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Cinco de Mayo Pulled Pork Tacos You Can’t Resist

Pulled Pork Tacos

Oddly, Cinco de Mayo (this year, Sunday, May 5) is a rather obscure holiday in Mexico, one shamelessly adopted by Americans looking for a legitimate excuse to hoist salt-rimmed margaritas and indulge in one of their favorite cuisines. (Speaking of margaritas, see the Note below for one of our best versions.) Don’t make the mistake of calling Cinco de Mayo “Mexican Independence Day.” The date actually marks the improbable Mexican win over the French at the Battle of Pueblo in 1862.

But who cares about the details when you’ve got a great taco on your plate and a refreshing margarita in your hand?

And speaking of great tacos, our in-house recipe tester extraordinaire, fire wrangler Steve Nestor, made a ridiculously good one recently in advance of Cinco de Mayo. It mimics tacos al pastor, aka, “shepherd’s tacos.” The tacos feature smoked pork shoulder and grilled pineapple, a supremely good combination.

Steve, a physical therapist by day (he has his own practice), is a wonderfully talented and instinctive cook. Meaning, he doesn’t always take notes unless he’s testing recipes for Steven. So he sent us enticing photos and videos of these tacos, as well as some helpful notes. We can (and have) replicated them. And you can, too. See below.

These tacos can easily (and cheaply) feed a crowd—just what you need for an upcoming graduation party or Mother’s Day get-together. Oh, or Cinco de Mayo! (Pork shoulder was only $1.88 a pound when we priced it last week—one of the biggest bargains at the meat counter.)

Pulled Pork Tacos

Begin by rubbing a pork shoulder with cheap yellow mustard. Dust on all sides with your favorite rub, preferably one with a Mexican or Southwestern flavor profile. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and set the temperature to about 225 degrees.

Pork Butt for Pulled Pork Tacos

Add two big handfuls of soaked and drained wood chips to the coals. (Replenish for 2 to 3 hours.)

Smoke the pork until it reaches 165 degrees (6 to 7 hours, depending on the size of the shoulder), then wrap tightly in foil and continue smoking until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees. Let the meat rest until cool enough to handle. Shred, then re-season as needed.

Pork on the Smoker

Shredded Pork

In the meantime, grill several slices of fresh pineapple until lightly charred. Let cool, then toss with two peeled, pitted, and diced ripe mangos, a diced Fresno chile, a diced and seeded jalapeño, a couple of tablespoons of peeled and diced red onion, some fresh lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper.

Grilled Pineapple

Make a simple cabbage and carrot slaw from your favorite recipe.

Place the shredded pork in a warmed tortilla (corn or white flour). Top with the slaw and the pineapple salsa. Serve while the tacos are hot.

 

 

Note: Nancy Loseke, Steven’s assistant for over two decades, shared with us her recipe for incredible margaritas. Inspired by one of her favorite Mexican restaurants—Lula in Santa Monica, California—it calls for 6 ounces each of a good quality silver tequila and Bols triple sec, 4 ounces of freshly squeezed lime juice (Nancy likes to halve and briefly grill the limes), ice, and coarse kosher salt. (Pro tip: for clear ice, bring distilled water to a boil, cool, then freeze.) Place the tequila, triple sec, ice, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Rim four glasses with lime juice, then dip in kosher salt. Fill the glasses with ice and strain the margarita over the ice. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Pulled Pork Tacos

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