortillas.)  Using a slotted spoon to avoid excess liquid, spoon some pork down the center of the tortillas.  Sprinkle with the cheese.  Add some of the onions.  Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

I was really happy with these.  I wasn't so sure about using the pork tenderloin.  I would have preferred pork shoulder, but I didn't really want to drive up to Phoenix today.  I try to get humanely raised, vegetarian fed meat, and pork loin was the only choice (in that category for pork) at our local supermarket.  I decided to go with it!

One benefit to using pork tenderloin is that it didn't leave as much fat in the sauce.  I love lamb shanks and short ribs (and similar cuts), but when they are braised I always have to spend some time skimming the sauce.  It didn't seem necessary in this case.  I was afraid that the meat wouldn't be tender, but the low and slow cooking took care of that just fine!

One word of caution - this was SPICY!  The heat level of Hatch chiles seems to vary quite a bit.  If you don't love chile heat, this may not be the recipe for you.  In any case, I would taste the chiles to see how hot they are and make any adjustments that you feel are right for you.  You could use less chile and more tomatillo, or substitute a roasted bell pepper for some of the Hatch chiles, etc.  We love heat, and we were sweating a bit, so I just thought I would give you all a heads up!  We were all right with the spiciness, but we are definitely aware that not everyone is on the same page.  :)

There was a lot left.  We had two tacos each and were quite full.  I never make sides anymore.  We try to fill up on tacos.  Trust me, with this 100 taco thing going on, we don't NEED anymore leftover tacos in this house.!  I usually don't mind having them once more, but after that I'm done.  I don't like to waste food, though, so sometimes I try to reinvent the components as a pasta dish, or . . . something else.  I have to say, though - with these, I'm really looking forward to the leftovers!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  What should I make next?

Thanks for reading!


  1. I also love to cook so I was intrigued by the Taco Project. I've been poking around reading the recipes and I think I am going to try this one. I WAS going to make it today, but I spent so much time trying to decide, by the time I looked at the clock, I realized I am not going ANYWHERE. The Saints game starts in about 10 minutes. :) At some point this week, I'll grab the ingredients and likely will make them next weekend... I'm excited!

    1. I hope you love them, Kari! I remember these - I thought they were great. We sure had some hot green chiles, though! Wow - good thing we like spicy food! Ha ha.

  2. And, I never actually got around to it. Hubby had a little accident while playing with the dog and he tore a tendon in his knee. Long story short, he is on crutches and I am twice as busy because I now have to do everything. lol I am totally going to make this at some point, though. :D

    1. Well, that's understandable! I hope he is on the mend and you're able to give it a try sometime soon! :)


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