Sunday, November 02, 2014

Carnitas-Style Tacos with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

If you saw this in the store, what would you make with it? Sandwiches? Me too. Predictability is fun. Then one day I decided to heat up the last little bit left in the package in a cast-iron skillet before adding the BBQ sauce. I discovered that the pork became crispy, much in the same way that carnitas is delectable because of the little bits of fat-marbled pork that turn into crunchy bits (same cut of meat--pork butt). It dawned on me what a delicious shortcut this could be to carnitas-style street tacos. That made it sound like I've been to Mexico and know anything about Mexican street vendor food. I haven't. But I want to and I've watched a lot of Mexico--One Plate at a Time which totally counts.
My creation
The Taco Trifecta: Caramelized, Charred, Crispy
Normally this would be the part where I extol all the virtues of cooking at home: economical, more nutritious, life skills, blah, blah, blah; but, truthfully, I like to eat out and save the kitchen mess as much as anyone else. I am, however, also essentially lazy and going out requires effort. and pants. When you cook at home, people are far less preachy about your lack of pants. So on some pants-optional Tuesday night, I encourage you to get in the kitchen and fix up what has quickly become one of my family's favorite taco recipes.

Carnitas-Style Tacos with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
Serves 4

You see that I am shamelessly pimping HEB's precooked shredded pork. They are in no way sponsoring this post (bastards), I just really like this product (HEB, if you are reading, sorry about the bastard thing. Funding towards the ridiculous amount of money and time I blow at your store would be great.). You can use any cooked shredded pork which is available to you as long as it does not have sauce already mixed in. We have used leftovers from pork butt that my husband smoked or even restauraunt leftovers.

8-10 ounces (2 to 3 cups) precooked shredded pork*
8 ounces white button mushrooms, washed and quartered
1/2  of a large white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. butter
8 flour or corn tortillas (if using corn tortillas, you may want to allow 3 per person as they are usually smaller)

For topping:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Cotija or queso fresco cheese
Thinly sliced avocado

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook just until onions start to wilt and the mushrooms start releasing their liquid. At this point, reduce the heat to medium and stir only occasionally (reducing the heat a little if necessary to prevent burning) until the onions are caramelized and the mushrooms are browned, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from skillet and keep warm in a separate container while you heat the pork.

In the same skillet you used for the onions and mushrooms, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat (the pork is already cooked, so you don't want to overheat it) and add the pork, breaking it up with a fork so you have shredded bits in the pan. Heat gently for 5-10 minutes, occasionally scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until you see that most of the shreds of meat are crunchy and brown. Remove from heat while you get your tortillas ready.

Over a gas flame (or in a clean skillet if you don't have a gas stove), heat each tortilla until it gets charred, blistered marks on each side. Do not walk away while you are doing this! Tortillas burn quickly. Fill each tortilla with a couple of tablespoons of shredded pork and top with about 1/4 cup of the onion and mushroom mixture, then add your favorite toppings. My favorite combo is fresh cilantro, cotija cheese, Julio's salsa, and avocado. Divine.
*This recipe does not require the whole package of shredded pork. I usually divide what is left into individual portions and freeze it for sandwiches or to add to slow-cooker beans.