Pork Cheek Tacos

February 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

While this recipe is ideal for using pork cheeks, which are so damn good and cheap, I have had some difficulty getting them from Melbourne butchers. I asked every butcher (not the halal ones, obviously) in Footscray market last Saturday and they were all out. Or just didn’t sell them.

As they can be hard to source, I’m glad the recipe still works with the more readily available “gravy pork” (about $8.00 p. kilo in Footscray). Basically, this is the part of the pig that needs a slow cook to be eaten. So still relatively cheap, and pretty delicious. Of course, it would also be nice to fork out a little more for ethical pork. If you can, please do.

Makes enough for about 15 tacos.


Shredded Pork:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
800 grams pork cheeks or gravy pork sliced into large pieces.
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup of malt or apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Salsa Fresca:
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 red onion, chopped
1 green chili sliced (de-seeded only if it’s very hot, the only way to know is to give it a taste)
1/3 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
lime juice (if limes are out of season, use red wine vinegar)

Shredded pork:

You can make this entirely on the stovetop, or briefly on the stove and then let it cook away in the oven (my preference as you don’t have to stir as much). Either way, your pan needs to be a good heavy one and it needs a lid. I use a dutch oven which is one of the few fancy kitchen things I own.

Put a large heavy-based saucepan or pan over medium heat on the stove. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add pork and lightly brown all the sides, this should take about 5 minutes. Remove the pork with tongs, leaving the excess oil and any burnt bits in the pan. Add the additional 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and lowering the heat slightly, add the chopped onion and sliced garlic. Cook until translucent, then return the pork to the pan, along with the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cumin and chili flakes. Turn heat up and add 1/3 cup vinegar and tablespoon of tomato paste, allow to bubble, turn the heat to low. Add water so that it almost-but-not-quite covers the pork. Put the lid on.

Now you can either: put the dish over the lowest possible heat on your stove, or put it in an oven pre-heated to 150℃. Either way it will need cooking for at least 2 hours. I’m not gonna lie to you. This meat will be tough. So tough that you may, like me, spend ten minutes prodding it and stressing. Don’t stress. Just be prepared to slow-cook the shit out of it.

While the pork cooks, put together your salsa fresca (below).

If you’re cooking on the stove, you’ll need to give it a stir every 20 minutes or so. If in the oven, you can probably just do it every 40 minutes. Either way, if it is drying out at any stage, add another 1/2 cup of water.

When you can press on the meat with a spoon and it falls apart easily, it is cooked. Take it out of the oven, and shred the meat in the pan, using a couple of forks. Turn the heat up a little and cook and stir for 5 minutes, to reduce the pork-sauce a little so that it darkens and thickens. Salt and pepper to taste.

Salsa fresca:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl.

To serve:

Serve the pork in soft tortilla with salsa fresca, limes, and hot sauce.

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