Wednesday, January 13, 2016

40. Pork Shoulder Tacos with Brussels Sprout Slaw and Sweet Red Onions


I've had the overall idea for this taco in my mind since the beginning of this project.  The problem, (and the reason that I've only now brought it to life) is that it involves Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are one of the three vegetables that don't go over very well at our house.  My husband will try most things - but no Brussels sprouts, beets, or cauliflower!  I happen to like the first two - I'm kind of neutral about cauliflower.  

I knew I had to make these on a day when he wouldn't be there - otherwise, I'd be stuck eating ALL of them myself.  Fortunately, last week my mom and two sisters came up for a day while Steve went to the golf course.  I realized it was the perfect opportunity for a taco lunch!

The pork and the sweet onions in this recipe are both cooked slowly, so the time frame from start to finish is significant.  However, each step is pretty easy and there is plenty of downtime during the process.

I thought that this amount of pork would be too much for the four of us.  Well . . . not really.  We pretty much ate all of it.  We were hungry, though!  You might be able to stretch it to 5 or 6 if you have sides.

Here's the recipe:

Pork Shoulder Tacos with Brussels Sprout Slaw and Sweet Red Onions

Serves 4 (about 12 tacos)


For the pork:

One 2.5 lb. piece of boneless pork shoulder, cut into large pieces and seasoned generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
2 or 3 dried bay leaves
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. salt

For the sweet red onions:

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. red onions, chopped (about 1 and 1/2 medium)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprout slaw:

3/4 lb. Brussels sprouts
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

12-24 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up (The Trader Joe's brand are pretty sturdy; I didn't double them this time.)


1.  Start the pork:  Preheat the oven to 290 degrees.  Heat 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.  Transfer the pork to a plate and set aside.  Add the onion, carrots, and garlic to the pan, lower the heat to medium low, and cook the vegetables until they are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the mustard seeds, caraway seeds, and bay leaves.  Continue to cook and stir for another couple of minutes.  Add the chicken stock, wine, and salt and bring to a simmer.  Add the pork, cover, and place in the oven.  Cook for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours (turning the pork pieces every 30 minutes), or until the pork is extremely tender and falling apart.

2.  While the pork is cooking, make the onions:  Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions.  Reduce the heat a bit and cook until the onions and soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine, sugar, rosemary, vinegar, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Simmer gently for an hour or so, or until the liquid is syrupy and mostly reduced and the onions are very soft and sweet.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

3.  While the the pork and onions are cooking, make the Brussels sprout slaw:  Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts.  Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until they have softened just a bit, but are still rather crispy.  Test them with a fork - you should be able to pierce them, but not easily.  Mine took about 4 to 5 minutes.  Immediately drain and rinse with cold water.  Allow to cool.  Slice the Brussels sprouts in a food processor and place the slices in a medium bowl.  It's all right if some of the slices fall apart.  Add the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and maple syrup and toss to combine.  Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Set aside.

4.  Remove the pork from the oven.  Take off the lid and allow to rest for a few minutes while you heat the tortillas.

5.  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.  

6. Transfer the pork pieces to a plate and use a knife and fork (or a couple of forks) to shred into small pieces.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  (You can double them up if your tortillas are thin.)  Spoon some of the pork down the center of the tortillas.  If you wish, use a slotted spoon to top the pork with a small amount of the saucy vegetables from the pan.  (I did; they were delicious!)  Add some of the Brussels sprout slaw.  Finish with some of the onions.  Enjoy!

These were so good!  I was a little pressed for time because I knew I would be leaving for a jazz conference the next day, but I'm so glad I got it together and made these.  My mom, sisters, and I had a nice afternoon hanging out in the kitchen!

The pork was super tender!  It was very easy to shred and pull apart.

Originally, I had planned on the onions to be sort of a jam.  Well.  They didn't turn out like jam.  They turned out like sweet red onions, so that's what I called them.  Ha ha.  I'll have to try an onion jam on a future taco.  (Maybe an onion-bacon jam.  Hmm.)  It worked out just fine, though.  The onions were a nice contrast to everything else.

Steve had a taste of the pork when he got home.  I saved him some.  He agreed that it was pretty amazing.  I didn't ask him to try the Brussels sprouts.  Ha ha.  It's not happening.

I would highly recommend these - they are one of my favorites so far.  Hey . . . I'll be approaching my fiftieth recipe soon!  Maybe I should do a top 10 list.  These would be on it!  :)

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  What vegetables are a no-go in your house?  Ha ha.

What should I make next?

Thanks for reading!

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