Friday, May 13, 2011

Tacos de Pernil

I originally made this meal over a month ago, at the end of March. At the time, I was living in the East Village, sans roommate. I was going through Brianna-withdrawal. My lease was almost up, and I had yet to find a new place to live. I was desperately in need of a vacation.

In an attempt to curb the loneliness and take the edge off, I resorted to bribery. I told my friends that I would cook for them, whatever they wanted, if they would bring booze and come over to keep me company. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, and for about a week, I was cooking dinner for someone every night in my tiny East Village kitchen. I caught up with old classmates and friends that I hadn’t seen in far too long. I cooked for other friends that I often cook for and that often cook for me. (And I still owe some people dinner. I know, I know. I’ll get around to it soon, I promise!) I rushed home each day after work to prepare meals, some quick and easy, some lengthy and involved. After it was over, I was exhausted. It was wonderful.

Now, a two-week road trip, a new apartment, and a new roommate later, I am finally getting around to posting the recipes for those dinners. Things haven’t really changed. I am one year older, but not really any wiser. My new tiny apartment is just as tiny as my old tiny apartment. The stress-free equilibrium I found on the road was quickly and brutally undone by work and moving. (I think the last shard of that equilibrium was shattered the other night when I found a 3-inch long cricket in the sink of my new apartment.)

And yet. And yet new experiences and friends have added even more wonder to my life. The old ones continue to amaze me. My new neighborhood has quietly accepted me and is beginning to show me its charms and tricks. My friend gave birth to a gorgeous little creature called Matilda, and she has already mesmerized me. On top of it all, it’s spring. And the food. The food just keeps getting better.

Tacos de Pernil
At its most basic, this recipe comes from my coworker, Aurora. She is from Mexico and her mother makes the best mole I have ever tasted in my life. I asked her how to make pernil and she outlined the process for me. It was much simpler than I thought it would be. She told me to take the pork, put it in a pot, cover with water, add a few aromatics of my choosing, bring it all to a boil, and then let it simmer until the meat falls off the bone. And it really was that easy.

1 3-4 pound pork shoulder, rind left on or removed (your choice!), cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Place pork pieces in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Cover over with water making sure all ingredients are just submerged. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, along with lime juice. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat. Cook until pork is tender, about 1.5 hours. Remove pork and set aside to let cool. Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and reduce until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shred pork with your hands, or with two forks. Remove bay leaves from the liquid, strain, and pour over shredded pork. Serve with warm corn tortillas, cilantro, queso fresco, and salsa verde.

Salsa Verde

6 tomatillos, husks removed, cut into quarters
1 handful of cilantro
1 jalapeƱo, stem removed
2 cloves garlic
salt, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add all ingredients and boil for about 7 minutes, until tomatoes are tender. Drain and combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and season with salt. Chill, then serve with tacos.